Racing

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

September 19-25, 2014

Racing at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs has geared down somewhat in terms of quantity, as the schedule now features three live nights per week. But the quality hasn’t let down a bit, as evidenced by a Saturday night card that included no pacing miles slower than 1:50:2 and no trotting miles slower than 1:54. We even had a world-record performance, which, of course, stands out among this edition of the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: BIGTOWN HERO

This 6-year-old gelding was struggling with the upper reaches of the pacing ranks when he was last here in June, but he’s been performing well since then at other tracks, winning three of his last five races. The last four of those races came after he switched barns to be trained by Rene Allard, Pocono’s leading trainer, including a come-from-behind win in an Open Handicap in his last race at Yonkers as a 7-1 shot.

His confidence sufficiently boosted, he returned to Pocono to compete on Saturday night in a Preferred Handicap pace for a purse of $25,000. It was a stacked field, including star veteran Golden Receiver and Dancin Yankee, who had owned the oval at Pocono in his previous appearances in 2014. But driver Ron Pierce drove Bigtown Hero as if there were no other horses on the track, sending him to the front for a huge lead as each fraction ticked off proved more impressive than the one before.

In the stretch, Bigtown Hero began to slow ever so slightly. It was a good thing the lead he built up was so substantial, because Dancin Yankee and Aslan came closing at him fast. Pierce urged him home for a half-length victory in a stunning time of 1:47:3. That broke the world record for aged gelding pacers on a 5/8-mile oval, which was set last June at Pocono by Foiled Again and then matched by Abelard Hanover.

Other top pacers this week include: Ring Warrior (Matt Kakaley, Brewer Adams), a colt who followed up four consecutive wins at Ocean Downs with a victory at Pocono in a condition pace on Tuesday night in a career-best 1:54; Cherokee Hunter (Simon Allard, Rene Allard) whose condition win on Tuesday night was his second straight and came in a career-best time of 1:52:1; and Wake Up Peter (Tyler Buter, Larry Remmen), who scorched a condition pacing group on Saturday night in 1:49:2.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SEVRUGA

Not all slumps are created equal. To wit, consider the struggles Sevruga had been having in the summer months. Last year he earned nearly $500,000 facing the best trotters around, and the highlight of his season was a world-record performance at Pocono with a win in 1:50:3. But he had come up empty for three months straight in terms of wins heading into Saturday night’s $25,000 Preferred trot.

In his last three races at Pocono, all against the most rugged trotters on the grounds, Sevruga, a 6-year-old gelding trained by Kevin Carr, had hit the board every time and had lost by just a neck in the last two. On Saturday night, he enjoyed his first quality post position in more than a month and took advantage of it, breezing to the front early with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike.

Things were by no means easy from that point, as Wind Of The North put up a sustained first-over challenge to the lead. But Sevruga had been rated well enough early in the race that he was able to dig deep in the final strides and win by a nose in a rapid 1:52:1. Maybe it wasn’t fair to say that Sevruga was in a slump considering the quality of his competition and the multiple near-misses, but it is fair to say that his losing streak is history and a lengthy winning streak might just be in the offing.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Tui (Anthony Napolitan, Don Wiest), a Pocono fan-favorite mare who scored her first win of the season on Saturday night in a tough condition group in 1:53:1; A Cool Million (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), a mare who moved up her claiming price and won her second straight race on Tuesday night, doing so in a career-best 1:54; and Fortunista (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), a mare who beat the boys in a tough condition group on Saturday night in a career-best 1:53:1.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: TRANSCENDING

An outside post and long odds didn’t bother this veteran pacer as he came from out of the clouds late to shock a condition field on Saturday night at 49-1, paying off an even $100 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: RON PIERCE

Pierce had it grooving on Saturday night, winning four consecutive races on the card, all in gate-to-wire fashion, a streak that culminated with the world-record win by Bigtown Hero.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JOE PAVIA JR.

Joe still does such a great job as a catch driver that his training abilities can sometimes be taken for granted, but a training double on Wednesday night put them front and center.

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.

Wind Of The North and Aslan Win Saturday Night Features at Pocono

Monday, September 29th, 2014

September 27, 2014

Trotter Wind Of The North and Pacer Aslan won the $25,000 featured Preferred races on Saturday night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.

The Preferred Trot was named the Fred Yaggi Memorial Trot in honor of a longtime Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission who recently passed away. In that race Wind Of The North (Cantab Hall-Talk To The Wind), a 4-year-old gelding from the Clifton Green barn, used a second-over trip and a strong closing kick to upend favored Classic Martine by a head for the win in 1:52:2 at 10-1. Simon Allard did the driving. Arch Madness finished third.

In the Preferred pace, Aslan (Mach Three-Skyview) was overpowering on the front end with Andrew McCarthy in the bike for trainer Tony O’Sullivan. The 5-year-old gelding and 7-5 favorite won by 2 ¾ lengths in 1:50:1. Musselsfrombrussels was best of the rest in second while Golden Receiver picked up the show.

Bigtown Hero Wins in World-Record Fashion at Pocono

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

September 20, 2014

Bigtown Hero set a new world record for aged geldings on the pace in a Preferred Handicap victory on Saturday night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The race carried a purse of $25,000.

Leaving from post position #4 in a field of seven as the 8-5 second choice, Bigtown Hero (American Ideal-Art Account), a 6-year-old gelding from the Rene Allard barn, burned his way to the early lead. Driver Ron Pierce decided to cut the gelding loose, creating unforgiving fractions of 26:3, 53:3, and 1:19:4 and a huge lead.

In the stretch, Bigtown Hero started to slow slightly, allowing for wild closing rallies by second-place Aslan and third-place Dancin Yankee, the 4-5 favorite, that came up a half-length short of the winner. The winning time of 1:47:3 shattered the mark of 1:48 for aged geldings on a 5/8-mile oval, which was set by Foiled Again in June of 2013 at Pocono and then matched a week later at the track by Abelard Hanover.

Bigtown Hero, owned by Allard Racing Inc. and Yves Sarrazin, was fresh off an Open Handicap win at Yonkers and now has 9 wins in 27 2014 races. It was his 24th career victory, pushing his lifetime earnings to $187,823.

Earlier in the night at Pocono in a $25,000 Preferred trot, Sevruga (S J’s Caviar-Stunning Lindsey), a 6-year-old gelding from the Kevin Carr, scored his first win since the spring by flashing early speed that held up in the final strides. The 3-5 favorite in a field of six, Sevruga, with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike, led at every pole and dug deep late to hold off Wind Of The North by a nose in 1:52:1. Not Afraid finished third.

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.