Racing

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

September 12-18, 2014

Since there were only two nights of live racing in the past seven days at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs due to the Oktoberfest festivities on the grounds, it seems like a good time to look at the broader picture of harness racing through the Pocono lens. This is the time of year when people start to talk about yearend awards and horses of the year and things like that. We’ve been graced with the presence of many of the year’s best, so let’s examine the performances of the Top 10 horses in the latest Breeders Crown/Hambletonian poll when they travelled to MSPD this year.

Four out of the top ten, #8 JK Shesalady, #7 Artspeak, #5 He’s Watching, and #4 Trixton, have not appeared at Pocono. (Trixton, this year’s Hambletonian champ, did have a winning qualifier at Pocono.) The other six have not only raced here, but they’ve all picked up at least one victory on the Pocono oval this year, often in impressive fashion.

#10 Sandbetweenurtoes, a 3-year-old pacing filly from the Larry Remmen barn, just suffered the first loss of her season with a disappointing seventh in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championships at Harrah’s at Philadelphia. But her lone voyage at Pocono was successful, as she rallied from an early deficit to win a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes race on August 9 in 1:50.

#9 Lifetime Pursuit wasn’t quite on top of her game when she raced at Pocono earlier in the meet, going once across the board in three starts with the win coming in a Pennsylvania All Stars race in June. The 3-year-old trotting filly from the Jimmy Takter barn has been sizzling since, winning her last five races including the Hambletonian Oaks and the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final in her age group.

It’s been an amazing 3-year-old season for pacing colt Mcwicked, trained by Casie Coleman. Much of that success took place at MSPD. He’s won three of four at Pocono in 2014. Although his record includes wins in the prestigious Adios and in the Pennsylvania Championships, his signature victory for the year was likely his incredible effort in winning the Max Hempt Memorial pace at Pocono in June in a world-record time of 1:47:3.

The #3 horse on the list is Father Patrick, who has made an impact everywhere he’s raced but has been absolutely spotless at Pocono. The 3-year-old trotting colt went four-for-four at Pocono as a 2-year-old, including a Breeders Crown title. He has won all four of his starts at MSPD this year as well, the highlight of those coming in the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial trot in June when he won in 1:50:2, the fastest ever trotting time for a 3-year-old on a 5/8-mile oval.

On that same night in June, #2 Sweet Lou, a 5-year-old stallion from the Ron Burke barn, was solidifying his amazing return to prominence in the sport. After struggling in the early part of the season, which included a ho-hum 3rd in an Open at Pocono in May, Sweet Lou found the stride that made him such a force early in his career. In the Ben Franklin at Pocono on that fateful June night, the stallion dominated a stellar field with the fastest pacing time ever on a 5/8-mile oval of 1:47.

The #1 horse on the list has been a revelation all year long and his one start at Pocono was one for the ages. Of course, I’m talking about the sublime Sebastian K, the eight-year-old trotting stallion trained and driven by Ake Svanstedt who has won eight of his nine 2014 races, usually in record-breaking fashion, despite never have raced in the U.S. prior to this year. In his lone start at Pocono in an Open trot on that same June 28 that saw so many incendiary performances, Sebastian K stole the show with a win in 1:49, the fastest mile trotted on any track of any size in the history of the sport.

As you can tell, many of the superstars of the sport have left indelible marks on the Pocono racing wars in 2014. There is still a lot of racing to go in the season before such things as yearend awards are decided. But when those honors are chosen, it’s likely that some of the most compelling evidence for those choices will come courtesy of action at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.

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.

 

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

August 29-September 4, 2014

As we roll into the month of September and summer slowly begins to yield to fall, the action at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs continues at a fever pitch. Next week in this space we’ll be discussing all the exciting action from Pennsylvania Championship Saturday on September 6. This week, as usual, we’ll celebrate the best of racing at Pocono by doling out the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: I LIKE DREAMIN

He may be named after a soft-rock classic by 70’s one-hit wonder Kenny Nolan, but this 5-year-old stallion is anything but mellow on the race track. Trained by Pat LaChance, I Like Dreamin arrived from Yonkers at the start of August and started to find his stride almost immediately at Pocono, finishing second in a tough condition his second time out and then posting an impressive condition win on August 23 in a career-best 1:49:2.

