Racing

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

July 30-August 5, 2016

After several weeks of hot, dry weather, Mother Nature brought some rain to the party in Northeastern Pennsylvania this past week. That created sloppy tracks on two of the four racing nights at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, making for some fascinatingly unpredictable racing. In the midst of the on-and-off precipitation, several horses and horsemen handled the less-than-ideal conditions with aplomb, and they’re the ones receiving the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: PANCETTA

Whenever you see that a Standardbred has some sort of variation of the word “pan” in its name, it’s a good bet that the Peter Pan Stables of Ohio were involved in its development. While the names can be quite humorous, the horses with them often are outstanding competitors. Such has proven to be the case with Pancetta, a seven-year-old stallion bred by Peter Pan Stables who has been a handful since arriving at Pocono a few weeks back.

Trained by Matias Ruiz, Pancetta had been splitting time between Harrah’s at Philadelphia and Yonkers before coming to Pocono, with very little success. As a matter of fact, he didn’t even hit the board through his first seven races of the season. But he quickly proved that he loved the Pocono surface, ripping off a victory on July 23 in a $6,000 condition event in a career-best 1:52:1.

On Saturday he had to overcome the double whammy of moving up in class to the $12,500 level and dealing with the far outside #9 post position. Going off at 8-1, Pancetta was undaunted. Driver Anthony Napolitano hustled him to the lead on the front stretch and he held the advantage from that point. Even with the race favorite Rather Swell bearing down him late, the stallion held together for the victory by a length in 1:52:1 in the slop. That makes two straight victories, meaning that the name might be clever, but it’s Pancetta’s game that has really stood out of late.

Other top pacers this week include: Dancin Yankee (George Napolitano Jr., Josh Green), who overcame sloppy conditions on Saturday night to beat a condition field in 1:49:1, the fastest pacing time of the week at Pocono; Check’s Commodore (Anthony Napolitano, Rene Allard), who picked up his second straight win over the $15,000 claimers on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:52:2 in the slop; and Lindy’s Nightmare (Brett Miller, Frank Antonacci), a three-year-old filly who returned from Mohawk to win a condition on Tuesday night in 1:52:4, giving her five consecutive victories.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: STONEBRIDGE COMBAT

When humans fail at something, they’re often told to get back on the horse. When horses fail at something, what do they do? While you ponder that existential query, consider the case of Stonebridge Combat, a 3-year-old gelding trained and driven by Chris Ryder who hadn’t known a lot of defeat until a third-place finish on July 24 against the non-winners of five trotters at Pocono. Prior to that he had won three races in a row and five out of six for the year, which was his first in racing after sitting out his 2-year-old campaign.

In that loss in his previous race, Stonebridge Combat set the pace as he had in many of his previous wins, only to cough up the lead late. When he faced the non-winners of five again on Sunday night, Ryder decided to change up the strategy. He allowed Mr Lucky Luke to set the pace early while holding his horse back in the middle of the back. It was only on the back stretch that he set Stonebridge Combat in motion.

Even though he didn’t find any cover to help him toward the front of the pack, Stonebridge Combat pulled up alongside Mr Lucky Luke in the stretch, finally wearing him down to prevail by three-quarters of a length in 1:55:2. It was quite a nice bounce-back performance for the gelding, who has now won six of eight races in his young career.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Can’t I (John Campbell, Bob Stewart), a 2-year-old who now has two straight wins to start his career after a condition win in the slop on Monday night in a career-best 1:57:3; Three Crow Mo (Matt Kakaley, Tony Farina), who scored his second straight victory over the $7,500 claimers on Monday night, winning in 1:57:3 in the slop; and Croquet Rose (Andrew McCarthy, Anette Lorentzon), a mare who overcame an outside post to pick up her second consecutive condition win on Tuesday night, this one coming in a career-best 1:55:3.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: SAVANNAH SUNSET

In Sunday night’s final race, this trotting filly won a condition at 46-1 to pay off $95.40 to win and completed a $2,445 Late Daily Double where both winners were driven by Marcus Miller.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ERIC GOODELL

We’re seeing much more of Goodell at Pocono than we have in several years, and we’re seeing him win a lot of races as well, as he picked up driving doubles on Saturday and Sunday.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: GILBERTO GARCIA-HERRERA

Garcia-Herrera has been a steady performer all year long at Pocono, and he kept it up this week with three training wins including a double on Monday night.

