Hall Of Terror Fastest Freshman in Stallion Series at Pocono

Monday, July 21st, 2014

July 15, 2014

Hall Of Terror posted the fastest winning time among six $20,000 divisions of the Stallion Series on Tuesday night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The races were for 2-year-old colts and geldings on the pace.

Hall Of Terror (Western Terror-Maytime Hall), driven by Mark MacDonald and trained by Erv Miller, won in 1:53:1, his second straight Stallion Series victory. Other Stallion Series winners on the night: R N Nate (Nuclear Breeze-R N Artist), driven by Tim Tetrick and trained by Roger Hammer, in 1:54; Royaltyhasarrived (Western Terror-Her Mattjesty), driven by Dan Rawlings and trained by Steve Schoeffel, in 1:55:2; Final Gesture (Shark Gesture-Real Girl), driven by Tim Tetrick and trained by Linda Toscano, in 1:54; My Hero Ron (Well Said-Erma La Em), driven by Mark MacDonald and trained by Erv Miller, in 1:54:4; and Letsmakeawish (Western Terror-Dynamite Donna), driven by Matt Kakaley and trained by Ron Burke, in 1:53:4.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Monday, July 7th, 2014

July 4-10, 2014

Now that we’ve reached a point in the season that’s near the halfway mark of the 2014 campaign and have finished a stretch of stakes races at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, it’s a good time to take a step back and take a look at some of the trends that we’ve seen developing at the track. These are trends that don’t concern specific horses so much as it does general phenomena pertaining to the races that might help out handicappers as they go to make their wagers.

What I’ve noticed throughout the first four months of the season or so is that some of the maxims that used to be old stand-bys for bettors are no longer as airtight as they once were. More and more the things that you could count on in this sport are falling by the wayside. Still, there are advantages to be had for astute handicappers who are willing to admit that everything seems to be changing.

For example, it used to be that bettors were reluctant to bet on a horse coming off a significant layoff. The theory was that the horse would need a start of two to get its legs underneath it before it could expect to be in top form. Yet time and time again this year, I’ve seen horses coming off layoffs of many months or more perform at a top level and even win against excellent fields.

While there is some merit still in being cautions with horses off layoffs, bettors should really pay attention to those qualifiers. In particular, especially in the lower classes, a horse with a very fast closing time compared to the rest of the field is a good one to watch, even if the qualifying result wasn’t that impressive on the whole. Trainers often just want to see one burst of speed from their horses in the morning qualifiers, so if that burst is there, chances are it will be there on race night as well.

Another famous handicappers’ strategy is to stay away from horses who are moving up in class, especially if they are doing so and jumping several rungs on either the claiming or condition ladder. But such a bounding leap hasn’t stopped a lot of horses from winning this season, often paying off at decent odds due to bettors who refuse to believe they can move up in style.

The bottom line is that there is such speed permeating practically every class and grouping at Pocono this season that the distinctions are blurring, allowing horses to move up and do well practically every racing night. If a horse has posted a recent winning time that’s comparable to the winning times posted in a certain class in previous weeks, chances are it can compete in that class regardless of how large a step up it might be.

So far I’ve told you about certain strategies which have been partially disproved by the racing at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs this season. So how about something new that bettors can look for when they’re making picks that might not have been as much of a factor in the past? I’ve got just the thing for you: Look for horses that have been claimed.

Now let me qualify that by saying that is not a catch-all statement, especially considering that there are often claiming races in which several horses in the field are joining new barns. What handicappers should be looking for are a select few trainers who have the knack for turning around underperforming horses or getting horses who may be just a few ticks away from winning over the hump.

In many cases, seeing certain trainers’ names in the program next to a horse can trump even recent past performances when it comes to projecting how well it will perform in the near future. I wouldn’t say to disregard completely what a horse has done in the past or forget it all if it makes the switch to a hot barn. But I would recommend checking out the training standings at Pocono or the UDRS numbers for each of the trainers in the race (all info that can be found in the program) before making your wager in a claiming race. If you see a trainer who has an excellent record and a horse is joining his barn, maybe give that horse a little extra consideration when you make the selection.

Obviously, none of these rules is ironclad and there are a million different factors that affect a race. But if there is a lesson to be learned by bettors from the racing season so far at Pocono, it’s that it’s important to adapt to the times rather than letting them pass you by. Come to think of it, that advice applies to just about everything. Harness racing as a metaphor for life? Who knew?

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


McCarthy Captures Milestone Win at Pocono

Monday, July 7th, 2014

July 2, 2014

Driver Andrew McCarthy scored a victory about Iaintnomomaluke in the sixth race at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs on Wednesday night for the 1,000th victory of his career. McCarthy, who has been a regular at Pocono for the past several years, had moved to 999 with a triple on Tuesday night before toppling the mark on Wednesday night.

