November 7-13, 2014
Choosing the horses of the year at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs used to be a much simpler job. When the racing wasn’t as competitive as it is now, there were usually only a few candidates who would rise above the rest by winning in the same classes week after week, making the choices for the top honors relativeLY easy.
Not anymore. Since Pocono is a destination for the top horses and horsemen in the country, it is extremely difficult for any one horse to dominate a single division. As a result, there are dozens of horses who can make legitimate cases at different times in the year that they are the best of the best at MSPD.
I had a little input into these choices, but most of the research and hard work behind these choices was done by my esteemed colleagues Terri Phalen and Jennifer Starr. It wasn’t easy, but the three winners, in my opinion, are extremely deserving. So, without further ado, here is a look at the 2014 Pocono Horses of the Year.
PACER OF THE YEAR: DANCIN YANKEE
When this six-year-old stallion arrived at Pocono in May, he had already distinguished himself with a big winning streak at Dover and a respectable performance in the Levy series at Yonkers. Trained by Josh Green, he made his presence felt immediately at MSPD with back-to-back wins, including a dominant performance in the $50,000 Van Rose Invitational.
When he returned at the end of June, he was working for the Amber Buter barn. What an auspicious Pocono debut he made for the new connections, winning a $100,000 invitational race with Tyler Buter in the bike in 1:47:2, a winning time which would have broken every record in the book if Sweet Lou hadn’t won the Franklin in 1:47 that same night. Dancin Yankee followed that up with three more no-doubt wins in a row in a Preferred company. Only a monster mile by Bigtown Hero in September kept him from sheer perfection at Pocono for the year, as he finished third to finish with six wins in seven against the very best on the grounds. His success at Pocono was just one part of a brilliant season overall for Dancin Yankee, but it was good enough to capature perhaps the most glamorous year-end award.
TROTTER OF THE YEAR: WIND OF THE NORTH
Wind Of The North, a four-year-old gelding trained by Clifton Green, didn’t waste any time at Pocono in 2014. He picked up a condition win in the season’s first week on his way to wins in four of his five races of the season as he moved up the condition ladder in the spring. That was just his warm-up act, however. On June 28, with David Miller in the bike, he burned his way to a victory in 1:51, setting a new world record for his age group and gender on a 5/8-mile oval in the process.
One thing that Wind Of The North had failed to accomplish in the first half of the season was a win against the Preferred trotters. That all changed when he handled that very group for a victory on September 27. His final tally: ten starts at Pocono in 2014, six wins, two seconds, and a third. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a Trotter of the Year resume for sure.
CLAIMER OF THE YEAR: B J’S RAMEAU
Do you want to know what was impressive about B J’s Rameau’s season at Pocono? Everything, that’s what. The sheer numbers of it are good enough on their own to warrant Claimer of the Year consideration. In 28 races at Pocono this season, the 5-year-old gelding hit the board 17 times and won 11, including a career-best 1:49:1 mile.
Then consider that all of those victories were against the top rung of the claiming ladder at Pocono. Consider that, as a hot claiming commodity, he won his 11 races for eight different trainers. And finally consider that many of those races were claiming handicaps and BJ’s Rameau, because of his high sale price, was often saddled with the outside post, making his record even more impressive. We’ve had a lot of outstanding claimers this year, but they were all toiling in the wake of this gelding.
Next week in this space we’ll be wrapping up the 2014 season for good as we approach closing night on November 22. We’ll be taking a look back at some of the best moments of the year and we’ll also tell you who won the honors among drivers and trainers in terms of wins and percentage. It’s hard to believe it’s almost over, but the three horses we’ve spotlighted here have given us a whole lot to remember come the offseason.
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.