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.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

July 23-29, 2016

It was hot this week in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but that’s no real news flash, because it was hot just about everywhere in the country as well. I only mention it because the heat didn’t seem to cause any lethargy in the horses competing this past week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. If anything, we witnessed some of the fastest races at the track in several weeks, with horses routinely putting up career-bests and even coming within shouting distance of world records. Here are some of the best performers this week, via the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: VAGUE TRACES

You never know when you’re going to see a special performance at the track. Vague Traces gave just such a performance on Saturday night. It wasn’t entirely unexpected that this 4-year-old gelding would be good, considering that he went off as the favorite in a field of $14,000 condition pacers. But the extent to which he excelled was what left mouths agape after he cashed in on his promise and scored the victory.

Trained by Ross Croghan, Vague Traces was making his first start at Pocono in 2016. He came in with wins in just two of his 14 races on the year, but they were back-to-back wins at The Meadowlands in June. Coming off a pair of distant finishes against tough company at Yonkers, the gelding didn’t show much in the first half of his first mile at Pocono, sitting an unassuming fourth early. Then driver Andrew McCarthy sent him first-over on the outside, and everything changed.

In a flash Vague Traces blew by everyone in front of him and took the lead prior to the three-quarter pole. But he didn’t stop there, continuing an elongated speed burst that didn’t relent until he crossed the line 7 ¾ lengths ahead of the dumbfounded field. Even more impressively, he tripped the line in 1:48:1, not just a career-best but the fastest at Pocono this week and one of the fastest at the oval this season. Just like that Vague Traces made an impression on the Pocono faithful; let’s see how he handles the tougher competition that’s bound to come.

Other top pacers this week include: Bushwacker (George Napolitano Jr., Chris Ryder), who scored a victory in Saturday night’s $18,000 featured pace in 1:50; Soto (Andrew McCarthy, Eric Ell), a newcomer to the racing wars at Pocono who immediately left his mark with a condition victory on Saturday in a career-best 1:48:4; and Life Is A Beach (Anthony Napolitano, Randy Bendis), who handled Tuesday night’s featured condition pacing mares in 1:52, which matched a career best.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: ARMOR HANOVER

There were several excellent candidates for this honor this week, but this seven-year-old gelding gets the call not just for his last two outstanding performances, but also for how far he’s come in that time. Trained by Douglas Berkeley, Armor Hanover hit rock bottom on July 2 when he went off-stride for a second consecutive race. That meant he’d have to qualify before he could race again. He did just that, winning a qualifier at Monticello on July 6, apparently earning some serious confidence in the process.

In his first race back on July 16, he headed out against a $14,000 condition trotting field as a 17-1 long shot. But driver Tom Jackson drove him aggressively and Armor Hanover responded, holding off Auspicious Hanover by a nose in a thrilling stretch battle to upset in 1:54:3, which was a career-best time.

On Saturday night, he faced off against a $15,500 condition grouping and this time went off at 6-1 with Anthony Napolitano in the bike. With a tremendous back-stretch brush, Armor Hanover left behind the 2-5 favorite Cufflink Hanover. The rest of the field was no match for him either, as he came home six lengths in front. His winning time of 1:52 shattered the career mark he had only just laid down. Armor Hanover has indeed come a long way in a short time, and it will be exciting to see now just where he goes from here.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Tac’s Delight (Jim Marohn Jr., Rene Allard), who handled a $15,000 claiming handicap field in 1:54:1 on Sunday night for his third straight victory; Homicide Hunter (Eric Goodell, Chris Oakes), who captured Sunday night’s $25,000 featured condition pace in 1:51:1, a new career-best, the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono, and only a fifth of a second short of a world record for 4-year-old trotting geldings; and Crazy About Pat (Jim Marohn Jr., Paul Kelley), who shipped in from Yonkers to pick up a condition win on Sunday night in a career-best 1:53:1.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: LARSON HANOVER

This two-year-old trotter’s maiden win on Tuesday night was quite memorable, as he came home a winner at 75-1 to pay out $154.20 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANTHONY NAPOLITANO

Returning from an injury that kept him out nearly two months, Napolitano wasted no time getting in the swing of things by ripping off five wins on his first night back Saturday.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JENNY MELANDER

Melander put together an interesting streak this week at Pocono, as she followed up training wins in both halves of the Late Daily Double Monday night with another victory in the opening race on Tuesday.

