Racing

Sun Stakes Saturday presents Bobby Knight

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

Saturday, June 24th, the very best of the best trotters and pacers in North America will descend upon the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in Northeast PA for the Sun Stakes Saturday eliminations.  The star power for this night is dazzling!

There will be three eliminations of each for the $500,000 Ben Franklin Free-For-All Pace; the $500,000 Max Hempt Memorial Pace for three-year-old colts and geldings; the $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial Trot for three-year-olds; and the $300,000 James Lynch Memorial Pace for three-year-old fillies.  The top three finishers from each advance to the rich championship finals on Saturday, July 1st with over $2 million in purses on this prestigious night.

On Saturday, July 1st, Sun Stakes Saturday, the day begins with a special Meet and Greet with former college basketball coach Bobby Knight in the Racing Lobby from 5:00PM to 6:30PM.  This is a wristband-only event, with wristbands being distributed at 1:00pm.  Only authorized photos will be signed, and will be available at the signing.  A professional photographer will be on hand to capture photos, which will be displayed on the casino Facebook page after the event.

Also on July 1st, the first 300 fans will receive a souvenir laptop bag sponsored by the Standardbred Breeders Association of Pennsylvania and the Downs.  Coupon is required and in the live racing program, available starting at 5:30PM.  Redemption is between 9:00PM and 10:00Pm in the lower Grandstand bar.  The promotion is one per fan, while supplies last with their Racing Rewards card.

Post Time for both nights is 6:30PM, with plenty of seating on the apron and patio,  as well as free parking and free admission.  Dining in Pacer’s Clubhouse is by reservation only and can be secured by calling 1-888-WIN-IN-PA.

Racing for the track in Northeast PA continues on Sunday nights at 7:30PM; and Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday at 6:30PM.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

June 17-23, 2017

Next week in this space we’ll be detailing all of the action from the Sun Stakes eliminations, which take place on Saturday night, June 24. On that night, the sport’s superstars will be congregating at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono to battle it out in an effort to reach the high-stakes finals the following week. In the meantime, we witnessed an excellent four nights of racing just past, the best of which will be highlighted now in the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: ONE TO DRAW TO

For the second straight week, this award goes to a claimer on an impressive winning streak. Last week, it was Tell Us More, who, by the way, added another win on Saturday night to make it five in a row. This week the honors go to One To Draw To, a five-year-old gelding who came into Saturday night’s $25,000 claiming pace for four and five-year-olds with two consecutive wins in that class in front-pacing fashion.

Hot claimers are subject to switch barns, and One To Draw To was indeed claimed from his victory on June 10, leaving the Rene Allard barn and joining Steve Salerno’s contingent of racers. His first start for the new barn looked a lot like the previous two for the old barn. Leaving from post position #1 in a field of nine as a 7-5 favorite, the gelding quickly took control of the pace with Anthony Napolitano doing the driving. The fractions he set were merciless, even faster than he had in his previous two victories.

Anyone hoping that those quick early times would lead to a late comeuppance had another thing coming. Despite pressure from Next Success, a formidable presence who won this award earlier in the meet, One To Draw To held string through the lane, winning by 1 ¾ lengths. The winning time was a real eye-popper, as the gelding came home in 1:49:3, a new career-mark and the fastest pacing time laid down this past week at Pocono.

Other top pacers include: Baby Kitty (Simon Allard, Eric Foster), who moved up the condition ladder to win his second straight at Pocono on Saturday night, this one coming in a career-best 1:50:1; Art Of Illusion (Jim Marohn Jr., James Guagliardo), who scored his second straight victory over the $15,000 claimers on Saturday night, doing so in a career-best 1:50:4; and Deerfield Beach (Corey Callahan, Dylan Davis), whose victory on Sunday night in a condition pace on a sloppy track in 1:51:4 gave the three-year-old gelding wins in four of his last five races.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: TIRADE HANOVER

This seven-year-old gelding trained by Rene Allard has put together an accomplished career, with earnings pushing near $800,000. But he had been in a little bit of a slump until managing a big effort from the #9 post to win a condition trot on June 5 in 1:54:4. That proved to be the impetus for a step up in class, as Saturday night Tirade Hanover jumped up a couple notches on the condition ladder to face off against a $14,000 group.

