Racing

Miller Defends Pennsylvania Driving Challenge Title

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

October 6, 2012

Brett Miller won the night’s very first race and never looked back on his way to winning his second straight Battle of PA Driving Challenge on Saturday night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The event featured drivers from Pocono and The Meadows.

The nine drivers were awarded points based on the performances of their horses in nine select races on the card. Drivers were randomly assigned horses throughout the Challenge while being allowed one race each in which they could choose a single horse.

One of four drivers representing The Meadows, Miller won the opening race in the Challenge aboard Boiler Bob The QB to take the lead. He then solidified his advantage by finishing no worse than 3rd in the first six races in the challenge, adding another victory aboard April Sunshine. He finished with 184 points. Pocono’s George Napolitano Jr. finished 2nd with 145 points and two wins, while Mike Wilder from The Meadows was 3rd with 135 points and one victory.

The other drivers who participated: For Pocono, Tyler Buter (132 points, one win), Matt Kakaley (92 points, one win), Joe Pavia Jr. (66 points), and Tom Jackson (44 points); for The Meadows, Aaron Merriman (129 points, two wins) and Tony Hall (63 points.)

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Friday, October 5th, 2012

September 28-October 4, 2012

Now that we’ve hit the month of October, both the calendar and the cooler temperatures at night remind us that the racing season at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs is now rounding the final turn on its way into the home stretch. Still, the racing action hasn’t let up one bit, and this week has been a prime example, giving us a host of excellent candidates for the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: OYSTER BAY

As recently as July 31, Oyster Bay was battling it out for a claiming price of $7,500. A horse’s fortunes can change in an instant, and so they did for this pacer, who started performing well even as he continuously moved up in class. On August 31, he scored against the $12,500 claimers with a win in a career-best 1:51. He followed that up the next week for trainer Jason Robinson with a victory at a $15,000 claiming handicap.

He was claimed from that race to join the Sarita Mosher barn, and he had several things working against him in Saturday night’s $20,000 to $25,000 claiming handicap pace. Not only was he moving up in class, but it was also his first race in three weeks time. The possibility existed that he would be rusty against this top-notch group.

Those doubts started to fade when driver Andrew McCarthy, returning to Pocono last weekend after missing time with an injury, settled the gelding in a good spot in the pocket late. From there, Oyster Bay did the rest, powering home to match that career-best mile in 1:51 as a 10-1 long shot. Let’s see if he can continue to move up that ladder and have the same kind of success as the season winds down.

Other top pacers this week include: Camille (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who arrived after successful stints in Canada and at The Meadows to dominate the Open Handicap  for mares on Tuesday night in 1:50; Bagel Man (Tyler Buter, Amber Buter), who has owned the $10,000 claimers of late, picking up his third straight win in the class on Friday night in 1:52:1; and Razzle Dazzzle (Joe Pavia Jr., Richard Silverman), who, despite a layoff of more than a month, rallied to win the week’s featured condition pace on Saturday night in 1:49:3, matching both his career-best and the fastest pacing time of the week at Pocono.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: ZOOMING

It’s tough for trotters to maintain consistency in the higher classes, simply because the chance that they will go off stride is realistic at any time. Zooming has not only been consistent; he’s been downright overpowering at times this season, specifically when he went off for a career-best win at Pocono earlier in the meet in 1:52:3.

The 4-year-old gelding from the barn of Julie Miller was at it again in a rugged condition trot with a purse of $18,000 on Saturday night. He came into the race trying to atone for his last start, when he made an incredible rally to finish 3rd despite breaking before the start of the race. It was clear that Zooming, if he could stay flat, would be a really tough customer.

Well, he did indeed stay flat, and driver Tyler Buter, after keeping him back from the early pace, sent him barreling by the competition late for the victory. The winning time was 1:52:3, matching that career-best from earlier in the season. Zooming has a name that fits the way he’s been racing of late, as his consistent excellence continues to impress the Pocono faithful.

Honorable mention on the trotting side this week goes to: Zero Boundaries (Mike Simons, William Mullin), who rolled to his third straight win over the $10,000 claimers on Wednesday night in 1:56; M S Heather M (Jim Taggart Jr., Tabitha Teresczuk), a mare who won on Wednesday night, his second straight victory over the $7,500 claimers on an off-track, in 1:57:1; and Pilgrims Chuckie (Matt Romano, Thomas Cancelliere), who surprised the top condition trotters on the grounds on Saturday night at 15-1 in 1:54:1.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: NORTHMEDO CRUISER

Even though he was dropping down in class on Friday night, this claimer got away at 34-1 with Matt Kakaley in the bike and upset a group of claimers to pay off $71.60 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MATT KAKALEY

In an amazing display of hot driving, Kakaley won six consecutive races on Friday night’s card, on his way to a week with double figures in the win column.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK:  SCOTT DI DOMENICO

Scotty D started the year at Pocono hot and has picked up the pace again recently. Among his two winners this week was Bettors Glass, who matched the fastest pacing time of the week with a 1:49:3.

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.

Mildred Williams Driving Series Makes Way to Pocono

Monday, October 1st, 2012

September 28, 2012

Kelly Case and Leah Vandervort drove winners in the Mildred Williams International Series on Friday night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Named for a female pioneer in harness racing, the Williams Series features women drivers exclusively.