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.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

July 16-22, 2016

It’s hard to believe, but we’re nearly at the midway point of the 2016 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. There’s a lot of great racing from this year already in our rear view, yet we’re entering an extremely busy portion of the season, highlighted by the mega-card on Super Stakes Saturday in August. We’ll be talking about all of that soon enough, but for now let’s put the spotlight on the best of the best from the week that was and hand out our Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: B R FLYING DALI

This four-year-old stallion entered Pocono on a high note with a victory at The Meadows against $5,000 claimers on May 11. After finishing third against $7,500 claimers in his first try at MSPD, he quickly followed that up with a win in that class on May 29. B R Flying Dali was claimed from that race, switching trainers from Mike Palone to Dan Altman in the process, and he promptly moved up for the Altman barn for back-to-back wins against the $10,000 and $12,500 claimers in his next two races.

That meant he was riding a three-race winning streak when he took to the track on Saturday night to once again face off with the $12,500 claimers. Leaving from the #4 post in a field of nine as an even money favorite, B R Flying Dali sat second at the quarter behind a hot pace. Driver Simon Allard guided him to the lead with a quick move on the front stretch and hustled him through a quick third quarter of 27:2 to try to keep the pressure at bay.

In the stretch, B R Flying Dali had to deal with the charges of pocket horse Teranadawn and outside closer Special Terror. But he was up to the challenge, topping Special Terror at the line by a length in 1:52, which matched the career mark he had set in his previous start. That makes four wins in a row, five out of six, and ten overall for the season for B R Flying Dali. Those are impressive stats, and they stand to get even better if this stallion continues his hot streak.

Other top pacers this week include: Dreams Beachboy (Eric Goodell, Chris Oakes), who ripped off his second consecutive condition victory on Sunday night, this one coming in 1:50:3; Bandolito (Sean Bier, Daryl Bier), who scorched a condition group on Saturday for a win in a time of 1:49:2, the fastest pacing mark of the week at Pocono; and Highview Conall (Pat Berry, Scott DiDomenico) who followed up back to back wins at Harrah’s with a victory in a claiming handicap on Saturday night at Pocono in a career-best 1:49:3.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: WILBERFORCE

No two races are ever the same, so it’s a good thing when a horse has the versatility to roll with whatever comes its way on a particular night. It’s also a bonus when a horse’s driver can adjust his game plan depending on the circumstances. Those factors came into play when Wilberforce, a 4-year-old gelding from the Kris Rickert barn, took the track on Sunday night in search of his second consecutive victory over the non-winners of seven condition grouping.

In his previous start on July 10, driver George Napolitano Jr. kept Wilberforce off the pace on the inside, then guided him home when an opening appeared late. The gelding won in a career-best 1:53 by 3 ¾ lengths over Tuscanellie, who was the race favorite but wore down on the front end. On Sunday night, Tuscanellie was again favored at 1-2 with an improved post position, but he watched as Wilberforce changed up tactics and took charge early.

Napolitano took advantage of a small six-horse field by setting tepid fractions on the lead. That meant that Tuscanellie, even though she had the trip, still couldn’t get past Wilberforce in the late going. The gelding held tight to win by 1 ¼ lengths. The winning time of 1:54:4 wasn’t as quick as the previous week, but the bottom line is what mattered. That’s two in a row for Wilberforce, who has proven he can win a couple different ways, a handy talent in this sport.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Tac’s Delight (Jim Marohn Jr., Rene Allard), who moved up in class to win a claiming handicap trot on Sunday night in 1:54:1, earning his second straight victory in the process; J L Cruze (John Campbell, Eric Ell), who coasted to victory in Sunday night’s $25,000 featured condition trot, sharing the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono in the process with a 1:53; and Pounce Hanover (Jim Marohn Jr., Greg White), who rolled to a condition win on Tuesday night in 1:53, a new career mark which matched the week’s fastest trotting time at Pocono.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: ARMOR HANOVER

After breaking stride in his previous two starts, this trotter driven by Tom Jackson stayed flat and then some on Saturday night, beating a condition field at 17-1 for a $36.20 payout on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: SCOTT ZERON

As Zeron has become more of a regular presence at Pocono this year, he’s doing more damage, as was the case on Sunday night when he picked up four driving victories.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JIMMY TAKTER

When there are stakes races, you can count on Takter to do some damage, and the results this week at Pocono for him included three Stallion Series wins on Monday and a Sire Stakes victory.