Although he won his previous start on the front end, Tirade Hanover raced toward the back of the back early on this time around. It proved to be a good choice by driver Simon Allard, because a raging speed duel between Madhatter Bluechip and Armor Hanover created unsustainable fractions. Allard chose a three-wide path on the back stretch for his charge, and the horse picked off the foes in front of him until he took the lead rounding the final turn.

In the stretch, Tirade Hanover had to deal with a late move from 3-5 favorite Wilberforce, but he proved ready for the challenge, holding him off by a length for the win. His winning time of 1:53:1 was a personal best for the 2017 season to date, and he also provided nice value for his backers at 5-1. With a two-race winning streak that was achieved with two extremely different strategies, Tirade Hanover has proven to be as versatile as he is quick.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Top Dollar (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who ripped off his second straight condition win on Saturday night, achieving a new career-best time of 1:53:1 in the process; Treviso (Charlie Norris driver and trainer), who stayed a perfect four-for-four in 2017 with a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes win against other three-year-old fillies on Sunday night in 1:54:2; and Overdraft Volo (Andy Miller, Julie Miller), a filly who followed up a Sire Stakes win at Chester with another at Pocono Sunday night, getting it done in a career-best 1:54:3.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: ABOUT THE BENJAMINS

With Marcus Miller in the bike, this condition pacer sprung a surprise on Sunday night with a rallying win at 16-1, paying off $34.20 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MARCUS MILLER

Miller not only scored wins on every racing night this past week and had multiple victories on three of those nights for his best stretch of the meet thus far.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: DOUG HAMILTON

Monday was a good night at the Stallion Series for three-year-old trotting fillies for the Hamilton barn, as Itsgoodtobequeen won at 13-1 and Out Of Luck picked up a victory at 10-1.

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.

Sun Stakes Saturday Eliminations Night showcases the best of the best

Monday, June 19th, 2017

The very best trotters and pacers in North American harness racing will be converging on The Downs at Mohegan Sin Pocono the next two Saturdays, with elimination races being held this Saturday in order to qualify horses to participate in the Sun Stakes Saturday supercard on Saturday, July 1.

The $500,000 Franklin Pace for free-for-allers, the $500,000 Hempt Pace for three-year-old colts and geldings, the $500,000 Beal Trot for three-year-olds, and the $300,000 Lynch Pace for three-year-old fillies all drawn sufficient entrants that there will be three eliminations for each event this Saturday night, with the top three finishers in each elim advancing to their rich Championship event on July 1.

Here’s a look at the elimination events for the four big races, starting with the one where a top filly is going to try “the boys”:

EARL BEAL TROT: $500,000 Championship; $25,000 eliminations in races 2, 9, and 14

This may be the case of “saving the best for last,” as super filly Ariana G will test male opposition in the Beal, contributing factors being a lack of top-money events in her division right now and the still-awaited return of top colt Walner, and she will be the next-to-last horse to post parade on Saturday, starting from post six in a field of seven in the 14th and final race.

Ariana G is a daughter of Muscle Hill trained by Jimmy Takter for owners/breeders Marvin Katz and Al Libfield. She was named divisional champion as a two-year-old off the strength of 9 wins in 11 starts, earnings of over $700,000, and a win in the Breeders Crown. This year Ariana G has been perfect in two starts, winning her last race, a New Jersey Sire Stakes final for fillies, in a career-best 1:51.1.

Two state champion colts will square off in the second race elimination, which has eight entrants. Giveitgasandgo, a Yankee Glide ridgling, won the 2016 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championship and comes off a PaSS victory in his last start; he’ll begin in post four for driver Corey Callahan and trainer John Butenschoen. Two starting slots to his right will be Long Tom, recent New Jersey Sire Stakes final winner, with the son of Muscle Hill backed by the team of driver Tim Tetrick and trainer Marcus Melander. Rubio (post three, Yannick Gingras for Jimmy Takter) will also get respect off a sharp PaSS win in his 2017 bow.

