Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Friday, May 30th, 2014

May 3-9, 2014   

On Kentucky Derby day at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, we held our annual doubleheader, bookending thoroughbred’s most famous race with a pair of harness racing cards for the overflow crowd. That means we had even more racing action than usual at Pocono this past week. And that, in turn, means that it was even tougher than usual choosing from among the best performances. Yet that’s what we’ve attempted to do with this edition of the Weekly Awards.


The feature event on Saturday night and of the entire week at Pocono was The Van Rose Memorial, a $50,000 invitational pace held in honor of the longtime area sportswriter and great friend to the sport of harness racing in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Van certainly would have loved Saturday night’s race, considering the stellar field it contained and the outstanding performance of Dancin Yankee.

Dancin Yankee, a 6-year-old stallion from the Josh Green barn, was fresh off the rugged Levy series at Yonkers, where he finished 5th in the $567,000 final. As the 3-1 second choice in the Rose, he stayed back from a blistering early pace which produced fractions that were unsustainable even for the caliber of pacers in the race. On the back stretch, driver Brett Miller sensed his chance and sent Dancin Yankee first-over to easily take the lead.

From there, he kept extending his advantage until it was just about insurmountable at the top of the stretch. Even with closers like the race favorite Dovuto Hanover attempting to rally, Dancin Yankee stayed strong and came home in front by 3 ¼ lengths, an eye-opening margin considering the quality of the field. Even more impressive was his winning time of 1:49, a new career mark despite the fact that the track had been downgraded to good condition due to rainy weather.

Other top pacers this week include: Codey Shark (George Napolitano Jr., Lou Pena), whose condition victory on Saturday afternoon in 1:52:3 was his third straight; Sky Desperado (Anthony Napolitano, Steve Salerno), who switched barns but still managed his second straight $25,000 claiming win on Saturday night and matched his career-best time of 1:51:1 in the process; and Dealmaker (Ron Pierce, Joseph Poliseno), who picked up his second straight $15,000 claiming win on Wednesday night and did it in a new career-best of 1:50:4.


There wasn’t an Open or Preferred trot on the schedule this past week at Pocono. Instead, the highest trotting purse of the week was the $21,000 up for grabs in a condition trot on Saturday night pitting non-winners of $27,500 in their last four starts against each other. As a result, the top trotters on the grounds jammed into this field, many either dropping down in class or shipping in from other tracks for the race.

Yet the horse who was made the 3-5 favorite was one who was actually moving up in class. Harbor Point had faced a lower condition field in his previous start but scored in such convincing fashion in a sizzling 1:53:2 that it was impossible for the bettors to ignore him, even in such heady company. Driver Ron Pierce raced him like the best in the field, gunning him to the front end early.

Pierce did an excellent job rating the speed on the front end, so that Harbor Point was plenty strong enough to hold off any late challengers. Even with the move up in class, the 5-year-old gelding from the Mark Ford barn picked up his second consecutive win in 1:54 on a good track. This trotter is on a roll and seems ready to take on all comers as long as this hot streak persists.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Frenchmen (Simon Allard, Pierre Paradis), who picked up his second straight front-trotting win on Sunday night over the $7,500 claimers, this one coming in a new career mark of 1:56:4; Skyline Road (Jim Morrill Jr., William Mullin), who took a big step up the condition ladder on Wednesday night but still scored his second straight win, this one coming in a career-best 1:53:3; and Affirmed Action (Mike Simons, John Grasso), who went gate-to-wire to win Wednesday night’s featured condition trot in 1:53:4.


This pacer had been up the track in his previous two $25,000 claimers, but he reversed that trend on Saturday night with Marcus Miller in the bike at 36-1 for a $74.60 win payout on a $2 ticket.


George is a candidate to win this award every single week at Pocono. This week he picked up multiple wins in four out of the five racing cards that were held.


Burke, as always, is in the hunt to be the top trainer in the Pocono standings, and he helped his cause on Saturday night by scoring three training victories.

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

Dancin Yankee Dominant in Van Rose Memorial at Pocono

Friday, May 30th, 2014

May 3, 2014       

Dancin Yankee built up a huge lead and coasted home to victory in the $50,000 Van Rose Memorial pace on Saturday night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The race is held each year in honor of Van Rose, a longtime Northeastern Pennsylvania sportswriter and chronicler of the Pocono racing wars.

