June 21-27, 2014
The Weekly Awards will be taking a two-week hiatus so we can focus on all the excitement of the upcoming Sun Stakes Saturday. This past Saturday Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs hosted the eliminations for four huge stakes races: The James M. Lynch Memorlal (3-year-old pacing fillies), The Max C. Hempt Memorial (3-year-old open pacers), The Earl Beal Jr. Memorial (3-year-old open trotters), and The Ben Franklin (Open pacers).
While some might scoff at the results of the eliminations as being inconclusive, the fact is that it’s really impossible for horses in fields this good to take it easy and expect to make it through to the finals. And any night when a significant percentage of the world’s best horses and horsemen are in attendance deserves our full attention, even if the really huge purses won’t be up on the line until June 28.
So here’s a look at some of the important events from the eliminations:
JAMES M. LYNCH MEMORIAL
This one looks like the most wide-open of the four stakes fields, as just one (Fancy Desire) of the three favorites in the eliminations won, and one (Act Now) didn’t even make the final. Uffizi Hanover, who probably had the best reputation of any of the sophomore fillies coming into the night, started slowly but fought hard to rally for second behind Cinamony just so she could make the final.
That all could mean that Fancy Desire is the one to watch for the final. Trained by Kevin Carr, this filly loves the Pocono surface, winning her last three times at the track. She scored the most decisive elimination victory, pacing away in 1:49 with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike.
MAX C. HEMPT MEMORIAL
The Ron Burke barn will be well-represented in the Hempt final. Two of the three elimination winners came courtesy of Burke: At Press Time, an 8-1 shot who rallied from a significant deficit in the pocket to win in 1:48:2, and All Bets Off, who avenged his only loss of the season, which came at Pocono in May, by winning his split in 1:48:3. Matt Kakaley drove both winners.
Still, it was Casie Coleman’s trainee McWicked who stamped himself as the favorite. Despite an arduous journey to the lead in his split and scorching fractions, he still managed to pace away and hide late with David Miller driving for a win in 1:48.
EARL BEAL JR. MEMORIAL
I’ve never seen a star horse who seems to expound as little effort as Father Patrick. After winning his elimination without batting an eye in 1:52:4, his record now stands at four-for-four this year with 14 wins in 15 lifetime races. And still there is the nagging feeling that we haven’t seen his best yet, which is a scary thought for the rest of the division.
Maybe the one to beat him this year will be the only one who has ever beaten him. That’s Nuncio, who now is his stablemate in the Jimmy Takter barn. Nuncio stayed perfect by winning his elimination in 1:52:2, two-fifths faster than Father Patrick.
BEN FRANKLIN FREE-FOR-ALL
When he was last at Pocono at the start of May, Sweet Lou went off at 15-1 in an Invitational pace and finished third. Since then, he’s been unbeatable, winning four straight, including a command performance in his Franklin elimination in his return to MSPD. His winning time of 1:47:4 with Ron Pierce in the bike was the fastest of the night.
The other Franklin elimination was billed as the second ever showdown between Captaintreacherous, last year’s champion of everything as a 3-year-old, and Foiled Again, the veteran superstar and earner of over $6 million in his career. Nobody told Domethatagain, driven by Simon Allard for his brother trainer Rene Allard, about the plotline though, and he upset the apple cart with a pocket trip at 29-1.
As you can tell, there are ton of intriguing storylines for the finals. They’ll settle it on the track Saturday night, and it should be something special.
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.