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.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week in Review – Sun Stakes Saturday stars shine!

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

July 2-8, 2016

I’ve had the opportunity to call two Breeders Crowns during my time as track announcer at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, and yet I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a race as highly anticipated as the Ben Franklin pace that was contested last Saturday at Pocono as part of Sun Stakes Saturday. Three of the sport’s most talented horses at the absolute peak of their powers battled it out in a race that justified every bit of the hype. And although the result doesn’t technically prove anything but who was the best on that given night, the victory is a great feather in the cap of Always B Miki, who won the three-way dance. After all, the opportunity for he and Freaky Feet Pete and Wiggle It Jiggleit to converge on the same night at the same track in the same race might be a long time coming, if it ever happens again at all, so bragging rights might last a while.

Before we talk about exactly how the Franklin played out, there is the not-so-small matter of the three other huge stakes races that took place on Sun Stakes Saturday. In each of those races, the prohibitive favorite silenced any doubters that he or she might have faced coming into the race with a definitive performance. These performances may have removed some of the suspense from the proceedings, but they also solidified the greatness of the horses that delivered them.

In the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial pace for 3-year-old fillies, Pure Country came in looking to recapture the mantle of invincibility she possessed as a 2-year-old when she went unbeaten in ten races. She had won half of her six starts in 2016 coming into the Lynch, losing twice to Darlinonthebeach, who was in the Lynch field as well. But Pure Country, trained by Jimmy Takter, dusted that one by brushing by her in the front stretch, then held off a game Blue Moon Stride in the stretch by a half-length in a career-best 1:49:2.

Driver Brett Miller was aboard for Pure Country, and he continued his big night by piloting Racing Hill, who rolled to victory in the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial pace for 3-year-olds. Racing Hill is the lone Sun Stakes champion who can’t really claim divisional supremacy, considering that Betting Line swept through him and several other Hempt competitors in the North American Cup in Canada and didn’t make his way to Pennsylvania for this race. But Racing Hill, trained by Tony Alagna, still earns credit for handling the Hempt field with such ease on the front end, winning by a comfortable 2 ½ lengths in a career-best time of 1:49.

The $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial Trot for 3-year-olds seemed to be a perfect place for Southwind Frank to continue his dominance of the sophomore trotting division, at least until he was upset at 1-9 in the elimination by Bar Hopping. A #7 post in the final seemed like an invitation to more problems. But Yannick Gingras never sweated the trip, guiding Southwind Frank to the lead on the front stretch, rating him expertly, and then coasting home for a two-length victory in 1:52:4. Suddenly the loss in the elimination seems like a blip, and the career record of 14 wins in 16 races looms large as Southwind Frank heads toward the Hambletonian hype.

Back to the Franklin, which carried a purse of $500,000. For those who might have forgotten, the three main competitors were Wiggle It JiggleIt, defending horse of the year and one of the most popular stars the sport has seen in years; Freaky Feet Pete, a four-year-old counterpart of Wiggle It JiggleIt with a record almost as gaudy despite coming from humble origins in the Midwest; and Always B Miki, whose world record-matching victory in the Franklin eliminations was the latest in a series of jaw-dropping victories for the 5-year-old stallion.

As if so often the case, these big races never go exactly according to plan. Most people expected several horses to be winging it toward the front end and a sturdy outer flow to develop. Certainly that’s what driver David Miller expected when he sent Always B Miki to the outside on the first turn. But instead he cruised to the front of the pack and past Freaky Feet Pete for the lead at the 3/8-mile marker.

