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



Monday, October 29th, 2012

Hurricane Sandy has forced the cancellation of live racing  at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs for Tuesday, October 30, 2012.   

The Simulcast room at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, as well as all three Off Track locations, in East Stroudsburg, Lehigh Valley, and Carbondale, will remain open with normal business hours. 

 Live racing resumes Wednesday, October 31st with a Post Time of 6:30 at the track in Northeast PA.  

Anders Bluestone Wins Open Handicap Trot at Pocono

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

October 20, 2012

Anders Bluestone continued his outstanding 2012 season by knocking off Breeders Crown-bound Arch Madness and five other top-notch trotters to win the featured Open Handicap trot on Saturday night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The race carried the night’s top purse of $50,000.

Leaving from post position #6 in a field of seven as the 8-5 second choice, Anders Bluestone (Yankee Glide-Annette Hanover), sat third early before driver George Napolitano Jr. sent him first-over on the back stretch to take the lead away from early pacesetter Neighsay Hanover. Arch Madness, who is ticketed for the Breeders Crown Open trot next weekend in Canada, looked to blow by in the stretch, but Anders Bluestone held him off by a neck in 1:53. Sevruga was third.

Owned by William Kenneth Wood and William Dittmar Jr. and trained by Eric Ell, Anders Bluestone won for the 13th time in 25 2012 starts. The 6-year-old stallion now has 32 career victories and lifetime earnings of $929,525.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Friday, October 19th, 2012

October 12-18, 2012

It’s getting to the point of the season where we here at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs start to think about handing out year-end awards to the horsemen and horses who have performed the best over the course of the 2012 season. I can’t seem to remember a time when it’s been so competitive in all the major categories. This past racing week, a few more competitors stepped up to stake their claims, and several of these can be found in this edition of the Weekly Awards.


 There are a lot of things that handicappers like to key on when looking at a race. Among these, two of the most important are class and post position. If you’ve got a horse who is moving to a better inside post and is dropping down in class, chances are it’s getting a lot of attention at the windows.

By contrast, consider the situation facing Diamond Stick Pin at Pocono on Saturday night. He was moving up in class following career-best mile of 1:50:3 in a win on October 5. He was also moving to the far outside #9 post after having a spot on the inner half in his previous start. Basically, he was moving in the opposite direction from what the handicappers like, but nobody bothered to tell the 6-year-old stallion the odds were against him.

He did have the combination of George Napolitano Jr. and Chris Oakes, Pocono’s leading driver and trainer respectively, in his corner, so that was a big boost. Diamond Stick Pin did the rest, making a huge first-over move on the back stretch to zip by his competition. He romped from there, beating the rest by 4 ¼ lengths and resetting his career mark with a 1:50:2 mile. When a horse is that sharp, class, post position, and the rest don’t really matter too much.

Other top pacers this week include: Hurrikane Kingcole (Daniel Dube, Kevin McDermott), the superstar sophomore pacer who returned to Pocono with a thrilling condition win on Saturday night in 1:49, the fastest pacing time of the week; Sonic Raider (George Napolitano Jr., Ken Rucker), who reeled off his second straight win over the $12,500 claimers on Saturday night, matching a career-best in the process in 1:52:2; and Billmar Scooter (Tyler Buter, Amber Buter), who beat the toughest mares on the grounds for the second straight week on Tuesday night, this time in 1:51:3.


It’s not a rule that’s set in stone, but, in the sport of harness racing, claimers don’t usually advance out of the claiming ranks into condition and Open races with much success. At best, they might be able to hang around with the lower condition groups, but owners and trainers hoping for anything much more than that are often brought back to reality.

Just Like Lloyd seemed to be one of this trotters who was bound to be at his best against the claimers, at least at Pocono. The 4-year-old gelding did have a win in Open II company at Tioga, but his victories at MSPD had been limited to the claiming ranks. That didn’t stop him from moving up into our toughest condition group on Saturday night, the winners of over $25,000 lifetime.

Just Like Lloyd, with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike for trainer Rene Allard, put together a great mile as he gunned to an early lead, yielded the lead on the front stretch, then made a second move in the deep stretch to get up for a hard-fought victory in 1:53:2. That makes wins in four of his last seven races, and this last one proves that he can beat even the highest levels of competition with which most claimers couldn’t hope to compete.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: All About Justice (Mike Simons, Gail Wrubel), who found his old form and handled a tough condition class on Saturday night on the front end in 1:54:1; Lindy McDreamy (Tyler Buter, Scott Di Domenico), whose condition win on Wednesday night was his third win in his last four races, with this one matching a career-best in 1:55:2; and Ice Machine (George Napolitano Jr., Walter Carroll), who romped in a condition trot on Wednesday night in 1:53, a new career-best and the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono.