The state of New York weighs in in the ninth race Beal elimination, as the Credit Winner colt Devious Man comes to the mountain oval off a win Sunday in the Empire Breeders Classic final. Devious Man will be behind slot six in the eight-horse grouping for Team Orange Crush – driver Andy Miller and trainer/wife Julie.

BEAL RACE 2 ELIMINATION (PP, horse, listed driver, trainer): 1, Common Parlance, Jim Marohn Jr., Joseph Skowyra; 2, Snowstorm Hanover, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 3, Rubio, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 4, Giveitgasandgo, Corey Callahan, John Butenschoen; 5, Lucky Matter, David Miller, Christopher Beaver; 6, Long Tom, Tim Tetrick, Marcus Melander; 7, Sortie, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley; 8, President Lindy, Andy Miller, Julie Miller.

BEAL RACE 9 ELIMINATION: 1, Southwind Woody, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 2, Dover Dan, Corey Callahan, John Butenschoen; 3, Don Dream, Brian Sears, Chris Oakes; 4, Andy M, David Miller, Christopher Beaver; 5, Meteoric, Joe Bongiorno, Richard Johnson; 6, Devious Man, Andy Miller, Julie Miller; 7, Perfect Spirit, Yannick Gingras, Åke Svanstedt; 8, King On The Hill, Jim Marohn Jr., Jimmy Takter.

BEAL RACE 14 ELIMINATION: 1, What The Hill, David Miller, Ron Burke; 2. Ei Ei O, Corey Callahan, Richard Hans; 3, Backstage Pass, Mike Simons, Mike Simons; 4, Bill’s Man, Corey Callahan also listed, John Butenschoen; 5, Muscles Jared, Brian Sears, George Ducharme; 6, Ariana G (*filly), Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 7, Moonshiner Hanover, Scott Zeron, Christopher Beaver.

BEN FRANKLIN PACE: $500,000 Championship; $35,000 eliminations in races 5, 7, and 11

The two horses likely to attract much attention in the 11th race elimination will be starting at opposite ends of the gate in the seven-horse field. Getting the innermost draw is Mel Mara, a son of Lis Mara scheduled to be handled by Corey Callahan for trainer Dylan Davis and owners Robert Cooper Stables LLC and J&T Silva Stables LLC. Mel Mara has a mark of 1:47, was fourth in the Franklin Final last year, and comes off of a 1:48 victory at The Meadowlands in which he paced his last quarter in 26.

The Western Ideal stallion Luck Be Withyou had no luck at the pill shake with the outside draw, but the outer fringes of the starting gate are nothing new to him: he won his 2015 Franklin elim from post eight and then the 2015 Championship from post nine! Also a winner of the 2016 Franklin Consolation and his Breeders Crown event here as a two-year-old, Luck Be Withyou is truly a “horse for the course,” with 15 wins in only 22 starts at Pocono, and over $700G of his $1.3M lifetime bankroll earned locally. George Napolitano Jr. will have sulky duties for trainer Chris Oakes.

The charismatic Freaky Feet Pete, second to Always B Miki in the Franklin Championship last year, will be making his seasonal debut in the seven-horse seventh race elimination, starting from post two for driver Trace Tetrick and trainer Marty Rheinheimer. His prime opposition could come from McWicked, the 2014 Hempt champion, and the razor-sharp Rockeyed Optimist, second to Mel Mara last week.

The fifth race looks the most wide-open of the three Franklin eliminations; if anyone has an advantage, it may be the “home cookin’” of Napolitano and Oakes behind Split The House, who starts in the middle of the field of seven, and who won his last race here at Pocono in 1:48.2 – 27.2.