On Saturday night, he stepped up in class to a condition for non-winners of $17,500 in the last five starts for a purse of $18,000. With a tough #7 post in a field of eight, it figured that I Like Dreamin might have a hard time working his way to the front end with his early speed. But driver Tom Jackson took a chance and sent him first over on the front stretch, even taking some air around the clubhouse turn before making the lead just shy of the half.

With fast fractions at every pole, it was distinctly possible that I Like Dreamin might cave. Instead he seemed to freshen up in the home stretch, pacing away from his foes to win by a comfortable 2 ½-length margin in 1:49:3, giving him back-to-back wins in under 1:50 and demonstrating how this pacer has been far more punk rock than easy listening at the track of late.

Other top pacers this week include: Anndrovette (Andrew McCarthy, PJ Fraley), the superstar veteran mare who earned her second straight Preferred Handicap win on Friday night in 1:50:3; Giddy Up Blackfly (Kevin Wallis, Matias Ruiz), who powered to a claiming win on Saturday night in 1:50:2 for his second straight victory and fourth in his last six races; and Mustang Art (Kevin Wallis, James McGuire), who scorched the track on Saturday night for his second straight condition win, this one coming in 1:49.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: MISTERY WOMAN

This mare was a standout as a 3-year-old in 2013, earning nearly $300,000 in just 15 starts. Her four-year-old season started with a lot of rugged competition at the Meadowlands, which she couldn’t quite overcome, failing to hit the board in her first five races of the year. But her first start at Pocono quickly turned things around, as she took advantage of a good trip to rally for a win in a career-best 1:52.

On Saturday night, Mistery Woman, trained by Jonas Czernyson, stepped up into even stiffer competition, taking on the non-winners of $22,500 in the last five starts for a purse of $21,000. With an outside post, it seemed unlikely that the racing luck would fall her way again. Some early speed put her third on the inside early, decent position to strike as long as she didn’t get stuck inside of the outer flow of horses.

Driver Andrew McCarthy stayed patient, resisting the temptation to join the traffic on the outside of the mare. That strategy paid off in the stretch when the outside opened up for a fresh Mistery Woman. With a blinding rush, she zipped by highly regarded veteran trotters Money On My Mind and Sevruga for her second straight win, this one in 1:52:3 as an 11-1 long shot. This mare has found her form at Pocono, so all her competitors better be on top of their game.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: GOLD DEUCE

Despite an outside post in a field of nine, this claiming pacer with Joe Pavia Jr. in the bike uncorked a late move to score on Saturday night at 46-1, paying off $95.20 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANDREW MCCARTHY

A four-win night on Friday started McCarthy off to a big week, culminating with a victory on Wednesday night that gave him 100 wins for the 2014 Pocono meet.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: PJ FRALEY

Fraley had two starters on Friday night and made them count, as Anndrovette won the featured pace for mares and Krispy Apple won a condition in 1:48:4, fastest time of the week at Pocono.

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.

PA Sire Stakes Championship Night brings out the best of the Freshman stars

Monday, September 8th, 2014

The best Pennsylvania-sired 2YOs gathered at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs on Saturday night for their $1,240,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championships Night. Each of the Championship events went for a $260,000 bounty; all consolations for the Sire Stakes divisions went for purses of $50,000. 

Here’s a recap of the action, division by division, along with a writeup on the two $50,000 Invitationals also scheduled on the blockbuster card. (The track was rated “fast” for the two baby trotter consolations; rain later forced the condition downward to “good.”)

 TWO-YEAR-OLD FILLY PACE 

Southwind Roulette headed a 1-2-3 sweep for trainer Ron Burke by winning her Sire Stakes Championship for two-year-old pacing filllies. She won in 1:52.3 over “good” going to become the richest pacer in one season of Sire Stakes competition, with $269,248 in her races for Keystone State-sired company.

 Southwind Roulette, described as “a very professional filly – she’ll do just what you ask her to do” by driver Yannick Gingras – tucked third early as her Burke stablemates Well Hello There and Kay’s Dragon Lady argued through the 27 quarter, then was moved to the fore past the latter well before the 56.2 half. Southwind Roulette opened up at the 1:24.3 3/4s and had a good-sized lead in the stretch, with Kay’s Dragon Lady closing well late but not really threatening, with Well Hello There salvaging the show. 

