Friday, January 4th, 2013

The exciting Breeders Crown series will be held once again at the record-breaking Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs 5/8 mile red oval on Saturday, October 19, 2013.  

The historic track held the series in October of 2010, and was the first track to host all 12 races, worth $6 million, in one night.  Crowds from as far away as Canada, California, and Florida lined the apron to witness history in the making and several world records. 


 “Due to the huge success of 2010, we are excited to host the 2013 Breeders Crown”, said Vice President of Racing Operations, Dale Rapson.  “The Hambletonian Society Board of Directors have stated that they felt that the 2010 Breeders Crown, held at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, was one of the most successful ever held.  They are as enthusiastic to come back as we are to have them.  Of course, this cannot have happened without the ongoing support, participation, and cooperation of the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association.”  


Tom Charters, President of the Hambletonian Society, was equally enthusiastic about the partnership.  “The opportunity to return to Pocono Downs in 2013 is very exciting,”,  he said. “ Mohegan Sun and the Pennsylvania horsemen (PHHA) were terrific hosts in 2010.  Building on that memorable record-breaking night, the Hambletonian Society is looking forward to partnering with them again on what will be a spectacular event for the entire harness industry.”  

Sam Beegle, President of the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association, announced that the PHHA would award a $1 million bonus if the same horse wins the Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial Trot, the Colonial Trot, and the Breeders Crown 3-Year-Old Colt Trot.  

The 29-year-old Breeders Crown series has typically crowned champions in every division for trotters and pacers and been the deciding factor in Horse of the Year honors.  A Breeders Crown title has become one of the most coveted honors in harness racing.  The series has encompassed the entire North American continent and reflected the ambience and local flavor of each of the host markets.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

2012 Season Review

Well, racing fans, we’ve come to that point in the year where we wrap things up at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The season closes out on Wednesday night, November 21 with the 140th racing night of the campaign. After that, MSPD racing goes on hiatus until March of 2013.

Since we are so near the end, it’s time to put on a bow on this season by looking back at some of the memorable performances that Pocono racing fans have witnessed over the past 7 ½ months. We talked about the horses of the year a week ago in this column. Let’s take a little time now to honor the top drivers and trainers from this outstanding season just about gone by.

On the driving side, it was another stellar season for George Napolitano Jr. who rocketed back to the top of the standings in driving wins. George also was in a battle for the UDRS title, a percentage akin to a baseball batting average measuring driving efficiency, with Jim Morrill Jr., and that race might even come down to the final night.

George Nap was not the only driver to have success this season however, as our balanced racing community at Pocono produced eight men with over 100 wins in the meet. Those eight drivers were mixed evenly between veterans like Napolitano, Morrill, Mike Simons, and Joe Pavia Jr. and younger pilots who have already established themselves as forces like Matt Kakaley, Tyler Buter, Andrew McCarthy, and Eric Carlson. Carlson accomplished the feat in his first ever year at MSPD.

On the training side, Chris Oakes once again dominated the proceedings. He held a huge advantage in training UDRS all season long, and he pulled away from Ron Burke for the training wins crown in the season’s final weeks. In addition to Oakes and Burke, there have been a number of trainers celebrating excellent seasons in 2012. The other trainers rounding out the Top 10 in victories in 2012: Kent Sherman, Erv Miller, Amber Buter, Jason Robinson, Rene Allard, Paul Holzman, Brewer Adams, and Mark Ford.

2012 also was a great year for track records, proving once again that the competition keeps getting better and faster at Pocono. Out of 24 categories which separate horses by age, gait, and gender, 13 records were set in 2012. In other words, more than half of the existing records fell by the wayside.

Our two most prestigious records, fastest pace and fastest trot for all ages and genders, came under assault in 2012, not surprisingly in the two biggest stakes races held all season at Pocono. Betterthancheddar captured the Ben Franklin pace in 1:48, matching the all-time pacing mark set a season ago by We Will See. On that same June day in the Earl Beal Memorial trot, Googoo Gaagaa put together a ridiculous performance for a victory in 1:50:4, the fastest mile ever trotted, not just at Pocono, but on any 5/8-mile oval.