Dancin Yankee (Yankee Cruiser-Dancewiththebest), last seen finishing 5th in the Levy final at Yonkers, left from post position #2 in a field of eight as the 3-1 second choice. The 6-year-old stallion from the Josh Green barn sat 3rd early as a speed duel raged between Golden Receiver and Abelard Hanover on a track listed in good condition after on-and-off rain throughout the evening.

Driver Brett Miller sent Dancin Yankee first over into the clubhouse turn and wrested the lead away heading into the back stretch. The stallion then extended the lead to an insurmountable margin. The home stretch was a foregone conclusion, with Dancin Yankee gliding home to the win in a career-best 1:49, 3 ¼ lengths in front of Bandolito. Sweet Lou rallied for third while Dovuto Hanover, the 9-5 favorite, finished fourth.

Dancin Yankee won for the seventh time in 13 2014 starts. Owned by Baron Racing Stable and Rich Lombardo, he now has 31 lifetime wins and career earnings of $766,422.

Stars ready for Sire Stakes on Saturday

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Harness racing’s “glamour division,” the three-year-old pacing colts, will open the 2014 Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Pennsylvania Sire Stakes season this Saturday night, with four divisions of sophomores contesting the $266,252 event. 

Captaintreacherous, 2013’s Pacer of the Year, opened his 3YO campaign in this same event 52 weeks ago with a victory, and many of this year’s stars in the sophomore colt pacing crop will be seeing early-season action this Saturday at the lightning-fast mountain oval.

 The first division opens the evening’s 15-race card, with Sometimes Said accorded 5-2 early favoritism starting from post two for Hall of Fame driver John Campbell (who must think a lot of the colt trained by his brother Jim, since this is his only Pocono drive of the night; he’ll head right to The Meadowlands afterwards for other stakes competition). Sometimes Said was first or second in 8 of 10 freshman starts, including seconds in his PA Sires Championship and the Breeders Crown, and he started his 2014 campaign in very photogenic style with a 1:51 / 53.2 / 26.2 front-end triumph at Pocono last week. 

Also highly-regarded in the first cut are Tellitlikeitis (3-1, post four, driver Brett Miller), debuting in 2014 for the all-conquering Jimmy Takter barn after a devastating 1:50.1 qualifier in which he paced his own last quarter in 25.2, and Limelight Beach (7-2, post six, David Miller), a double winner in Grand Circuit action at Lexington last year. 

Race 4 will gather the PA colts for the second time, with the early 5-2 chalk being Maxi Bon (post four, driver Dave Palone). Maxi Bon is a late-developing colt, but he showed his promise by winning his seasonal debut in 1:49.4 despite being parked to the half. Cammikey (3-1, post one, Brain Zendt) seems the major danger here after opening his 2014 campaign with five victories, including a 1:51.1 / 26.4 triumph at The Meadows last start. 

Race 6’s third cut finds the early pick to be Somestarsomewhere, at 5-2 from post six for the top team of trainer Ron Burke and driver Matt Kakaley. Somestarsomewhere set a world record of 1:49.4f for 2PC in his Breeders Crown elim last year, then was third in the Crown Championship. This will be his seasonal debut off of three qualifiers. Rated next 3-1 is Somewhere in L A (post four, driver Mark MacDonald, fresh off a win in the Diplomat Series Championship at Woodbine. 

Race 8 rounds out the Sire Stakes action, with McWicked the 5-2 choice off a McWicked 2014 debut at Pocono last Sunday, overcoming post nine and an overland trip to tally in 1:51. Simon Allard will have the sulky duty from post six. Allstar Partner is rated next at 3-1 for driver George Napolitano Jr., but last year’s PA Sire Stakes champ for this division will have to overcome the outside post eight.

 Also on the Pocono card is a super $25,000 Preferred handicap pace, featuring the likes of Dancin Yankee, winner of the Van Rose Memorial here in 1:49 on a good track on Kentucky Derby Day; Emeritus Maximus, gritty as he can be taking last week’s feature here; and Clear Vision, winner of the Levy Consolation. 

Post time for the 15-race card at Pocono on Saturday is slotted for 6:30, though that may be delayed a few minutes dependent on a thoroughbred race in Baltimore immediately previously.