It was by no means easy after that, as Wiggle it Jiggleit came hard at him first-over on the back stretch. Once that charge was repelled, Always B Miki, trained by Jimmy Takter, had to summon more energy to hold off Freaky Feet Pete in the pocket. But after a trip in the eliminations in which he was parked for two turns, Saturday night must have seemed like a breeze for Always B Miki. He fended off Freaky Feet Pete by a length, once again pacing the mile in 1:47 to match his world-record time from the previous week.

The enthusiasm and excitement generated by both the Franklin and all of the big races on Sun Stakes Saturday demonstrate just how much the fans of this sport care for it. They want to see greatness, and they had that chance on Saturday night. Let’s hope that fate provides even more opportunities for the harness racing stars to align in such a manner in the very near future.

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.

The most anticipated race in decades is on Sun Stakes Saturday!

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

There will be over $2 million on the line this Saturday evening at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on its Sun Stakes Saturday card, but while the races for the three-year-olds will provide exciting contests and help provide early season pecking order, the main focus will be on one event.

The Showdown.

The Clash of the Titans – Always B Miki, Freaky Feet Pete, and Wiggle It Jiggleit – in the $500,000 Ben Franklin FFA Pace Championship, race 11 on the 14-race card Saturday at Pocono, which is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. first post.

Here’s an overview of the evening’s activities, led of course by the Franklin:

$500,000 BEN FRANKLIN FFAP CHAMPIONSHIP (race 11 of 14 – consolation race 7)

Defending Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit got the best of the post draw among the three Indiana-sired winners in the Franklin eliminations – but then again, the other two are not noted for their quick starting speed, although they may need to show some to get the major share of the purse in the Franklin, which became a field of ten when Shamballa and Always At My Place deadheated for third in an elimination.

The four-year-old son of Mr Wiggles, trained by Clyde Francis for George Teague Jr. Inc. and Teague Racing Partnership LLC, shows five “clean” calls of “1” (no parked-out symbols) at the quarter among his charted lines, and being somewhere near the front has been part of driver Montrell Teague’s basic modus operandi as “Wiggle” has won 31 of 38 career starts and $2.630,760 lifetime, including an easy-looking 1:48.1 score in his Franklin elimination (in which he drew over $73,000 of a $76,500 show pool). What might happen after Wiggle It Jiggleit gets the top (if he goes for the lead) makes for the drama of the story.

The five-year-old Always A Virgin stallion (are the last two words an oxymoron?) Always B Miki will start from post seven for driver David Miller, trainer Jimmy Takter, and his ownership of Bluewood Stable, Roll The Dice Stable, and Christina Takter. “Miki” has forged much of his reputation as an unstoppable finisher deluxe, with several pace-controlling moves made midrace on the straightaway of a big track. He shows only one “clean 1” at the first split on his lines, in a field of six when he was 1-20* in a Meadowlands race earlier this year, but he also has shown the ability to sit outside and still be razor-sharp in the stretch, as he was at Pocono last week when he was hung the better part of ¾ of a mile, mostly uncovered, and still had strong strides to the wire to equal the 1:47 world record for 5/8-mile tracks, set by Sweet Lou in the Franklin Championship here in 2014. He may face a similar trip on Saturday – but he’s shown he can handle it.

The horse that hung Always B Miki, Mel Mara (driven by Corey Callahan), should be mentioned here, as the seven-year-old Lis Mara stallion, trained by Dylan Davis for Robert Cooper Stables LLC and J&T Silva Stables LLC, drew the rail for the Franklin Championship. But Mel Mara has seldom shown early speed racing recently –which may be a strange thing to say for a horse who’s been ahead at the half in 3 of his last 5 races, but he has been parked at the quarter in all three, making second-quarter moves to the top. “Mel” does not figure to benefit from the “inside geometry” of post one as much as many would.

Freaky Feet Pete was in front most of his Franklin victory, with the son of Rockin Image setting a world record of 1:47.1 for his division in his easiest of triumphs (you heard a lot of “He didn’t look like he was going that fast!” comments after his elim). But again, like Always B Miki, the only raceline he shows with a “clean 1” at the quarter was a 1-20* early-season win at Hoosier. Trace Tetrick, Tim’s brother, who will be putting his 1.000 lifetime UDR at Pocono on the line here (last week was his first visit to the mountain oval) for trainer Larry Rheinheimer and owners Mary Jo and Marty Rheinheimer.