Long shots were running wild this week, and the biggest bomber of them all was this claiming pacer driven by Matt Kakaley who scored on Saturday night at 47-1 for a $96 win payout on a $2 ticket.


The meet’s leading driver dominated again this week, as exemplified by a seven-win explosion on Saturday night that included wins in both the featured pace and the featured trot.


It was a good week for one of Pocono’s most consistent trainers for the past several years, as Gail scored a double on Saturday and then won with 19-1 shot Thomas John N 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

Monday, October 15th, 2012

October 5-11, 2012

Most of the verbiage spent in this column relates to the fine four-legged performers at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, the horses whose incredible exploits leave us slack-jawed in disbelief night after night. Yet racing fans know that these performances wouldn’t be possible without the skills of the drivers who take the lines each night and attempt to guide their charges to victory.

That’s why we’re giving the Weekly Awards the week off to devote the article to the exploits of these drivers, particularly those that took place in Saturday night’s The Battle of Pennsylvania Driving Challenge. It’s one of our favorite events of the season at Pocono because it really does shine the spotlight on the drivers, allowing them to compete against each other for bragging rights.

The event also is the source of a friendly inter-track rivalry, as the Challenge incorporates not just Pocono drivers, but also drivers from fellow Pennsylvania track The Meadows. Nine drivers were chosen to compete this year. From Pocono: George Napolitano Jr., Matt Kakaley, Tom Jackson, Tyler Buter, and Joe Pavia Jr. From The Meadows: Mike Wilder, Tony Hall, Aaron Merriman, and Brett Miller, who won the event a year ago.

Here’s how it worked: Each of the nine drivers were randomly assigned to a horse in each of the nine selected races, with the exception of one race each where a driver got to pick whatever horse he wanted out of the nine-horse field to drive. This set-up allowed some strategy to come into play as well as a little luck in terms of drivers perhaps getting favorable post positions or stuck with several long shots or the like, although that luck tends to even itself out over the course of a competition such as this.

What was interesting was that only three of the nine races were won by drivers who had the selection in the race, meaning that the strategy often went out the window. Of course, at a track as competitive as Pocono, it’s typical for just about every horse in a given race to have a shot and for favorites to be cannon fodder, so it really was anybody’s ballgame.

Yet one man seems to have a knack for this whole deal, and that’s Brett Miller. To be successful in the Challenge, you have to not only win races, but you have to be consistently near the top in the order of finish. Since 50 points were awarded for first place, 25 were second, and so on down until just a single point was awarded for last place, it placed a premium on having not just wins, but also plenty of seconds and thirds.

Miller set the tone in the very first race aboard trotter Boiler Bob The QB, winning easily to quickly stake himself to first place in the Challenge. From there, he finished third, second, first, third, and second in the Challenge’s next five races, the consistently solid finishes giving him a huge lead that would be tough for any of the other helmsmen to surmount.

That’s not to say there weren’t other drivers who made things happen. George Napolitano Jr. and Aaron Merriman joined Miller as the only two drivers to pick up a pair of wins in the Challenge. Napolitano also had the longest shot to win in the event, picking up a victory aboard 9-1 shot Sonic Raider in a claiming trot. Tyler Buter, Mike Wilder, and Matt Kakaley also scored wins in the Challenge.

In the last race, Miller still had a pretty significant lead, yet Napolitano and Wilder still had mathematical chances to pull the rug out from under him. They each needed a win, but Kakaley won aboard Oyster Bay instead. That meant that it’s two titles in a row for Miller, which, even when you consider some of the luck that comes into play, is still a pretty impressive achievement.

The Challenge doesn’t prove anything about whether or not certain drivers are better than others. On another night, with different horses and draws, the results might have been quite different. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s a great chance to honor these drivers with their own night. By the way, they also deserve applause for donating a portion of their winnings for the event to Marley’s Mission.

These guys are out there each race making split-second decisions which are often second-guessed, even as their ability to prevent potentially awful accidents with horses trotting and pacing in such close proximity to each other is always taken for granted. Not just the nine drivers in the Challenge, but every guy or gal around the country who sits in the bike behind a standardbred deserves the utmost appreciation of both their skills and their courage.

Such appreciation is what The Battle of Pennsylvania Driving Challenge truly fosters, and it’s why we here at Pocono are really proud to have it as part of our racing season.

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