The daughter of Somebeachsomewhere, owned by Bradley Grant and Howard Taylor, went 4-3-0-1 in her Sires prelims, the three triumphs in her last three starts, and this victory boosted her money total to the record Sire Stakes mark for pacers, ahead of the $245,615 season sophomore filly Charisma Hanover put together last year. 2TC Dontyouforgetit holds the all-time one season record in the Pennsylvania program, with $275,553 in 2012.

 2YO Filly Pace Consolation—Pacesetting Macarena Mama was determined late to hold off inside-shooting Safe From Terror to win this section’s consolation in 1:53.1, a personal best. Corey Callahan was sulkysitting behind the daughter of McArdle for trainer Blake Macintosh, who also co-owns with Susan Hall, Anne Campbell, and Stephen Waldman. 

 TWO-YEAR-OLD FILLY TROT

 A race after the 2PF Championship, driver Yannick Gingras came right back with “another professional filly, a real sweetheart,” Wild Honey, who set a stakes record of 1:54.2 despite the good going, completing a “sweep” of her division — wins in all four legs and the Championship, following in the footsteps of only Coulantine (2004) and Fashion Feline (2009).

 The daughter of Cantab Hall went straight to the front in the 28.1 opener, but in front of the stands Speak To Me made a bold brush and wrested the racetrack away from Wild Honey before the 56.4 half. Gingras seemed unperturbed though, and past the 1:25.1 3/4s he moved Wild Honey out in front of the advancing Jersey Strong and went straight to command, holding off that rival with ease to knock a tick off the stakes record shared by Sand Violent Blu (2011) and Designed To Be (2013). Like the winner a member of the Jimmy Takter barn, Smexi, finished third.

 2YO Filly Trot Consolation—If you need proof that “times have changed” in harness racing, consider this: Pius Soehnlen campaigned the iron-tough FFA trotter Dream Of Glory in the mid-70s, and that horse took a mark of 1:57.2. Tonight Soehnlen as owner won this consolation event with Matter Hatter, a daughter of Explosive Matter who also rallied from far back to tally over Bright Bay Blues for driver David Miller and trainer Jeff Cox. The lifetime for her second lifetime victory? 1:55.2 (when the track was still fast)– two seconds faster than Dream Of Glory’s lifetime mark!   

TWO-YEAR-OLD COLT TROT

 Sire Cantab Hall completed a Championship double, and another horse joined the select club of being a Sire Stakes “sweeper,” when Billy Flynn roared off cover to win in 1:55.2 in the off going for driver Brett Miller and trainer Staffan Lind. 

Billy Flynn raced atypically off the pace tonight, with Walter White on top at the 27.3 quarter, then yielding to Hurrikane Jonny K as that one put up middle splits of 57 and 1:26.1. Piercewave Hanover provided cover from first-over, and when Billy Flynn tipped off that cover, “he was great tonight – he felt great,” noted driver Miller, the colt not showing any of his previous bearing-out tendencies. Off-the-pace tactics proved best in this event, as Honor And Serve and Ralph R closed strongly for second and third, respectively.

 Billy Flynn joins Stormin Normand (2011) as the only freshman colt trotters to notch the “4+1” Sire Stakes  season. Bender Sweden Inc own the emerging star, who is now undefeated in seven starts. 

2YO Colt Trot Consolation –Not many horses break their maiden by missing their divisional world record by 2/5 of a second, but that’s what the Broadway Hall gelding On The Sly did in winning his consolation event in 1:55.2. Hinting at promise with a second, a third, and a fourth in Sires preliminaries, On The Sly finally put it all together, swinging wide from third-over behind contested fractions and overhauling frontstepping Pierre late for driver Brett Miller, trainer Morgan McInnis, and the Revocable Trust of Barbara Boese. The 1:55.2 time over the still-”fast” track was just short of Correctamundo’s world standard, and only a tick shy of the local mark of It Really Matters. 

 TWO-YEAR-OLD COLT PACE 

Billy Flynn and Yankee Bounty are both now seven for seven in their careers, and both completed Sire Stakes “4+1” sweeps.

 That’s where the similarities end. 

Whereas Billy Flynn came off the pace to win easily, Yankee Bounty made an early move to take the lead near the 55.1 half (Dragon Eddy had insisted on the early lead in an astounding 26 before yielding), then fought off a nose-to-nose challenge from Lost For Words by and past the 1:22.2 3/4s. 