With all these horses of superior and variable mid-race tactics – gathered together in a powerpacked field that collectively has earned $11.8M in their careers and has an average mark of 1:47.4 – the trip, combined with some racing luck, will probably tell the tale in this great free-for-all showdown.

(By the way, Luck Be Withyou, the defending Franklin champ, will be racing in the Consolation this year, from post 1. He won his 2015 elim from post 8 and his final from post nine – and went wire-to-wire, with “clean 1”s, in both contests.)

$500,000 EARL BEAL JR. 3CT CHAMPIONSHIP (race 12 — consolation race 5)

Lost a bit in the uproar about the speedy Franklin elimination show last Saturday was the fact that Southwind Frank, the favorite for the August 8 Hambletonian, suffered only the second loss of his career. The three-year-old son of Muscle Hill, driven by Yannick Gingras for trainer Ron Burke and Southwind Frank Partners, was limbed out most of the first 3/8s before getting the top and went on to fast fractions before getting edged at the end by a game Bar Hopping in 1:52.1. The Beal elim was only “Frank”’s third start of the year, and first since June 4, and he figures to be a bit better this week, although again needing to overcome post seven in a field of nine.

Bar Hopping, who caught Southwind Frank late in posting the upset last week, may have an even more difficult road to hoe on Saturday, as the pillshake was unkind enough to give him the outside in the field of nine for trainer Jimmy Takter and the ownership of Christina Takter, Hatfield Stables, Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld. But the son of Muscle Hill will be driven by Tim Tetrick, who showed the best ability to cope “against the odds” on Elim Saturday – of the nine eliminations, seven were won by favorites, and Tetrick drove the other two: Bar Hopping ($24.60) and 3PF Newborn Sassy ($8.20).

If these two get involved in vicious early dueling, there is a horse who has proven he has a wicked closing kick – and he lives right down the shedrow from Southwind Frank. That would be Burke trainee Dayson, an altered son of Conway Hall who has never lost in his career when flat (11 for 14, with three breaks). That pattern looked in serious jeopardy as late as midstretch last week, but driver Jim Morrill Jr. got a furious late kick out of Dayson for a 1:52.3 tally, and from post two he might again be in prime position to “pick up the pieces” for Burke Racing Stable LLC, Our Horse Cents Stables, J&T Silva Stables LLC, and Rossie Smith.

$500,000 MAX C. HEMPT 3CP CHAMPIONSHIP (race 10; no consolation – only 13 in elims.)

Racing Hill and Control The Moment were 2-3 behind Hempt non-eligible Betting Hill in the recent $1MC North America Cup at Mohawk, and both followed on their fine showing in Canada by winning their respective Hempt elims. For the Hempt Championship, Racing Hill has the better draw, PP2 vs. PP8, and the Roll With Joe colt, trained by Tony Alagna for owner Tom Hill of the U.K., was the faster elim winner, winning in 1:49.1 under a hold the last 1/16 by driver Brett Miller.

However, few people would be surprised if the Well Said colt Control The Moment gave a giant accounting of himself despite landing behind the 8-ball at the post draw. The Brad Maxwell trainee, owned by the Control The Moment Stable, won in 1:49.3 last week, snapping home in 27 last Saturday to hold off 2015 divisional champion Boston Red Rocks, who has post six in the Hempt Final.

If one were looking for an upsetter in the Hempt, one could make a case for the Art Major gelding Talk Show, who starts in the middle of the field of nine for driver Scott Zeron and trainer Steve Elliott (also the trainer of Boston Red Rocks). The timer malfunctioned during his elim, and it wasn’t until after the race that it was noted that Racing Hill blitzed the third quarter in 26.3 to hold off a spirited challenge from Talk Show – who was four lengths off the lead at the half, meaning he went his third quarter raw in 25.4! Such pure speed, under perfect circumstances, could find Talk Show in the thick of things in the Hempt final.

