Racing

Father Patrick returns to Pocono

Friday, June 13th, 2014

– Father Patrick, the three-year-old trotting colt who in many people’s minds is the early favorite for 2014 Harness Horse of the Year, takes his personal Pennsylvania barnstorming tour to Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Saturday night to contest the fifth race, one of three divisions of a $216,900 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes event. 

The son of Cantab Hall, owned by the Father Patrick Stable of New Jersey (and named for a local Catholic priest), won his first two starts of this campaign in Sire Stakes action at tracks near Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and Saturday he will take his overpowering act to northeast Pennsylvania. A pupil of Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Takter, who calls this horse “potentially one of the greatest-ever trotters,” Father Patrick has drawn post six in the seven-horse field, and Takter has selected 28-year-old Matt Kakaley, currently battling George Napolitano Jr. for the top rung in the Pocono drivers standings, to handle Father Patrick, as regular driver Yannick Gingras will be in Toronto Saturday, with many mounts on the big North America Cup card. 

A race earlier, the Takter-Kakaley team will send out Nuncio as the favorite in a Sires division for Stall TZ Inc of Florida. Like his stablemate, Nuncio is two-for-two this year, with wins in Sire Stakes action at The Meadows and Harrah’s Philadelphia, and the son of Andover Hall will start from the middle of Saturday’s seven-horse field.  

The third race Sires opener appears to be wide-open, with Wheelsandthelegman accorded a slight edge starting from the rail for trainer Walter Carroll, driver Jim Raymer, and owner Beth Carroll. The Donato Hanover gelding, unraced at two, had won his first four career races before finishing third behind Nuncio at The Meadows.

 (No, there’s no Takter horse in the third race – but worry not for Jimmy, as he has yet another powerhouse sophomore trotting colt, Trixton, heavily favored in the $272,500 Goodtimes Trot on the big Saturday card in Toronto.)

 Also featured at Pocono Saturday are a pair of $25,000 Preferred events. The tenth race pace marks the return of Bolt The Duer (post three, driver Mark MacDonald), who equaled the then-alltime five-eighth mile track record of 1:47.4 here last year. Trotters grab the spotlight two races later, with Quick Deal, coming off a 1:51.4 tally at The Meadowlands, dealing with the outside post six for Kakaley and Pocono’s leading trainer, Ron Burke.

 FINISHING LINES – It’s likely that after this weekend Father Patrick and Nuncio will both be racing at Pocono the following two Saturdays, in the eliminations and (hopefully) final of the $500,000 Earl Beal Trot, the latter part of the $2.3 million Sun Stakes Saturday card June 28.

 

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Friday, June 13th, 2014

June 7-13, 2014

With a day-night doubleheader on Belmont Stakes day, this past week featured five live racing cards at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Filling up those cards was no problem, as Pocono welcomed a bunch of shippers from other tracks to go up against the holdovers who have already established themselves throughout the first couple months of the meet. This made for a thrilling week of racing, the best performances of which we now honor by handing out the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: STEELHEAD HANOVER

This 5-year-old stallion from the Joe Pavia Jr. barn came into Saturday night’s condition pace for non-winners of $22,500 in the last five starts with wins in two of the three starts he made at Pocono in 2014. In a victory on May 31, Steelhead Hanover benefitted from a comfortable trip which allowed him to stay on the inside for much of the mile before rallying late for a victory in 1:50:2.

When a horse enjoys a trip like that, it’s natural to be skeptical if it can have the same success without that kind of relaxing journey. Add that to the fact that Steelhead Hanover was moving up in class, and he seemed more likely to struggle this time around. Yet Pavia, who also did the driving, attacked early with his stallion, taking the lead and setting imposing fractions.

There was no help for Steelhead Hanover on this night, and he made it clear by his stellar performance that he didn’t need any. He didn’t let up on the front end until he crossed the finish line a length-and-a-half in front of his nearest foe in 1:48:3. That time not only now stands as the fastest of the stallion’s career, but it was faster than anybody else paced this past week at Pocono.