FRANKLIN RACE 5 ELIMINATION: 1. Dealt A Winner, David Miller, Mark Silva; 2. Check Six, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 3. Boston Red Rocks, Tim Tetrick, Steve Elliott; 4. Split The House, George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes; 5. Soto, Art Stafford Jr., Eric Ell; 6. Dude’s The Man, driver TBA, Jessica Okusko; 7. Shamballa, Scott Zeron, Rick Zeron.

FRANKLIN RACE 7 ELIMINATION: 1. McWicked, David Miller, Casie Coleman; 2. Freaky Feet Pete, Trace Tetrick, Marty Rheinheimer; 3. All Bets Off, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 4. Mach It So, Tim Tetrick, Jeff Bamond Jr.; 5. Keystone Velocity, Simon Allard, Rene Allard; 6. Lyons Snyder, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 7. Rockeyed Optimist, Andy Miller, Steve Elliott.

FRANKLIN RACE 11 ELIMINATION: 1. Mel Mara, Corey Callahan, Dylan Davis; 2. Wakizashi Hanover, Tim Tetrick, Jo Ann Looney-King; 3. Anwar Hanover, Jim Marohn Jr., Frank Kamine; 4. Rockin Ron, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 5. Rock N’ Roll World, Brian Sears, Jeff Cullipher; 6. Sunfire Blue Chip, Mark MacDonald, Jimmy Takter; 7. Luck Be Withyou, George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes.

MAX C. HEMPT PACE: $500,000 Championship; $25,000 eliminations in races 3, 10, and 12

“Fear The Dragon” is not just the name of a three-year-old colt – it’s the watchword of everybody campaigning a high-class sophomore pacer right now. The son of Dragon Again, trained by Brian Brown for the Emerald Highlands Farm, won the “big showdown” this past Saturday in the $730,000 (U.S.) North America Cup, closing strongly to notch a 1:48.4 victory for driver David Miller, and establishing himself as the leader in the sport’s glamour division. In going five-for-five this year, the Dragon has shown he can overcome obstacles in his road: tough posts (he does have PP2 in a field of six here), first-over trips, and even an errant head number thrown to the track that caused him to skip in the stretch of his N.A. Cup elim, but he quickly righted and even won that contest.

Fear The Dragon’s stablemate in the Brian Brown Stable, Downbytheseaside, suffered his first seasonal defeat in finishing third in the North America Cup, but in his defense he was pushed to brutal middle fractions of 52.1 and 1:19.3, the latter the fastest clocking at the ¾ on the continent in 2017. The Somebeachsomewhere colt will look to regain his winning ways as he starts from post five in the seven-horse twelfth race elimination, with Brian Sears driving.

Trainer Dylan Davis, who has Mel Mara in the Franklin elims, saw his Every Way Out sweep two eliminations and then the final of the New Jersey Sire Stakes series at The Meadowlands, and he will turn the lines over to Tim Tetrick in hopes of remaining undefeated in 2017 as they begin from post four in the seven-horse elim.

HEMPT RACE 3 ELIMINATION: 1. Blood Line, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 2. Santafe’s Coach, Anthony Napolitano, Leo Iordan; 3. Boogie Shuffle, Scott Zeron, Mark Harder; 4. Every Way Out, Tim Tetrick, Dylan Davis; 5. Air Strike, Corey Callahan, Joe Holloway; 6. Ozone Blue Chip, Brett Miller, Ron Coyne Jr.; 7. Western Joe, Matt Kakaley, Chris Choate.

HEMPT RACE 10 ELIMINATION: 1. Summer Side, Tim Tetrick, Ray Schnittker; 2. Fear The Dragon, David Miller, Brian Brown; 3. Ponderingjacksfame, Brett Miller, Les Givens; 4. Miso Fast, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 5. Pointomygranson, Brett Miller also listed, Chris Ryder; 6. Funknwaffles, Brian Sears, John Butenschoen.

