September 24-30, 2016
After a couple weeks of abbreviated schedules, The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono returned to our regular slate of four nights of racing this past week. The full schedule featured a bunch of great finishes, several outstanding performances, and some stunning upsets. In other words, it was just another week at one of the top tracks in the world. Here are some of the highlights as we hand out the Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: DREAMS BEACHBOY
This four-year-old gelding from the Chris Oakes barn came into 2016 with somewhat modest earnings, even though he showed flashes of brilliance as a four-year-old. Dreams Beachboy has turned that promise into results this season. He’s been especially fine at Pocono; in just the last two months, he beat the non-winners of nine, won a condition in a career-mark of 1:49:1, and, in his last race coming into Saturday night, handled a $15,500 condition class.
On Saturday night, he stepped up into the $20,000 feature class, but even with the move up, bettors still installed him as the favorite. In the early going, Dreams Beachboy didn’t show much, sitting in the middle of the pack in fifth as others did the work up front. On the back stretch driver George Napolitano Jr. guided the gelding to the outside. In a flash, he wheeled from fifth to first, taking over the lead shy of the three-quarter pole.
From there no one was able to even remotely threaten his lead. Dreams Beachboy coasted home a winner in 1:50:2 with a 2 ¼ quarter-length advantage over second-place Mister Bling A. Now with seven victories in 19 races this year and earnings in 2016 which are about double his bankroll from the first two years of his career, Dreams Beachboy keeps getting better and seems like he has a way to go before he reaches his peak.
Other top pacers this week include: Goldin Parachute (Dave Palone, Rodney Baker), who moved up in class to win a claiming handicap on Saturday night in 1:52:2, giving him two straight victories; The Rock (Anthony Napolitano, Andrew Harris), who scored a condition win on Sunday night in 1:50:2, which was a new career-best and matched Dreams Beachboy for fastest time of the week at Pocono; and Gweneeee J (Jim Marohn Jr., Linda Toscano), who arrived from The Meadowlands to capture Tuesday night’s featured condition pace for mares in 1:51:3.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SPLITSVILLE
Who knows why horses sometimes take well to a track? When it happens, the results can be eye-opening. Splitsiville, a seven-year-old gelding, didn’t even hit the board in his first five races of the year before finally winning at Northfield in Ohio in a race for a purse of just $3,300. As soon as he arrived at Pocono and joined the barn of trainer Kris Rickert, his fortunes drastically changed. He immediately won two of three, climbing up the ladder to beat condition fields with purses of $8,500 and $11,000, with the latter win coming in a career-best 1:54:4.
After a fifth-place finish at Chester, the gelding returned to Pocono to face his toughest test yet on Saturday night in a $15,500 condition trot. The move up in class scared away the bettors, as Splitsville went off at 23-1. He sat fourth early on while the favorite Summers Windsong set the pace. Driver Eric Carlson set Splitsville in motion on the back stretch and quickly the gelding was looking the favored mare eye-to-eye.
The two continued their battle around the final turn, but, surprisingly, it was Summers Windsong who eventually relented. Or maybe it’s not so surprising considering Splitsville’s love of the Pocono oval. He trotted away and hid in the final strides, winning the race by a comfortable 3 ½ lengths and matching his career-best of 1:54 in the process.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Ashlake (Anthony Napolitano, Rene Allard), a mare whose victory in a claiming handicap on Monday night came in 1:53:3, a new career-best and the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono; Somebody As (George Napolitano Jr., Anette Lorentzon), who shipped in from Yonkers to capture Sunday night’s $20,000 featured trot in 1:54:1; and Star Photo (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who scored his second straight claiming handicap victory on Monday night, this one coming in 1:56:2.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: REGGIANO
Despite a #9 post position and a move up in class, this pacer driven by Eric Carlson stunned a condition group on Saturday night at 50-1, paying off $103 on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ERIC CARLSON
He picked up just two wins on Saturday night but was awful lucrative for his backers, as his wins came aboard 23-1 Splitsville and 50-1 Reggiano.
TRAINER OF THE YEAR: STEVE SALERNO
Few trainers have frequented the Pocono training leaderboard for as many years as Salerno, and nights like Monday night, when he scored a training double, will probably get him there this year as well.
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.