Racing

Sparky Mark’s Saturday feature win marks second straight

Monday, July 27th, 2015

After adroitly avoiding an offstride Ontario Success early in the backstretch, Sparky Mark, driven by Simon Allard, went on to his second straight victory at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, taking the $24,000 featured pace at the mountain oval on Saturday, July 25,  in 1:50.

Ontario Success had put up early numbers of 26.2 and 55.3, with Sparky Mark on his back. Driver Anthony Napolitano kicked out the horse’s earplugs coming off the second turn, but the pacer misreacted and went offstride, moving to the outside as Napolitano looked for clearance and hollered out about his problem. Allard and Joe Pavia Jr., guiding first-over Blatantly Best, reacted well in concert with Napolitano, with Allard going inside the runner and Pavia going wide as Napolitano kept his offstride charge between the pair.

From there, Sparky Mark had it relatively easy, storming home in 54.1-27 individually to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Blatantly Best, who was able to retuck in the pocket after the trouble. The son of Astreos, trained by Simon’s brother Rene, continues to get closer and closer to a seven-figure lifetime bankroll, with his lifetime total now at $953,556.

The other Miller in the spotlight

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

With other drivers named “Miller” campaigning in the sulky regularly in eastern Pennsylvania, such as Hall of Famer David, Andy, and Brett (combined lifetime win total = 26,618), it might be easy to overlook 26-year-old Marcus Miller as a talented driver who brings in more than his share of longshots, as he proved again Friday night, July 24, at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, as he rallied Envious Hanover ($68.40) from last to take the $30,000 mares open handicap pace.

Marcus was actually in the pocket the first quarter with the daughter of Western Ideal, as inside-to-out Twin B Elite, Gianna’s Delight, and Request For Parole were three-across arguing the 26.1 opener. Request For Parole finally made the front and put down a “moderate for Pocono” 56 middle half, with Miller and Envious Hanover first staying in and then backing out to follow first-up Scandalicious.

Sixth and last, four lengths back, swinging for home, Envious Hanover improved her position wide, but was still fourth with 100 feet to go; however, her late jet carried her to a nose decision over Gianna’s Delight, rallying from the pocket, with Scandalicious holding gamely for third in the 1:50.1 mile. Brandon Todd trains the winner for A Piece Of The Action LLC.

The victory was the fourth of the meet with a horse paying $50 or more for Marcus Miller; no other driver has more than two. In 2014, he was the only driver to have two horses pay $100 or more at Pocono, and at Philly he had the longest-priced winner of the meet in $158.60 Boozy Suzy.

The fans should be catching on to Marcus Miller soon.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

July 17-23, 2015

Now that we’re in the heart of the 2015 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, the schedule provides five nights of racing each week. That means that it’s harder than ever to choose who’s deserving of the Weekly Awards, because there are even more candidates from which to select. But we’re going to take a deep dive anyway and come up with the best of the best from the week that was at Pocono.

PACER OF THE WEEK: CAUTION SIGNS

It’s been a lot of fun to chart the ascendancy of this 5-year-old stallion in 2015. On April 16, he finished third in a $12,500 claimer at Yonkers. That’s when he was claimed by owner/trainer Tracy Brainard, who immediately coaxed better efforts from the horse in New York, as he won two of his next three starts. But that was nothing compared to the run of success he’s put together at Pocono. Since arriving at the end of May, Caution Signs has four wins and two places in six races, all while climbing the highest rungs of the condition ladder.

On July 4, he completed his climb by beating Open pacers in 1:48:4, his third straight win. On Saturday night he took on Open company again and a field that was reduced to four by a couple of scratches. Although that might have seemed like an easy assignment, Caution Signs was dealing with a sloppy track. And, as he took the early lead, he was also dealing with a horse in Scott Rocks who sat the pocket and wouldn’t let him get away to a comfortable margin.

In the stretch, Scott Rocks came out of the pocket full of sound and fury looking to upend the even-money favorite. But no horse wins as consistently as Caution Signs has of late without being more than a little game. The stallion, with Joe Pavia Jr. doing the driving, fought hard to hold on to his lead, eventually winning by a neck in 1:49:4, a blistering time considering the sloppy going. Something tells me you wouldn’t be able to get Caution Signs for $12,500 right now, or maybe even five times that, considering his current hot streak.

