July 17-23, 2015
Now that we’re in the heart of the 2015 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, the schedule provides five nights of racing each week. That means that it’s harder than ever to choose who’s deserving of the Weekly Awards, because there are even more candidates from which to select. But we’re going to take a deep dive anyway and come up with the best of the best from the week that was at Pocono.
PACER OF THE WEEK: CAUTION SIGNS
It’s been a lot of fun to chart the ascendancy of this 5-year-old stallion in 2015. On April 16, he finished third in a $12,500 claimer at Yonkers. That’s when he was claimed by owner/trainer Tracy Brainard, who immediately coaxed better efforts from the horse in New York, as he won two of his next three starts. But that was nothing compared to the run of success he’s put together at Pocono. Since arriving at the end of May, Caution Signs has four wins and two places in six races, all while climbing the highest rungs of the condition ladder.
On July 4, he completed his climb by beating Open pacers in 1:48:4, his third straight win. On Saturday night he took on Open company again and a field that was reduced to four by a couple of scratches. Although that might have seemed like an easy assignment, Caution Signs was dealing with a sloppy track. And, as he took the early lead, he was also dealing with a horse in Scott Rocks who sat the pocket and wouldn’t let him get away to a comfortable margin.
In the stretch, Scott Rocks came out of the pocket full of sound and fury looking to upend the even-money favorite. But no horse wins as consistently as Caution Signs has of late without being more than a little game. The stallion, with Joe Pavia Jr. doing the driving, fought hard to hold on to his lead, eventually winning by a neck in 1:49:4, a blistering time considering the sloppy going. Something tells me you wouldn’t be able to get Caution Signs for $12,500 right now, or maybe even five times that, considering his current hot streak.
Other top pacers this week include: Priceless Edition (Anthony Napolitano, Pierre Paradis), an 11-year-old veteran who cranked out his third straight claiming handicap on Friday night, this one coming in 1:54:4; Union Man Hanover (Andrew McCarthy, Tracy Brainard), who moved up his claiming price on Saturday night to $25,000 and still easily scored his third straight victory, this one in 1:51:4 in the slop; and Request For Parole (Anthony Napolitano, Ron Burke), a mare who followed up a win at The Meadowlands with a victory in Friday night’s featured pace in 1:49:2, the fastest time posted at Pocono this past week.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: AUSPICIOUS HANOVER
When I’m making the morning line odds for some of the top condition races on the card at Pocono, it’s always difficult to assign long odds to horses with strong performance backgrounds. There have to be long shots in every race, of course, so I grit my teeth and hope the public sees it the same way. That’s my way of explaining how a horse as solid as Auspicious Hanover could ever get away at 25-1 like he did on Saturday night.
The 4-year-old gelding from the Chris Oakes barn was coming into the condition trot for non-winners of $22,500 in the last five races, which carried the week’s top trotting purse of $24,000, off a 6th-place finish at Saratoga, but that was in an Open Handicap. Prior to that he had ripped off back-to-back wins at middling prices on the 5/8-mile oval at Harrah’s. Yet he was way back in the betting pecking order, with Madewell Hanover the even-money choice.
None of that mattered once the race started. Driver Kevin Wallis urged Auspicious Hanover to the lead at the quarter in a zippy :26:4. He was able to rate things much more reasonably through the middle portion of the race though, so that Auspicious Hanover didn’t just withstand the late pursuit of Madewell Hanover, but he actually lengthened the lead at the line to 2 ¼ lengths with a winning time of 1:54:1 in the slop. The win payout was $53.20 on a $2 ticket, so those who waded through the talented field to find the merits of this talented gelding were definitely rewarded.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Can I Say (Tom Jackson, Douglas Berkeley), a mare who beat the boys in a tough condition race on Saturday night in 1:54:1 in the slop; Demons N Diamonds (Simon Allard, John McDermott), a filly who stepped up in class on Sunday night and ripped off her second straight win, this one in a career-best time of 1:54; and Born To Fight (George Napolitano Jr., Mark Ford), who stepped up in class on Tuesday night to win his second straight condition won, this one coming in 1:55:2 in the slop.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: BLINTZ
This filly made here maiden victory a memorable one on Sunday night, scoring for trainer/driver Bob Krivelin at 55-1, paying off $118 on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.
On Saturday night we honored George Nap for picking up his 7,000th career victory earlier in the week at Harrah’s, and he reminded us of how he reached that milestone by winning the night’s first three races.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: TRACY BRAINARD
Brainard’s efficiency at Pocono has been off the charts in recent weeks, and two more victories on Saturday continued that torrid training streak.
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.