Racing

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

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 jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com.

 

Mach It So Shatters World Record in Open Handicap Pace at Pocono

Monday, November 10th, 2014

November 8, 2014

Mach It So rallied from the pocket to win Saturday night’s featured $35,000 Open Handicap pace at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs and did so in world-record time.

Leaving from post position #4 in a field of six as a 7-1 shot, Mach it So (Mach Three-Beach Dancer), a 4-year-old gelding from the PJ Fraley barn, left well for driver Andrew McCarthy and then sat the pocket as Bigtown Hero cut out blistering fractions of :25:2, :52:2, and 1:19:1. Those numbers proved unsustainable for the 4-5 favorite, and Mach It So rallied in the stretch through the inside passing lane to hold off State Treasurer by a half-length. Wake Up Peter finished 3rd.

The winning time of 1:48 broke the world record for four-year-old pacing geldings on a 5/8-mile oval of 1:48:1, which was set in July of 2013 at Pocono by Live On and matched later in the year at the track by Dynamic Youth.

Owned by Bamond Racing, Mach It So won for the eighth time in 21 races in 2014. It was his 18th career victory and pushed his lifetime earnings to $601,039.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Monday, November 10th, 2014

October 31-November 6, 2014

Well, folks, we have almost reached that point in the racing season at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs when it’s time to sum up all that we’ve seen. Next week we’ll take a look in this space at the top horses of the year and then we’ll follow that up the week after with a wrap-up of the entire 2014 season. For now, let’s take the time to hand out our last set of Weekly Awards for this racing campaign.

PACER OF THE WEEK: MCBOOGIE

This five-year-old gelding has been on a tear lately, turning what was looking like a lost season into the best year of his career. McBoogie had just one win in eight wins when he lined up for a $10,000 claimer on September 17, but he rolled that night to a victory in 1:52:1. After a sluggish 5th-place effort in his follow-up race, he took off with wins in his next three in a row, one of which came in a career-best time of 1:50:4.

In the middle of that streak he moved up from the $10,000 claimers to the $15,000 claimers. He also switched barns, joining trainer Dean Eckley’s stable in the middle of October. On Saturday night he looked to keep his outstanding stretch of races going by taking on the $15,000 claimers as the 2-5 favorite. When he briefly lost the lead around the first turn, driver George Napolitano Jr. sent him right back to the front end with a quick brush.

From there, he held strong, although he eventually faced a stiff challenge from Woodmere Ultimate in the home stretch. McBoogie showed the fortitude that’s been a hallmark of his recent stretch of racing, digging in to hold on by a neck in 1:51:3. That makes four wins in a row and five out of six. This gelding is turning it on when most horses are shutting it down.

Other top pacers include: Ahead Ofthe Curve (Anthony Napolitano, Paul Holzman), who churned his way to his second straight claiming handicap victory, this one in 1:52, on Saturday night; Yagonnakissmeornot (Ron Pierce, Rene Allard), who overcame an outside post to storm her way to victory in Saturday night’s featured Open Handicap for mares in 1:50:1; and Fie Fy Fo (Anthony Napolitano, Chris Oakes), a 2-year-old filly who burned her way to her second straight condition victory on Tuesday night, this one coming in 1:54:1.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: OPENING NIGHT

There were some tough customers in Saturday night’s $35,000 Open Handicap trot. Not Afraid won in Preferred company the last time he was at Pocono, Tirade Hanover had ripped off wins in his last five races, and Backstreet Hanover won her last start against the same class at Harrah’s at Philadelphia. Opening Night, a 6-year-old stallion from the Jim Campbell barn, certainly had raced at the highest  level throughout his career, but he was working his way back into top form heading into Saturday.

Still, a win in condition company two starts previous at Harrah’s was a confidence builder, as was a second behind former Hambletonian winner Market Share in his last race. On Saturday night, he had to overcome the outside #8 post, which, coupled with the fact that he was moving back up in class, is probably why he was an 11-1 shot. Driver Ron Pierce was able to coax some early speed out of him so that he could find a pocket spot early.

In the stretch, Opening Night kicked into high gear once again to win a hard-fought battle to the line, holding off Tirade Hanover for the victory. His winning time of 1:53 was the fastest among all trotters this past week at Pocono. Against a top field and from a demanding post, this stallion showed that class and guts can overcome the toughest of obstacles.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to Upfront Billy (Tyler Buter, Mark Ford), who, with the help of a disqualification, won his second straight condition trot on Tuesday night; Four Starz Speed (Ron Pierce, Rene Allard), who rolled to his third straight victory and fourth in his last five with an easy claiming handicap win on Wednesday night in 1:56; and Proud Moment (Ron Pierce, Rene Allard), who once again conquered Wednesday night’s featured claiming handicap trot, winning his second straight in 1:53:3.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: RESCUE PLAN

This condition pacer with Tyler Buter in the bike was the longest shot on the board at 55-1 in Tuesday’s feature, but he rallied for the win and paid off $113.20 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: RON PIERCE

Pierce had one of his best single nights at Pocono on Saturday when he ripped off five victories, which included wins in both of the night’s $35,000 featured handicaps.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: DEAN ECKLEY

In the second half of the season, Eckley, a relatively new name to the Pocono faithful, has been winning at a high rate, adding two more victories to the ledger on Saturday.

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.

 

World Record Pacer Sweet Lou honored Saturday

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Sweet Lou was honored at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs on Saturday night,  a few weeks before his official retirement.  The son of Yankee Cruiser was a fan-favorite at Pocono, and set a World Record on Sun Stakes Saturday in June of 1:47, the fastest time ever on a 5/8 mile track.  He won 10 of 17 starts this year, with those 10 coming consecutively, and all in sub-1:49 fashion.

 

Fans wearing the Sweet Lou souvenir hat, given away earlier in the evening, surrounded the Winner’s Circle, as he jogged the Pocono track for the last time of his illustrious career.  The Winner’s Circle was filled with his connections, including members of the “Burke Brigade”; co-owner Phil Collura; members of Pocono management, and drivers Ron Pierce and Matt Kakaley. 

 

A few tears were shed as Sweet Lou left the Pocono Winner’s Circle for the last time, and the fans broke out in applause and cheers to send him off with a chorus of “Good Luck” for his next few races and his next career.

Opening Night and Yagonnakissmeornot Shine in Pocono Features

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

November 1, 2014

Trotter Opening Night and pacing mare Yagonnakissmeornot won the twin feature Open Handicap races on Saturday night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Each of those races carried a purse of $35,000.

In the Open Handicap Trot, Opening Night (Broadway Hall-Rare Elegance), a 6-year-old stallion from the Jim Campbell barn, overcame an outside post to work out a pocket trip and win a four-way battle in the stretch by a nose. Driven by Ron Pierce, Opening Night, an 11-1 shot, held off Tirade Hanover by a nose in 1:53. Whata Donato finished third while 6-5 Not Afraid was just inches back of the winner in fourth.

Pierce also guided the winner of the Open Handicap pace for mares, as Yagonnakissmeornot (The Panderosa-Artstopper), a 5-year-old barn from the Rene Allard barn, continued her brilliant season and atoned for a clunker in her last start at Pocono by gutting out a front-end win as a 6-5 favorite. Despite imposing fractions, Yagonnakissmeornot was able to hold off the first-over charge of Rockaround Sue to win by a neck in 1:50:1, her 13th win of the season. Spirit Of Desire finished third.