In addition to those two amazing records, Economy Terror managed a feat that will be hard to match. After setting the track mark for two-year-old placing fillies at the Pennsylvania Championships in 2011, she came back as a 3-year-old and defended her state title, once again breaking a track record in the process. That makes Economy Terror, the pride of the Oakes’ barn, the only horse to have two records on the Pocono ledger.

Those were just a few examples of what has been another tremendous season of racing at MSPD. Even as we come to one meet’s completion, it’s hard not to look forward to what’s ahead in 2013. That’s because the Breeders Crown, harness racing’s year-end championship races, will once again be hosted by Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.

We hosted the Breeders Crown for the first time back in 2010, and it was such a ringing success that we all hoped that it wouldn’t be too long before it returned. We are honored to be the location for the best of the best in harness racing, who will duke it out for bragging rights and hundreds of thousands of dollars in purse money.

In the meantime, it’s time to put the 2012 season to bed. It has once again been an honor to call the races for the Pocono faithful, and, as always, I’ve enjoyed writing these columns to highlight the very best of the racing at our track. There are too many co-workers to thank for all their efforts in bringing racing to you all; suffice it to say they all have harder jobs than me and they do them splendidly to make sure the racing product at Pocono is the best in the country.

Finally, I’d like to thank our fans, the most loyal and knowledgeable around, for their continued support of MSPD racing. I hope you all have a wonderful winter, and I look forward to seeing you all again for what should be an amazing 2013 meet.

Until then, that will do it for this year, but, after a little time off, we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

2012 Horses of the Year

As we wind down the 2012 racing season at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, a season which finishes up on Wednesday, November 21, it’s about time to start celebrating some of the outstanding equine performers who have shined for the Pocono faithful this year. In other words, it’s time to honor our horses of the year.

This is a tough task for those of us who do the choosing each and every year, but 2012 has been particularly competitive and, as such, it’s been darn near impossible to distinguish the best from the very, very good. What makes it even more difficult is that so many top horsemen are bringing their horses through Pocono, it’s hard for any horse to sustain consistent success, especially in the highest classes of racing.

Still, it’s fun to look back and recall some of the outstanding horses we’ve seen throughout the campaign, and, after careful deliberation, we came up with four standouts who were just a notch above the rest. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the 2012 MSPD Horses of the Year.


Many horses in the claiming ranks move up and down the ladder until finding a spot that fits them. By contrast, McSocks settled into the $25,000 claiming class for 4-year-olds and just couldn’t be dislodged from the winner’s circle. The gelding won five times in that class at Pocono, including an amazing four-race winning streak in the month of August.  He set his career-mark in one of those races with a 1:50:2 mile. His early speed was simply too hot for most of his foes to handle, and, in typical claiming fashion, McSocks won for four different trainers at Pocono this year, as he scored for Doug Berkeley, Pete Pellegrino, PJ Fraley, and Jason Robinson.


One of Pocono’s fan favorites, this 4-year-old mare from the Don Wiest barn showed off her prodigious talent in 2012. In 20 races this season, she hit the board in 12 and won seven times. All of the wins came with Anthony Napolitano in the bike, as Anthony would usually send Tui to the front and dare everyone else to play catch-up. The mare was fearless, winning at five condition levels racing primarily against male horses. The highlight of her season came back on May 25, when she scorched the Pocono track to the tune of 1:52:3, a new track record for 4-year-old trotting mares.


This 6-year-old stallion proved himself among the finest trotters on the grounds a year ago, but he was even better in 2012. Week in and week out, the pride of the Eric Ell barn went up against the finest trotters on the grounds and always acquitted himself well. He finished in the money in every one of his eight starts at Pocono this season, and each of those starts came in either Open company or in our highest condition group, the winners of over $25,000 lifetime. With George Napolitano Jr. in the bike, Anders Bluestone won three of those races, with the highlight coming when he beat former Breeders Crown champ Arch Madness in October.