Other top pacers this week include: Priceless Edition (Anthony Napolitano, Pierre Paradis), an 11-year-old veteran who cranked out his third straight claiming handicap on Friday night, this one coming in 1:54:4; Union Man Hanover (Andrew McCarthy, Tracy Brainard), who moved up his claiming price on Saturday night to $25,000 and still easily scored his third straight victory, this one in 1:51:4 in the slop; and Request For Parole (Anthony Napolitano, Ron Burke), a mare who followed up a win at The Meadowlands with a victory in Friday night’s featured pace in 1:49:2, the fastest time posted at Pocono this past week.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: AUSPICIOUS HANOVER

When I’m making the morning line odds for some of the top condition races on the card at Pocono, it’s always difficult to assign long odds to horses with strong performance backgrounds. There have to be long shots in every race, of course, so I grit my teeth and hope the public sees it the same way. That’s my way of explaining how a horse as solid as Auspicious Hanover could ever get away at 25-1 like he did on Saturday night.

The 4-year-old gelding from the Chris Oakes barn was coming into the condition trot for non-winners of $22,500 in the last five races, which carried the week’s top trotting purse of $24,000, off a 6th-place finish at Saratoga, but that was in an Open Handicap. Prior to that he had ripped off back-to-back wins at middling prices on the 5/8-mile oval at Harrah’s. Yet he was way back in the betting pecking order, with Madewell Hanover the even-money choice.

None of that mattered once the race started. Driver Kevin Wallis urged Auspicious Hanover to the lead at the quarter in a zippy :26:4. He was able to rate things much more reasonably through the middle portion of the race though, so that Auspicious Hanover didn’t just withstand the late pursuit of Madewell Hanover, but he actually lengthened the lead at the line to 2 ¼ lengths with a winning time of 1:54:1 in the slop. The win payout was $53.20 on a $2 ticket, so those who waded through the talented field to find the merits of this talented gelding were definitely rewarded.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Can I Say (Tom Jackson, Douglas Berkeley), a mare who beat the boys in a tough condition race on Saturday night in 1:54:1 in the slop; Demons N Diamonds (Simon Allard, John McDermott), a filly who stepped up in class on Sunday night and ripped off her second straight win, this one in a career-best time of 1:54; and Born To Fight (George Napolitano Jr., Mark Ford), who stepped up in class on Tuesday night to win his second straight condition won, this one coming in 1:55:2 in the slop.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: BLINTZ

This filly made here maiden victory a memorable one on Sunday night, scoring for trainer/driver Bob Krivelin at 55-1, paying off $118 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.

On Saturday night we honored George Nap for picking up his 7,000th career victory earlier in the week at Harrah’s, and he reminded us of how he reached that milestone by winning the night’s first three races.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: TRACY BRAINARD

Brainard’s efficiency at Pocono has been off the charts in recent weeks, and two more victories on Saturday continued that torrid training streak.

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.

Tetrick dominates Tuesday PA Stallion Series

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

The “Bionic Man,” driver Tim Tetrick, showed that his parts don’t rust in the rain,  capturing three of the eight divisions of the $160,000 second round of the Pennsylvania Stallion Series for two-year-old trotting fillies Tuesday night, July 21st,  at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono over “off” going (the first five sections on a track rated “sloppy,” the last three on a “good” surface).

Tetrick captured the fastest division, 1:58.3, with Goodtogo Hanover, but it was anything but a laugher over pacesetting LOL Hanover, as the victorious daughter of Explosive Matter-Grammy Hall needed most of the Pocono Pike to rally from the pocket and hang a neck decision on her foe for trainer Bill Zendt, also co-owner with Gary Saul.

All three of Tetrick’s victories came during the “sloppy” portion of the card; he also clicked with Casey T (Madison River-Gia) in 2:00.3 for trainer Todd Rooney, and with the Yankee Glide-Sarafina Hall miss I Luv Blackhawkred, another of the five “pocket rockets” who took Stallion Series glory in 2:00 for trainer Dirk Simpson.