HEMPT RACE 12 ELIMINATION: 1. Eddard Hanover, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 2. Heaven’s Gait, David Miller, Nicholas Devita; 3. Donttellmeagain, Tim Tetrick, Jo Ann Looney-King; 4. Photobombr Hanover, Brett Miller, Tom Fanning; 5. Downbytheseaside, Brian Sears, Brian Brown; 6. Highalator, George Napolitano Jr., Jenny Bier; 7. Talent Soup, Scott Zeron, Bruce Saunders.

JAMES LYNCH PACE: $300,000 Championship; $20,000 eliminations in races 1, 4, and 13

Bettor’s Up defeated Agent Q by a nose in last Saturday’s Fan Hanover final at Mohawk, and the two figure to be slugging it out again as they are matched up in the six-horse race 13 Lynch elimination. Bettor’s Up, who starts from post three for driver Doug McNair and trainer Scott McEneny, has been victorious in half of her 16 career starts, while Agent Q, the 2016 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champion who will begin from the rail for driver David Miller and trainer Aaron Lambert, has been first or second in all but one of her 15 career trips behind the gate.

In the first race elimination, a seven-horse field, Tequila Monday and Idyllic Beach look to rebound: they were the favorite and second choice in the Fan Hanover, respectively, but respectively finished third and fourth. They have the advantage of inside starting positions on Saturday: Tequila Monday starts off from the rail for driver Brian Sears and trainer Chris Oakes, while Idyllic Beach, the 2016 North American champion for this division, begins just to her right for driver Yannick Gingras and trainer Jimmy Takter.

Misqued eked out a nose victory in her New Jersey Sire Stakes final on June 2, and perhaps that race will be a better sign for her as she begins from post two in a grouping of six for driver Steve Smith and trainer John Balzer. This Lynch elim appears to be the most wide-open of the event’s trio of races.

LYNCH RACE 1 ELIMINATION: 1. Tequila Monday, Brian Sears, Chris Oakes; 2. Idyllic Beach, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 3. Inverse Hanover, David Miller, Nifty Norman; 4. Kate Is Well Said, Tim Tetrick, Jim Campbell; 5. YS Tallia, Simon Allard, Rene Allard; 6. Pittstop Danika, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 7. V String, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley.

LYNCH RACE 4 ELIMINATION: 1. Brazuca, Corey Callahan, Thomas Cancelliere; 2. Misqued, Steve Smith, John Balzer; 3, Big City Betty, Jim Marohn Jr., Steve Salerno; 4. Gallic Sea, Brian Sears, Jim Campbell; 5. Roaring To Go, Brett Miller, Kevin Lare; 6. Risky Romance, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley.

LYNCH RACE 13 ELIMINATION: 1. Agent Q, David Miller, Aaron Lambert; 2. Hail Damage Blues, Mike Simons, Tom Fanning; 3. Bettor’s Up, Doug McNair, Scott McEneny; 4. Caviart Ally, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley; 5. Concerto, Andrew McCarthy also listed, Kelvin Harrison; 6. Miss Jones, Corey Callahan, Joe Holloway.

THE UNDERCARD: A $25,000 winners-over pace in race 8, with a field of eight with combined earnings of $3.8M and an average lifetime mark of 1:49, and a $22,500 “nw22500L5” pace where the field of nine has amassed over $2.4M in earnings and an average speed badge of 1:50. (Six horses in each race took their marks at Pocono.)

First post for this first-rate Sun Stakes Saturday elimination night card, with action literally from beginning to end, is listed for 6:30 p.m.

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The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

May 27-June 2, 2017

The fact that the calendar has now crossed over into June means that we are just about a quarter of a way through the racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. It’s been a thrill-a-minute ride to this point, and we haven’t even really entered the heart of stakes season yet. This past week we saw four excellent racing cards and many horses and horsemen who could make legitimate claims on the Weekly Awards. Let’s see who takes them home.

PACER OF THE WEEK: CHEAP N EASY

This nine-year-old mare has been a hot streak of which most horses can only dream. In a stretch from March 28 to May 1, Cheap N Easy ripped off five consecutive victories, four of them right here at Pocono. But then she was laid off for the next four weeks, as she was scratched sick from her only scheduled start in that period.