I can’t remember a year where the top pacing award went to a mare, but this standout from the Amber Buter made it just about impossible to pick anybody else. She was the closest thing to unbeatable that we witnessed at Pocono this season. The 7-year-old won her first two starts at Pocono after arriving from New York in May. After a fourth and a second in her next two starts, Billmar Scooter reeled off four straight victories against the best mares at the track. To add an exclamation point, she followed it up after a stint at Yonkers with back-to-back wins in the fall. Tallying everything up, she won 8 of her 11 starts at Pocono against extremely stiff competition, certainly an award-worthy performance.

Next week in this column, we’ll be wrapping up the 2012 season by honoring the season’s finest drivers and trainers and recapping some of the year’s most memorable races.

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

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

October 19-25, 2012

The competition at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs over the past week was a lot of fun to watch. The weather has been cooperating, providing warmer temperatures than usual for this time of the year even when the rains came. As a result, we had a lot of fast times on both the pacing and trotting side of the ledger, giving us a great group of candidates for the Weekly Awards. Check it out below to see who get the honors.


Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen several horses stepping up in class in the condition ranks. In general, such a move up the ladder is a bit of a bumpy ride, considering that the competition is much stiffer in the higher classes. As a result, a horse that does move up has to raise its game to a new level to have any chance of picking up a victory.

Bittersweet Champ, a four-year-old gelding from the barn of Welsh trainer Gareth Dowse, was coming off a career-best start in a victory on October 12 in 1:50:3. Buoyed by that big effort, he stepped up into a condition for non-winners of $15,500 in the last five starts on Saturday night, a class against which he had previously come up short in two previous races.

Saturday night was a different story. Driver George Napolitano Jr. found the gelding some live cover on the back stretch. At the top of the lane, Bittersweet Champ blew right by that cover and scored his second straight win. As mentioned before, he needed to raise his game and he did just that, re-setting his career best with a sizzling time of 1:49:4, which matched the fastest pacing time of the week.

Other top pacers this week include: Sonic Raider (George Napolitano Jr., Joseph Karrat), who moved up in class on Saturday night but still captured his third straight claiming win and matched a career-best in the process with a mile of 1:52:2; Four Starzzz King (George Napolitano Jr., Peter Pellegrino), an 11-year-old pacer who picked up his second straight win over the $10,000 claimers on Saturday night in 1:52:1; and Special Dark (Matt Kakaley, Kent Sherman), a mare who picked up her second straight win over the $5,000 claimers on Friday night in 1:54:3.


Sometimes it takes some kind of change for a horse to tap into his true potential. In the case of Photo King, he’s had two pretty significant changes in the past month. He was claimed on September 28 and joined the barn of trainer Bill Mullin, and Mullin brought the 5-year-old gelding to Pocono from Saratoga Harness after the claim.

With a change of scenery and a change of barns, Photo King quickly responded with a claiming handicap win on October 12. That was all his handlers needed to see to step him up to a condition for non-winners of $25,000 in the last five races, one of the toughest groupings on the grounds. To make things more difficult, he had to deal with the #9 post.

Driver George Napolitano Jr. sent Photo King to the front early to get positioning, then allowed him to sit the pocket when the mare Tui went by him early. In the stretch, the five-year-old gelding made a big second move and won a thriller, prevailing in 1:53:2. Not only was that a career-best, it was also the fastest trotting time at Pocono for the week.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Sand Wyndham (Joe Pavia Jr., Rene Allard), who stepped up in class to win his second straight condition trot on Saturday night in 1:53:3; Without a Clue (Joe Pavia Jr., Anette Lorentzon), who now has three consecutive wins to start his career following a romping condition victory on Wednesday night in 1:55:3; and Around And Over (Anthony Napolitano, James McGuire), who picked up his second straight gate-to-wire win in condition action on Tuesday night, this one coming in 1:57:2.


Ideal Danny had been slumping for a bit, which is why he got away at 37-1 on Friday night in a condition pace, but he pulled off the upset with Eric Carlson in the bike for a $76.80 payout on a $2 win ticket.