Matching Tetrick in the triple category was sire Andover Hall, with the second-fastest winner, Miss Teszla (out of Filly At Bigs), rallying from the two-hole to win easily for trainer-driver Jimmy Takter in 1:58.4 (gd). “Andover”’s other two winners controlled most of the pace in their victories: Synonymous Hanover (out of Sweetr By The Bone) in 2:00.2 (sy) for trainer/driver Charlie Norris; and Gracie Hanover (out of Gone Lindy), home first in 2:00.4 (gd) for trainer/driver Åke Svanstedt.

Also victorious on the evening were the two other winners who used the pocket as their launching pad: Twice A Night (Donato Hanover-Working Girl), who tallied in 2:00.4 (sy) for driver Jackie Ingrassia and trainer Frank Ingrassia; and the Cantab Hall-Keystone Vi Va baby Ki Ki Canolli, who stopped the timer in 2:00.1 (gd) for driver Scott Zeron and trainer Jonas Czernyson.

50th Anniversary of Racing week a huge celebration!

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

On July 15, 1965, the $7 million Pocono Downs opened its doors in Northeast Pennsylvania. Thousands of fans were on hand as Satin Queen was the first to cross the Finish Line on that sultry summer night.

50 years later, 42 tracks have come and gone, but Pocono Downs, now renamed the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, continues to host World-record racing from March to November each year.  From August 15-22, the track will honor the past and look ahead to the future with a week of events for the fans to celebrate and honor the rich history and tremendous racing.

A week-long celebration kicks off on Saturday, August 15 with the World-renowned Budweiser Clydesdales making an appearance, and fans may have their photo taken from 6:00pm to 7:30pm on the track apron.  A wristband is necessary, and will be distributed at 4:00pm on the Sky Bridge  The photo is $5, and all proceeds will be donated to Marley’s Mission, a charity that provides equine-based therapy free of charge to children and their families who have experienced trauma.  The Budweiser Clydesdales hitch will promenade on the track during live racing Saturday night, as well as the night before.

On Tuesday, August 18 and Wednesday, August 19, fans can enjoy live racing and Pocono is “rolling back the prices” to 1965 on soft drinks, hot dogs, popcorn, and soft drinks.

The weekend will be full of exciting events, with a special Post Time of 5:30pm on both Friday and Saturday nights.  On Friday, August 21, the night will kick off with a special “Legends Race”, featuring drivers from the past 50 years competing in a thrilling race; Immediately following the races, fans can enjoy a special “Tribute to Motown” free concert featuring The Fellas and Encorz, two tremendous groups who will be performing on the track apron.

Saturday, August 22 starts off with an exciting guest dropping by to celebrate the anniversary!  Former Major League Baseball player and manager Pete Rose will be on hand for autographs and photos from 4:00pm to 6:00pm in the Racing lobby.  This is a wristband-only event, and wristbands will be distributed starting at 1:00pm.  Authorized photos only will be signed, and they are available at the special signing.

Then the action shifts back to the track with a special Post Time of 5:30pm for the return of the $2.3 million Super Stakes Saturday, with the 3 Year-Old Colonial Trot; the 3 Year-Old Valley Forge Filly Pace; and the 3 Year Old Battle of the Brandywine Open Pace, plus two consolations of each.  Amid the tremendous racing on that night will be the 50th Anniversary Souvenir Beer Mug giveaway, which will take place from 9:00pm to 10:30pm with the coupon from the live racing racing program.  The special commemorative program will be on sale starting at 5:00pm in the Racing lobby.

Immediately following the stellar Super Stakes Saturday card will be a spectacular fireworks display to cap the tremendous week of events.  The approximate start time is 10:30pm.

Fans are reminded that the souvenir book “The Golden Era of Pocono Downs” will be available through the remainder of the season, and can be purchased at the Program stand.  This commemorative book takes a look back at 50 years of racing, events, and statistics, and contains photos of the past and present.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono is truly honored to be celebrating this milestone, and looks forward to a terrific week of fan-friendly events and outstanding racing.  For more information on the anniversary celebration, follow us on Twitter @DownsAtMSP, #pcd50; and keep checking back for updates in the Racing section of www.mohegansunpocono.com.