$300,000 JAMES LYNCH 3FP CHAMPIONSHIP (race 9 – consolation race 6)

Last year’s division champion Pure Country went 10-for-10 in her freshman campaign. This year, largely due to some early-season sickness, the road has not been as easy for the daughter of Somebeachsomewhere, owned by Diamond Creek Racing, but as trainer Jimmy Takter notes, “She’s won the two biggest races of the season for her division so far, the Miss Pennsylvania (at Pocono) and the Fan Hanover.” Last week Pure Country showed her grittiness by overcoming a first-over trip to win in 1:50.1 for driver Brett Miller, as she looks to raise her “majors” record to 3 for 3; the two foes who were within a half-length of her at the wire start on either side of her Saturday: Blue Moon Stride, getting post eight after a second, and Darlinonthebeach, in post six after closing for third.

We mentioned Newborn Sassy earlier as one of two non-favorites, both piloted by Tim Tetrick, to win an elim, and on Saturday the Western Ideal miss, trained by co-owner Jo Ann Looney-King for herself and partner CC Racing LLC, will begin from post three off her 1:51.3 elimination tally. I Said Diamonds, that elim’s chalk who came up just short after not having raced in 29 days, certainly has a license to be better off of that race, and will start from post two.

ANOTHER STAR WILL BE AT POCONO SATURDAY

Well-known baseball superstar Pete Rose will be making an appearance at The Downs at Mohegan Sun at Pocono before the evening’s races (and may well stay and bet a few, if his past performances are any indication).

Wristbands to attend the session with Rose will be distributed starting at 1 p.m. in the Racing Lobby. There are a limited number of wrist bands, which will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. The session with Rose will take place between 4 and 6 p.m. Only authorized photos will be signed, and distributed at the event!

AND TO END, THE FIELDS FOR THE “BIG FOUR” ON SUN STAKES SATURDAY (post, horse, driver, trainer):

$300,000 JAMES LYNCH 3FP CHAMPIONSHIP, race 9: 1, JK Fannie, David Miller, Nancy Johansson; 2, I Said Diamonds, Matt Kakaley, Matias Ruiz; 3, Newborn Sassy, Tim Tetrick, Jo Ann Looney-King; 4, Lindwood Beach Girl, Yannick Gingras, Mark Steacy; 5, Skinny Dipper, Andrew McCarthy, Ross Croghan; 6. Darlinonthebeach, David Miller also listed, Nancy Johansson;  7, Pure Country, Brett Miller, Jimmy Takter; 8, Blue Moon Stride, McCarthy also listed, Mark Harder; 9. Penpal, driver/trainer Pat Lachance.

$500,000 MAX C. HEMPT 3CP CHAMPIONSHIP, race 10: 1, More Dragon, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 2, Racing Hill, Brett Miller, Tony Alagna; 3, Western Fame, George Napolitano Jr., Jimmy Takter; 4, JK Will Power, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 5, Talk Show, Scott Zeron, Steve Elliott; 6,  Boston Red Rocks, Tim Tetrick, Steve Elliott; 7, Katies Rocker, David Miller, Jim Campbell; 8, Control The Moment, Randy Waples, Brad Maxwell; 9, Big Top Hanover, Gingras also listed, Ron Burke.

$500,000 BEN FRANKLIN FFAP CHAMPIONSHIP, race 11: 1, Mel Mara, Corey Callahan, Dylan Davis; 2, Shamballa, Scott Zeron, Rick Zeron; 3, Wiggle It Jiggleit, Montrell Teague, Clyde Francis; 4, State Treasurer, Tim Tetrick, Dr. Ian Moore; 5, Sunfire Blue Chip, Brett Miller, Jimmy Takter; 6, Freaky Feet Pete, Trace Tetrick, Larry Rheinheimer; 7, Always B Miki, David Miller, Jimmy Takter; 8, All Bets Off, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 9, Rock N’ Roll World, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 10 (2T), Always At My Place, Gingras also listed, Ron Burke.

$500,000 EARL BEAL JR. 3CT CHAMPIONSHIP, race 12: 1, Reigning Moni, Scott Zeron, Jimmy Takter; 2, Hollywood Highway, John Campbell, Staffan Lind; 3, Truemass Volo, Eric Goodell, Doug Hamilton; 4, Dayson, Jim Morrill Jr., Ron Burke; 5, Trolley, Marcus Miller, Erv Miller; 6, Brooklyn Hill, David Miller, Jonas Czernyson; 7, Southwind Frank, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 8, Dice Man, driver/trainer Åke Svanstedt; 9, Bar Hopping, Tim Tetrick, Jimmy Takter.