Trained by Gilberto Garcia-Herrera, Cheap N Easy returned to face a group of $15,000 to $20,000 claiming handicap mares on Monday night. In every one of those previous five straight wins, the mare had either led or been in the pocket at the top of the stretch. But in this one she got away third and watched as Timmylynn opened up a pretty sizable advantage. Still there was no panic from driver George Napolitano Jr., as he allowed Cheap N Easy to save ground.

In the stretch, Napolitano was able to shift Cheap N Easy out three-wide to get a clear look at the leader. Timmylynn didn’t give way easily, but Cheap N Easy was flying and made up a lot of ground in a little bit of time to win by a neck in 1:53:4. Apparently the month or so off didn’t slow her down at all, and she’ll take a six-race winning streak into her next race. Whether that’s a month from now or tomorrow, this mare is going to be tough to handle.

Other top pacers this week include: Luck Be Withyou (George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes), who captured Saturday night’s featured condition pace in 1:49:3, giving him the fastest time of the week at Pocono and two wins in a row; Long Live Rock (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who overcame a move up the condition ladder and an outside post to capture his second straight victory on Saturday night, matching a career-best with a mile of 1:50 in the process; and Angels Rockin Pink (Marcus Miller, John Butenschoen), a mare who moved up in class to win Tuesday night’s featured distaff condition pace in 1:53 for her second straight victory.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: CELEBRITY EVENTSY

For the first two years of her racing career, this four-year-old mare from the Staffan Lind barn was a standout, earning at least $200,000 at ages two and three. There is often a period of adjustment for four-year-olds who have to face older horses for the first time after taking on their own age group almost exclusively in their first two seasons. But Celebrity Eventsy made that adjustment pretty quickly. In just her third race of the year on May 13 at Pocono, she beat a $14,000 condition field made up of mostly older horses on a sloppy track in 1:56:2

She was back at it once again on Saturday night, only this time she stepped up the ladder to face an even more rugged test in a $16,500 condition. Leaving from post position #1 in a field of nine as a 3-1 second choice, the mare sat third early on in the mile. Driver Christian Lind chose to keep her out of the outer flow on the back stretch, a risky move considering that the horse could have got blocked in late.

But Lind read the race perfectly. The outer flow mostly faded from view, allowing him the chance to tip Celebrity Eventsy out three-wide on the back stretch after saving all that ground and energy. The mare unleashed some fierce closing speed and swept by race favorite Skates N Plates in the final strides to win by a head in 1:54:2. If she keeps this up, Celebrity Eventsy is going to make her third racing year as lucrative as the first two.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: French Press (Scott Zeron, Frank Antonacci), a filly who followed up her maiden win with a second straight condition win on Monday night in 1:59; The Erm (Charlie Norris driver and trainer), a filly who picked up her second consecutive condition win on Tuesday in 1:54:4, a new career mark; and Meteoric (Joe Bongiorno, Richard Johnson), a 3-year-old gelding who burned up the track for a condition win on Tuesday night in 1:52:4, a new career-best and easily the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: TICA HANOVER

This filly driven by Marcus Miller worked out on inside trip in a condition pace on Monday night to score at 24-1 for a $51.60 payout on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: SIMON ALLARD

Simon had multiple victories on all four racing nights at Pocono this past week, but the highlight came on Sunday night when he picked up his 3,000th career victory aboard San Jose Hanover.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: RICHARD JOHNSON

Johnson made the most of his two Pocono training wins this week, as Windsongmusclelady won Monday night’s featured claiming trot and Meteoric posted the fastest trotting time of the week.

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, May 24th, 2017

May 20-26, 2017

While every race has its own special charms, the races with the biggest purses always tend to carry something a little extra special with them at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The early part of the season consists mostly of overnight races, but now is the about the time of year when some major money is up for grabs on the Pocono oval.