Maybe it’s good Yankee Bounty had the practice in winning a hotly-contested duel – because another determined foe soon loomed in the Pocono Pike in the form of Tomy Terror. The two geldings battled on even terms much of the stretch, with Yankee Bounty showing great heart to put his nose over first in 1:50.3 – a Pocono track record for 2PG, and just a tick behind the stakes mark of One More Laugh, whom Yankee Terror now joins in the 2PC Sire Stakes sweeping ranks. 

The victory made Yannick Gingras a three-time SS winner on the card, giving him 10 in his career and moving him to (a distant) second behind Dave Palone (34) on the career list. Two of those victories came for trainer Ron Burke, who recently engineered the new ownership combine of Yankee Bounty Partnership and Frank Chick.  

2YO Colt Pace Consolation—McCito yielded the early lead to favored Talking Points, then came back in the lane to nip that rival late and take a new mark of 1:52. The McArdle gelding, driven by Andrew McCarthy for C&G Racing Stable, comes from the red-hot barn of Aaron Lambert, who seems to be sending out nothing but winners the last couple weeks. 

 INVITATIONALS 

The FFA trot was named the “Modern Family Trot” after the late Pocono-based world-class trotter, with Pocono-based trainer Daryl Bier and the horse’s connections on hand for winners circle ceremonies. 

Modern Family, always a game horse, would have admired the stretch tenacity of his frequent foe Wishing Stone, who raced third on the rail and cleared “about three strides before the wire” according to his driver (with a combination grin/grimace) to edge out Not Afraid in 1:52.4 for Wishing Stone Syndicate. That driver, by the way, was Yannick Gingras, who along with trainer Ron Burke was in Pocono’s winners circle for the fifth time on the night. Wishing Stone also “saved” the 1-5 betting entry, as the more fancied horse, Market Share, made a break early.

 The ”Adieu to the Almost Summer” Pace saw Sunfire Blue Chip make a quarter-move, then say “adieu” to the field with a 26.4 last quarter in driving rain for a 1:49.2 win for driver Yannick Gingras, trainer Jimmy Takter, and the ownership combine of Takter, Fielding, Fielding, Brixton Medical AB and R A W Equine Inc. Perhaps “adieu” was just the right name for a race taken by the son of American Ideal, as the winner of four straight, at four different tracks,  is the early favorite for the $200,000 Prix d’Ete, to be revived as a four-year-old event in two weeks at Hippodrome 3R in Quebec (Gingras’ base before coming Stateside; Takter confirmed that race was on his horse’s schedule.)

$1.2 Million PA Sire Stakes Championship Night set for Saturday, September 6

Friday, September 5th, 2014

The cream of the crop of this year’s Pennsylvania-sired two-year-old trotters and pacers will gather together this Saturday night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs for their $1,240,000 Championships Night program. 

The horses, in both the $260,000 finals and the $50,000 consolations, earned their way into these races by having the highest pointtotals based on finish position in four PaSS preliminaries raced at the state’s tracks over the last two months. 

The four Championship events are slotted for races nine through twelve on Saturday’s 16-race card at Pocono; here’s a look at them in the order they will be conducted: 

TWO-YEAR-OLD PACING FILLIES (stakes record – 1:51.1, Economy Terror, 2007) 

These fillies have been very competitive among themselves, as this is the only of the four divisions that will find no four-time prelim winner looking for a sweep in the Championship. (In fact, there has never been a “sweeper” in the 2PF class since a record of prelim points was started in 2002, a fact which will obviously stay intact in 2014; what’s more, the prelim pointleader has not won the 2PF Championship since Lady Annie in 2007.) 

Aria Hanover (post two, driver Tim Tetrick listed) and Southwind Roulette (post five, Yannick Gingras) figure to be the focal points of attention after showing three wins and a third in their prelims to be tied for the top in this group. Southwind Roulette was third in her first PaSS start, then has taken her last three; among the conquered in her final prelim was … Aria Hanover, who had won three straight going into that event. 

TWO-YEAR-OLD TROTTING FILLIES (stakes record – 1:54.3, Sand Violent Blu, 2011, and Designed To Be, 2013) 

In contrast to their pacing counterparts, two 2TFs have swept their four prelims and their Championship: Coulantine in 2004, and Fashion Feline in 2009. And the leading pointwinner has won their Championship in each of the last three years (the stake speed setters with Frau Blucher in between).  