Bandolito Captures Preferred Pace at Pocono

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

April 26, 2014

Bandolito outdueled Dynamic Youth to win the featured Preferred Handicap pace on Saturday night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The race carried the night’s top purse of $25,000.

Dynamic Youth set the early pace and was able to rate the speed well. Yet Bandolito, the 4-5 favorite in the field of six, came ranging up first over on the back stretch for trainer/driver Daryl Bier. The two were hooked up in a close battle for pretty much the entire second half of the mile, with Bandolito finally prevailing by a neck in 1:50:2. Eighteen finished third.

Bandolito, a 4-year-old stallion owned by Daryl and David Bier and Charles Dombeck, had won his previous two starts at Dover Downs and now has four wins in six races in 2014. It was his 13th lifetime victory in just 17 starts, pushing his career earnings to $241,415.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

April 19-25, 2014

The Weekly Awards take a hiatus for this week as we stop to focus on the finals of the Bobby Weiss late closer series, which took place the past three racing nights. For those who have been paying attention to Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in the first month of the season, you’ve likely noticed the preliminary Weiss races sprinkled through each night’s card, a chance for younger horses to go head-to-head for solid purses.

The big attraction of the preliminary legs was the opportunity for the combatants to earn enough points to reach the finals, each of which carried a purse of $30,000. That’s a pretty penny for horses early in the season, so it makes sense that some top-notch talent arrived at Pocono at the start of the season for the series named after our longtime track superintendent.

Over the past four weeks, we’ve had the chance to see some budding stars establish themselves in the preliminaries. But who would step up and capture the big-money finals? Read on and find out.


The first of the four finals, held on Saturday night in excellent racing conditions, featured the most wide-open division. The wins in the preliminaries were divided pretty evenly. Only Getitoffyourchest managed three preliminary wins, and he finished seventh in his final leg.

One horse in the final group of nine seemed to be peaking, but he was saddled with a brutal #9 post. Yet A Stitch in Time, driven by George Napolitano Jr. for the Lou Pena barn, didn’t seem to mind. The 4-year-old gelding hustled to the front end, set unconscious fractions, and still was burning it up in the lane. A Stitch In Time ended up comfortably in front by 1 ¾ lengths and set a career-best time of 1:48:3, proving that when a great horse in on his game, even an outside post can’t deter him.


Envious Hanover came into the final with three wins in four preliminary legs. With the inside post, she was made the 3-2 favorite. But Prima Dragon, who had won her previous two starts, including a victory in 1:52:1 that represented the fastest winning time achieved in this group in the preliminaries, left right alongside of Envious Hanover, setting up an inevitable showdown.

The difference was in the trip. While Envious Hanover did the work on the lead and had to fight off outside pressure, Prima Dragon sat the pocket trip to save energy. In the stretch, she uncorked her best move in the passing lane to beat the favorite by a 1 ¼ lengths in 1:52:1. Brett Miller did the driving for trainer Michael Dowdall, as Prima Dragon won the tightest of the four Finals.


Each time Ray Hall lined up for a Weiss race, he was made an odds-on favorite. And each time, he delivered on that promise with Tim Tetrick in the bike. Still, this final was far from a foregone conclusion, or at least it seemed so after Time To Quit battled Ray Hall to the end in the last preliminary, losing by only a neck. The final on Tuesday had the potential to be a donnybrook.

Instead, Ray Hall was completely dominant. The four-year-old gelding from the Mark Harder barn had the lead by the first turn and controlled matters from that point, once again with Tetrick doing the driving. In the stretch, he kicked away from his listing foes to win by 2 ¾ lengths, adding the exclamation point with a career-best mile of 1:53:2. That made him the only horse to complete a sweep of all four legs and the final.


In many ways, this race was over once the entries were set. In the preliminaries, Perfect Alliance and Take The Money, a pair of standout mares from the Julie Miller barn, went a combined six-for-six, winning all of those races with ease. Once it was determined that Take The Money would sit this one out, Perfect Alliance immediately became the prohibitive favorite.

Of course, anything can happen in a harness race, but this final always had the feel of a foregone conclusion. Sure enough, with Yannick Gingras doing the driving, Perfect Alliance handled the field without any problems. Her win in 1:53:3 by 1 ¼ lengths gave her nine consecutive victories to start the season, including five at The Meadowlands and four at Pocono. Living up to her name, she made for the perfect way to conclude the Bobby Weiss series for 2014.

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