Case drove Sleigh Belle to a tight victory in a claiming pace for mares in the first race of the Williams series, while Vandervort coasted to a win with Marion Miss Julie in the second division, a condition trot.

Other Williams participants at Pocono on Friday night included Whitney Goodblood, Debra Rucker, Megan Fortna, Rebecca Brewer, Lynn Fry, Stacy Chiodo, and Linda Schadel. Drivers donated a portion of their winnings to the Susan G. Komen Foundation to fight breast cancer.

Arch Madness and Golden Receiver Shine at Pocono

Monday, September 24th, 2012

September 22, 2012

Trotter Arch Madness and pacer Golden Receiver won their respective Opens in the featured races on a sloppy Saturday night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Both the Open trot and the Open handicap pace carried a purse of $50,000.

Arch Madness (Balanced Image-Armbro-Archer), an 8-year-old gelding owned by Marc Goldberg and Willow Pond LLC, was sent to the front by trainer and driver Trond Smedshammer and got away with easy fractions on his way to the Open trot win. Anders Bluestone made a brief charge at the 3-5 favorite in the stretch, but Arch Madness, who pushed his career earnings up to $3,641,585 with the win, put him away by three-quarters of a length in 1:53:2 in the slop. Tober finished 3rd.

In the Open Handicap pace, Golden Receiver (Village Jove-Royal Gold), the pride of the Mark Harder barn who is owned by Taylor, Simmonds, Springer, and Stable 45, made the lead a few steps into the race despite the outside post and was till there at the end, holding off fast-closing Bettor Sweet to win by a half-length. The 7-year-old gelding, driven to victory by George Napolitano Jr., won for the 13th time in 21 starts this season and paced the mile in 1:50:1. Silent Swing finished 3rd.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

September 14-20, 2012

We had only two nights of live racing this past week at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, so the Weekly Awards will have to take a little hiatus until next week. Instead, I thought we’d play a little game of “Where Are They Now?”

If you’re like me, you’re fascinated by all those shows which reveal the whereabouts of celebrities from yesteryear who haven’t stayed in the limelight. Only in our case, the celebrities are of the four-legged variety, particularly those horses who won the four major stakes races at Pocono this season.

What this little exercise should show is just how good those four horses are and that their moments in the spotlight at Pocono were indicative of the way that they’ve performed at other tracks around the country. It should also show that the MSPD stakes schedule, with its hefty purses attached, now attracts the best of the best in the harness racing world.

Our first major stakes race of the season, the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial Trot for 3-year-olds on June 23, was a coming out party for the amazing Googoo Gaagaa. Up to that point, he had been a regional phenomenon for trainer Richard Hans in his home state of Maryland, but his ridiculous win in 1:50:4 in the Beal seemed to serve notice that he was the best sophomore trotter in the nation.

His skeptics had plenty to crow about when he went off stride in his following starts at Yonkers and The Meadowlands. Hans sent him back to Maryland for a confidence-building win in Maryland, then returned him to the fray to face the best of the best, including Hambletonian champ Market Share, in the Colonial at Harrah’s on August 18. Googoo Gaagaa proved definitively that the Beal was no fluke that day, whipping his competition for a victory in 1:52:1.

On June 30, we witnessed one of the sport’s true superstars as 3-year-old filly pacer American Jewel rolled in the final of the James Lynch Memorial stakes. That put her career record at 12 wins in 14 tries, meaning the filly didn’t know much about defeat. She would find out in her next three starts, hitting the board in consecutive stakes races at The Meadowlands, Tioga, and Harrah’s, but failing to pick up a victory in any of those tough battles.

When you’re a filly with as much talent as American Jewel, the near-misses just aren’t going to cut it. That’s why trainer Jimmy Takter had to be pleased when she righted herself with a win in her last start in Canada in the Simcoe stakes. With that win in tow, she appears to be in prime shape for the upcoming Breeders Crown.

When A Rocknroll Dance headed into the Max Hempt Memorial for 3-year-old pacers at Pocono on June 30, he was in the midst of a slump. As a result, despite an outstanding 2-year-old campaign in 2011, the colt from the Jim Mulinix barn went off as a 17-1 shot. He found his stride that day, however, buzzing by the leaders late to pull off the upset.

Buoyed by his win in the Hempt, the colt has since moved into the upper echelon of 3-year-old pacers in the country. A win in the prestigious Meadowlands Pace solidified that standing, and his victory in the Battle of the Brandywine at Harrah’s in August was one of the signature performances of the racing season.

Has there been a better pacer in the country this year than the amazing Betterthancheddar? Trained by Casie Coleman, the 4-year-old put together a thrilling, front-pacing win in the Ben Franklin free-for-all pace at Pocono on June 30, matching the track’s fastest ever pacing time with a mile of 1:48. Coleman then took him back to Canada for three straight victories.

Betterthancheddar was upset by the great Foiled Again in the Canadian Derby at Mohawk, but he quickly bounced back to beat that horse and other top pacers in the Bobby Quiller Memorial at Harrington on September 17. He has legitimate Horse of the Year aspirations.

So, as you can see, the horses that have made their mark at Pocono have gone on to perform with excellence at their subsequent destinations. Maybe we shouldn’t be asking, “Where are they now?” after all. Maybe the proper question is, “What will they do next?”

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