Honorable mention on the pacing side goes to: Meirs Hanover (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who moved way up the condition ladder on Saturday night with no sweat, scoring his second straight victory in 1:49:3; Ahead Ofthe Curve (George Napolitano Jr., Paul Holzman), who moved up in class and still managed his third straight claiming victory on Saturday night, beating a field of $20,000 claimers in 1:50:1; and Aracache Hanover (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who won the week’s featured pace, Saturday night’s $25,000 Preferred Handicap, in 1:49.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: LUV YA TYLER

It’s unusual for a horse to win as a significant long shot in consecutive weeks. One of two things usually happens: Either the horse’s performance in his first long shot win is so impressive that it gets a lot more attention at the windows the following week, or, if it is still a long shot the second time around, the law of averages catches up to it and it comes up short.

Somebody should tell that to Luv Ya Tyler, a 7-year-old gelding who had been winless in eight races this year before a claim put him in the barn of trainer Neal Ehrhart. In his first start in the new barn, the gelding went off at 20-1 against a field of $15,000 claimers but rallied for the victory in a career-best 1:54:2.

Once again on Tuesday night, he wasn’t given much of chance at the tote board when he moved up in class to face a $20,000-$25,000 claiming handicap class. All the outside speed in the race eventually wore itself out, leaving room for a closer to steal the race. Luv Ya Tyler, at 19-1 this time around, sat back off the fast fractions early and, with Mike Simons in the bike, came up flying for the victory in 1:54:2, matching that career-best from a week previous. After two straight wins, the odds he’ll need to defy probably won’t be quite so long the next time around.

Other top trotters this week include: Song Of Virtue (Joe Pavia Jr., Jennifer Sabot), a mare who picked up her second straight win over the $7,500 claimers on Saturday morning and did so in a new career-best time of 1:56:2; P L Fantastic (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who burned up the track in a condition win and matched the week’s fastest trotting time on Tuesday night with a victory in 1:53:3; and Revrac Harbour (Scot Zeron, Tony Alagna), who picked up his second straight win at Pocono on Wednesday night, this coming in Stallion Series action in 1:55:4.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: ZIP IT LOCK IT

Tyler Buter has been aboard several huge long shots this year, but none was as big a bomber as this pacing mare on Wednesday night at 75-1 for a $158 payout on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: SCOTT ZERON

This newcomer to the Pocono racing wars has been improving as he gets acclimated to his new surroundings, and five combined wins on Tuesday and Wednesday prove he’s becoming a major factor.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: KEVIN CARR

With a win on Sunday and two more victories on Tuesday night, Carr made a significant jump this week in the Pocono training standings.

That will do it for this week, but I’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com.

Long Shot Sneakin Caviar Upsets in Stallion Series at Pocono

Friday, June 13th, 2014

June 11, 2014

A victory by 42-1 long shot Sneakin Caviar highlighted Stallion Series action on Wednesday night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. There were five $20,000 divisions held for three-year-old trotting colts and geldings.

Sneakin Caviar (SJ’s Caviar-Kamtastic Score), driven by Jim Morrill Jr. for trainer John Ryan Melsheimer, rallied from the pocket to win in 1:56:3, upending 1-9 favorite Frost Free Hanover in the process.

The other Stallion Series winners on the night: Tea Party Politics (Cantab Hall-Chinese Tea Party), driven by Don Irvine Jr. and trained by William Zendt, in 1:57; Stretch Cunningham (Cantab Hall-Habit’s Lady), driven and trained by Ray Schnittker, in 1:54:2; Revrac Harbour (Donato Hanover-Harbour Belle), driven by Scott Zeron and trained by Tony Alagna, in 1:55:4; and It Really Matters (Explosive Matter-Eyefull), driven by Jim Morrill Jr. and trained by Larry Remmen, in 1:55:2.

Aracache Hanover Wins Pocono Feature

Friday, June 13th, 2014

June 7, 2014

Aracache Hanover toughed it out on the front end to beat an exceptional group of pacers in the $25,000 featured Preferred pace on Saturday night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.

Leaving from post position #7 in a field of eight as the 9-5 favorite, Aracache Hanover (Dragon Again-Armbro Cachet), a 7-year-old stallion from the Ron Burke barn, grabbed the pocket around the first turn behind Golden Receiver and then took over the lead on the front stretch. From there, driver Matt Kakaley and Aracache Hanover had to deal with first-over pressure from Digital Z Tam, who kept coming after the leader right to the very end. Still, Aracache Hanover prevailed by a nose in 1:49. P H Supercam finished third.