This past week saw a significant influx of high-stakes races on the racing schedule at Pocono. It was the first time we’ve hosted the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes in the meet, in particular the glamour division of three-year-old pacing colts and geldings, with three divisions on Sunday night each carrying a purse just shy of $50,000. Sire Stakes are always followed by Stallion Series races, and we had six of those on Monday night to the tune of $20,000 a pop. Sprinkle in three condition paces with $25,000 on the line for each, and you’ve got a lot of cabbage up for grabs.

With that in mind, I thought I’d give the Weekly Awards a rest and talk solely about how those big races went down during this past racing week at Pocono. We’ll start on Saturday night with a $25,000 featured condition pace for winners of over $25,000 lifetime. That race featured Boston Red Rocks, who starred as a 3-year-old a year ago, and Barimah A, who was coming off a surprising win in the Van Rose Memorial at Pocono. One of the ones that Barimah A beat that night was Rockin Ron, who suffered through a miserable trip on the outside on a sloppy track. But Saturday night was an entirely different story, as driver Matt Kakaley settled the five-year-old gelding in the pocket early and then coaxed some potent closing kick out of Rockin Ron for the win in 1:50:3 by a neck over Major Uptrend, who had set the pace.

On Sunday night, the distaff pacers had their turn at the spotlight, as a winners of over $25,000 lifetime mares grouping took to the track. Nike Franco, a seven-year-old mare trained by Jo Ann Looney-King, was made the 3-5 favorite off an impressive victory at Yonkers. Facing a field that included a pair of rising four-year-old stars in Call Me Queen Bee and Blue Moon Stride, the veteran was in complete control from the start. Driver Tim Tetrick guided Nike Franco to fractions that were quick but not out of control, and she led all the way home to the tune of a 1:50:1 time, a new career-mark for the mare.

Next up on Sunday came the winners of over $25,000 lifetime trotters, with a field of nine competing for a $25,000 purse. Post positions were assigned in this race and Melady’s Monet and Charmed Life, a pair of trotters with over a million bucks in career earnings, took those outside slots. Melady’s Monet set the pace and got away with reasonable fractions on the front end. But he wasn’t counting on the stiff first-over challenge from Rubber Duck, the 2-1 co-favorite who arrived from the Meadowlands having faced extremely tough company his last few starts. The two battled tooth-and-nail until Rubber Duck, driven by Joe Bongiorno for trainer Richard Johnson, came out on top by three parts of a length in 1:53.

That led to the three Sire Stakes divisions, and it was no surprise that trainer Jimmy Takter was a heavy player in the action. Ocean Colony was a Takter trainee who was expected to win on Sunday night and he did, pouncing from the pocket in his split in 1:50:2 with Yannick Gingras doing the honors. But Blood Line was a surprise for the Takter barn, taking his Sire Stakes division gate to wire for a victory in 1:50:2 with Mark MacDonald in the bike and paying off at 12-1.

The Sire Stakes race that stood out though was the second split of the night, one that was expected to be a showcase for Huntsville, a Breeders Crown champion as a 2-year-old in 2016 and winner in his 2017 debut in a Sire Stakes at The Meadows by ten lengths. But while Huntsville drew the pre-race attention, it was Fear The Dragon, trained by Brian Brown and driven by David Miller, who stole the show. Fear The Dragon made an electric first-over brush on the back stretch that stunned the heavy favorite Huntsville and resulted in an impressive victory at 5-1 in 1:49:1.

Last up in this stretch of high-stakes contests were the six Stallion Series races on Monday night for the three-year-old male pacers. Most of those splits were won by horses handling matters on the front end, and the most impressive of those miles was turned in by Donttellmeagain. With Tim Tetrick in the bike, this sophomore gelding trained by Jo Ann Looney-King powered to a winning time in his division of 1:50:2, which was a tick faster than two of the three Sire Stakes winners managed the night before.

So it was a week filled with exciting, high-stakes races at Pocono. With summer fast approaching, those kind of weeks will be the norm and not the exception very soon.

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.