Pavia has been picking up steam as the season has rolled on, and this week was indicative of that trend, as he picked up driving doubles on Saturday and Tuesday.


It’s been a good season at Pocono for the Pellegrino barn, and this week he scored training victories with Four Starzzz King on Saturday and Caviart Spencer on Tuesday.

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


Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

October 26-November 1, 2012

There were only three nights of racing this past week at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs due to Hurricane Sandy. Even with the smaller slate of racing, there were still plenty of fine performances, including a track record. That means that we have plenty of excellent choices for this edition of the Weekly Awards, and the horse that set the track record leads it off.


Track records are a great achievement at any point, but the ones that are set usually come in the warmer months of summer. That’s why the effort put forth by Bet On The Law was so exceptional on Saturday night. Not only did he have to overcome some outstanding condition pacers to set his record, but he also had to overcome the chilly temperatures.

The three-year-old gelding is the pride of the Joe Pavia Jr. barn, and Joe also drives him on a regular basis. As with most track records, it required some blistering early fractions, and Bet On The Law was in a perfect position to take advantage of those fractions when the time came. In the stretch, the gelding made a second move and surged past the competition.

When he rolled to the line in front of the rest of condition pacers in the field, the timer read 1:49:1. That bested the previous Pocono mark for 3-year-old geldings on the pace of 1:49:2, which was set earlier this season by Dynamic Youth. That’s quite the achievement for a horse that is in his first year of racing, as the gelding didn’t even race as a 2-year-old. Maybe that’s why the October weather didn’t bother him a bit, because he’s just getting in his groove with a very bright future ahead.

Other top pacers this week include: Special Dark (Matt Kakaley, Kent Sherman), who continued her domination of the $5,000 claiming mares on Friday night with her third straight win, this time coming in a career-best time of 1:53; Mustang Art (Tyler Buter, James McGuire), who rallied for a win on Saturday night in a condition pace in 1:49:1, which was a career-best time and matched the fastest of the week; and Miss Behave (Jim Morrill Jr., Ted Wing), a mare who rolled to her third straight claiming handicap win on Wednesday night in 1:54.


The winners of over $25,000 condition trotting group has been one of the most fun to watch all season long at Pocono. It seems like no horse has been able to really dominate from week to week. We’ve seen horses step up in class for big wins in this group, and we’ve also seen other horses that are dropping down from higher groupings finding a home in the class.

Sevruga fits firmly into the latter category. The 4-year-old gelding from the Julie Miller barn has had an excellent season, but it was interrupted by a two month hiatus following a 4th place finish in stakes competition at Harrah’s in August. His first start back on October 20 at Pocono ended in a third-place finish in an Open Handicap trot on October 20, finishing behind superstar trotters Anders Bluestone and Arch Madness, which is no great shame.

On Saturday night, he was ready for a peak performance. Driver Pat Berry sent him to the front end early on from an outside post, and nobody was able to even threaten him from the point. Sevruga rolled to an easy win in 1:52:2, the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono, and he seems fresh enough to move back up into even higher echelons of the trotting world.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Crystal Sizzler (Andrew McCarthy, Norman Morford), who beat a field of $7,500 claimers on Friday night in 1:56:4 for his second straight win and third in his last four; Tui (Anthony Napolitano, Donald Wiest), the mare who chalked up a big condition win on Saturday night in a season that’s been full of them for her, as she scored in 1:52:4; and Bloomfieldcantifly (Jim Morrill Jr., Bill Mullin), a filly who won Wednesday night’s featured condition trot in 1:56, a new career mark.


Racing on Halloween, this spider spun his web with John Kakaley at 43-1 in a claiming pace, paying off $89.60 on a $2 win ticket.


No driver has been more adept at bringing in long shots at Pocono, and McCarthy’s driving double on Friday night included a 15-1 winner in My Cinnamon Girl.


There was a lot of balance in the training colony this week, with a lot of different trainers picking up single wins. That means that Linda’s 2-for-2 training double on Friday night really stands out.

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