Owned by William Switala and James Martin, Aracache Hanover was following up a win at The Meadowlands and now has three wins in 14 races this season. It was his 30th lifetime victory, pushing his career earnings to $1,660,469.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Friday, June 13th, 2014

May 31-June 6, 2014

The month of June arrived at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs and brought with it some of the most competitive racing we’ve had all year long. We saw a little of everything: Standout performances, stunning long shots, drivers and trainers putting in big efforts, and much, much more. It’s never easy to pick out the very best of such a crowded field, but that’s what we’re here to do by handing out another edition of the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: BJ’S RAMEAU

Like any other athlete, character is often most clearly revealed in a harness racing horse when adversity strikes. In the case of BJ’s Rameau, that adversity came in the midst of an outstanding season as one of the top claiming pacers at Pocono, when, in his first start in the barn of trainer Matias Ruiz on May 17, he finished dead last in a field of nine despite having a lead at the top of the stretch.

That rare clunker of a finish was mitigated somewhat by the fact that he started the race from the outside post, meaning that the lead he captured was extremely hard-fought. Still, the bettors were skeptical enough that in his next start, BJ’s Rameau went off at a tepid 6-1. He responded with a gutty win from the pocket in 1:50:2.

On Saturday night, he was the even-money favorite once again in his usual $25,000-$30,000 claiming handicap group, and he delivered a bravura effort. With Joe Pavia Jr. in the bike, BJ’s Rameau made the lead about 3/8 of a mile into the race and poured it on from there, beating the toughest pacers on the grounds by 5 ¾ lengths and doing so in a career-best 1:49:1, which was the fastest pacing time posted this week at Pocono. Like all the finest horses, this 5-year-old gelding bounced back from his brief bout of adversity stronger than ever.

Other top pacers this week include: Morgan Shark (Simon Allard, Pierre Paradis), who ripped off his third straight claiming win on Saturday night and did so in a career-best 1:50:1; Skitsofrantic (Mark MacDonald, John Barchi), who continues to tear up the lower claiming ranks, winning in 1:53:3 on Sunday night for his fourth consecutive victory; and Stanhope (Anthony Napolitano, Steve Salerno), a three-year-old who won his third straight condition race on Sunday, this one in 1:52:4, despite the fact that he wasn’t favored in any of those starts.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: JOHNHANNIBALSMITH

Fans of 80’s television will recognize this name as being the same as the leader of the A-Team, a guy famous for saying, “I love it when a plan comes together” at the end of every episode. For the trotter of the same name, an 11-year-old gelding from the barn of trainer Gilberto Garcia-Herrera, the plan has been pretty simple. He just goes out and beats everybody he faces.

Coming into Wednesday night’s $12,500 claiming trot, Johnhannibalsmith had made seven starts in 2014 and won six of them. His only loss was by a heartbreaking head to Fortissimo on April 25 at Chester, but he ripped off three more wins in a row following that defeat, two of them coming at Pocono.

On Wednesday night, he upped his claiming price from $10,000 to $12,500 for a new challenge, but the race played out the same when the gelding booked to the front end. With his regular driver George Napolitano Jr. in tow, Johnhannibalsmith led all the way even though he was tested at the end of the mile. That extra effort led him to a career-best time of 1:54:3, meaning that this veteran trotter deserves another victory cigar lit in his honor, just like his television namesake liked to do.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Tamasin Hall (Bill Mullin driver and trainer), a mare who picked up her second straight condition win on Tuesday night, this one in 1:56:3; Bufalino Hanover (Matt Kakaley, Todd Schadel), whose condition win on Tuesday night came in the week’s fastest trotting time of 1:53:3, which was also his career-best; and Truth In Action (Mike Simons, Jenny Melander), who overcame an outside post position to win a claimer on Tuesday night in 1:55:2.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: PSYCHOBABBLE

The filly’s maiden victory on Tuesday night with Tom Jackson in the bike was probably just as memorable for her bettors as it was for her, as she cashed in at 36-1 for a $74.40 payout on a $2 ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: JOE PAVIA JR.

Joe proved this week that he is still a force in the sulky when he takes on enough drives, posting back-to-back three-win nights on Saturday and Sunday night.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: FRED GRANT

Grant pulled off a unique training double on Tuesday night, as each of his winners, trotter Psychobabble and pacer Somenicebeach, earned their maiden victories.

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.