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.
PACER OF THE WEEK: LUCK BE WITHYOU
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.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: BOFFIN
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.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: VERDAD
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.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.
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.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: ANETTE LORENTZON
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 email@example.com.