Looking to add herself the “sweeper” ranks is Wild Honey (post seven, Yannick Gingras). In keeping her record unblemished in the prelims last time out, Wild Honey defeated Gatka Hanover (post eight, Ron Pierce), who had also won her three prelims heretofore, by a half-length. Neither filly will particularly benefit from their outside post draw, making this shape up as a very tough affair.

 TWO-YEAR-OLD TROTTING COLTS (stakes record – 1:54.3, Stormin Normand, 2011) 

In setting this division’s speed mark, Stormin Normand also completed the “Sire Stakes sweep,” the only 2TC to have accomplished the feat. 

Attempting to emulate the “Storm” will be Billy Flynn (post four, Brett Miller), 6 for 6 in his young career. But there are three two-time Sire Stakes prelim winners in this field – Honor And Serve, Lima Pride, and Piercewave Hanover – plus Walter White, a horse who came within a head of Billy Flynn two starts back, so no one is conceding the honors to the unbeaten horse going in.

 TWO-YEAR-OLD PACING COLTS (stakes record – 1:50.2, One More Laugh, 2009) 

Like his colt counterpart on the trotting side, Stormin Normand, One More Laugh became his division’s only sweeper when he set the stakes mark five years back. (The leading prelim pointleader has won the 2PC in three of the last five years, including Allstar Partner last year.)

 Probably set to draw the majority of the focus here is Yankee Bounty (post three, Yannick Gingras), who like Billy Flynn is both 6 for 6 lifetime and unbeaten in the Sires prelims. But also like Billy Flynn, Yankee Bounty had a horse who gave him a scare – Wazikashi Hanover came within a neck of an upset last

time — and again like Billy Flynn, Yankee Bounty faces three opponents with multiple PaSS prelim wins: McArdles Lightning (who had three) along with Dragon Eddy and Lost For Words (two each).

 THE UNDERCARD

 There will be $50,000 consolations for each of the four Sire Stakes divisions’ horses who came up just shy in trying to earn themselves a place in the final.

 It does seem strange to call a contest an “undercard” event when the field of eight has combined earnings of $12,112,270, especially when the first three horses in the post parade have bankrolled $9,956,663 among them. But this is a special field, for a special race – the $50,000 Modern Family Trot, honoring the recently-deceased free-for-aller who was based with the Daryl Bier stable right at Pocono, and who was competitive with this national group the last two years. Those “first three horses,” by the way, are Wishing Stone, Market Share, and Arch Madness, and when mixed with Sevruga and four other hard-hitters they should give a fit tribute to their fallen fellow competitor.

 There will also be a $50,000 Invitational Pace, the Adieu to the Almost Summer Pace (no doubt if this race were held in the western part of the state, it would be called the Adios to the Almost Summer Pace, but that’s another story). Millionaires Golden Receiver and Bolt The Duer will draw attention here, along with two sharp four-year-olds on three-race winning streaks: Sunfire Blue Chip and Mach It So.

 The first of Saturday’s 16 races is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

ANNDROVETTE WINS PREFERRED HANDICAP AT POCONO

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Seven powerful mares hit the track for the Preferred Handicap race at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs on Friday evening.   

George Napolitano Jr. gunned Show Runner (Little Steven – Peace Runner) out of the gate first, followed by Yagonnakissmeornot (The Panderosa-Artstopper, driven by Simon Allard;  and Anndrovette (Riverboat King – Easy Miss), picking up a new driver in Andrew McCarthy, at odds of 3-5 , went three-wide to soon take over the lead.  Fractions were 26.2; 55.3; 123; and the $3 million-plus mare held on for a gutsy win over the fast-charging Yagonnakissmeornot, flying up the rail at the wire in a final time of 1:50.3.  Arodasi (Western Terror – Do Me Justice) with Kevin Wallis picking up the drive, finished third.   

Anndrovette, trained by P J. Fraley, now has six wins for the season. 

 In an earlier race on the card, Krispy Apple (Western Ideal-Apple Krisp) picked up her first win of the season in dominating fashion and posted a new lifetime mark of 1:48.4.  The mare is also trained by P J Fraley, and was also  driven to victory by Andrew McCarthy.