In other action on Wednesday night at Pocono, there were seven $30,000 divisions of Pennsylvania All Stars races held for 2-year-old trotting fillies. The winners were: Wouldn’t Itbesweet (Cantab Hall-U S Victory), driven by Howard Parker and trained by Jim Raymer, in 1:57; Fashion Voyager (Broadway Hall-BWT Maija), driven by John Campbell and trained by Jim Campbell, in 1:57:4; Gatka Hanover (Muscle Massive-Girlie Tough), driven by Matt Kakaley and trained by Ron Burke, in 1:56; Onda Di Mare (Yankee Glide-Upfront Ob’s Janet, driven by Tim Tetrick and trained by Jim Campbell, in 1:56:3; Speak To Me (Muscle Massive-Ms Naughty), driven by Yannick Gingras and trained by Jimmy Takter, in 1:57; Jersey Strong (Muscle Massive-Vacation’s Over), driven by Tim Tetrick and trained by Mark Harder, in 1:56:4; and Matter Of Days (Explosive Matter-Drinking Days), driven by Matt Kakaley and trained by Todd Schadel.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Monday, July 7th, 2014

June 27-July 3, 2014       

When we looked forward to Sun Stakes Saturday at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in the early months of the season, we expected most of the fireworks to come from the four major stakes races being contested on the card. Yet for all of the unforgettable, world-record performances that characterized those giant-purse races, it was an 8-year-old Swedish horse with just three starts in the United States under his belt who stole the show from the undercard.

In addition to the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial pace for 3-year-old fillies, the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial pace for 3-year-olds, the $500,000 Ben Franklin free-for-all pace, and the $500,000 Earl Beal Memorial trot for 3-year-olds, two $100,000 invitationals were added. On the trotting side, Sebastian K, who had swept three starts at the Meadowlands, all in under 1:51, since arriving from Sweden, decided to make the Sun Invitational trot his personal playground.

Trained and driven by Ake Svanstedt, Sebastian K, a $2 million earner in his native country before ever setting foot in the U.S., took off from the outside post and just kept firing. In the stretch, his closest competitor went off stride in a vain attempt to keep up with his pace. At that point, Svanstedt decided to see just what his horse had inside of him.

When he crossed the line in 1:49, it took me a moment up in the announcer’s booth to register what had just happened. While I had anticipated before the race he would give our Pocono track record and the world record for 5/8-mile ovals a run for their money, I did not foresee 1:49, the fastest trot ever. All tracks sizes, all ages, all genders. Nobody ever trotted one mile faster than Sebastian K did on Saturday night.

Considering that none of the aforementioned huge stakes had even been held by that point, the rest of the night easily could have been all anticlimactic. Luckily those other races lived up to their billing, producing three world record performances out of the four and uniformly pulse-pounding excitement.

In the Lynch, Uffizi Hanover was made the betting favorite based on her excellent record and the fact that her post position improved compared to her loss in the eliminations. Yet Fancy Desire, trained by Kevin Carr, proved her love of the Pocono track once again, powering home on the front end in 1:49:2. Pocono’s leading driver George Napolitano Jr. did the driving for his first ever Lynch win.

Next up was the Hempt, which started the world records falling once again. The perpetrator this time was McWicked, a powerhouse colt from the Casie Coleman barn who showed no fatigue after a monster effort in last week’s eliminations. With David Miller in the bike, McWicked took over the race on the front stretch and stymied the field with incredible speed throughout the second half of the race, coming home a winner in 1:47:3, a new world record for 3-year-old colts on a 5/8-mile oval.

No horse has made more of a turnaround in his career of late than Sweet Lou, who seemed to have peaked a few years back but has suddenly caught fire with a vengeance in 2014. Since driver Ron Pierce took over the driving chores, the 5-year-old stallion trained by Ron Burke has been unstoppable with five straight wins, the last of those coming in Saturday night’s Ben Franklin final. Ironically, it wasn’t 2013’s leading lights Captaintreacherous and Folied Again who gave him the biggest problem; it was stablemate Bettor’s Edge, who challenged him in a great stretch duel, with Sweet Lou prevailing in 1:47; fastest ever pacing time achieved on a 5/8-mile oval.

If there has been once tiny complaint about the impeccable record of Father Patrick, the colt who came into Saturday night’s Beal final with wins in 14 of 15 lifetime races, it’s that he lacked one of those jaw-dropping wins that some of the other A-list horses have rifled off in the past. Cross that off the checklist now, because Yannick Gingras cut the colt loose on Saturday night, and the pride of the Jimmy Takter barn responded with, you guessed it, a world record performance for 3-year-old colts on the trot on a 5/8-mile oval.

Overall, there were five world records on the night; in addition to the ones we’ve already mentioned, Wind Of The North picked up the mark for 4-year-old geldings earlier in the night in a condition victory in 1:51. While there is no doubt that we’ll miss having the Breeders Crown this season at Pocono, those year-end races will have to be special to live up to the drama and excitement of Sun Stakes Saturday 2014. And I’m pretty sure that no night of racing will be able to match Saturday’s undercard thanks to Sebastian K.

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

Distaff Freshman Pacers in Pennsylvania All Stars Races at Pocono

Monday, July 7th, 2014

July 1, 2014

Southwind Roulette posted the fastest winning time out of five $30,400 divisions of Pennsylvania All Stars races for 2-year-old pacing fillies on Tuesday night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.

Southwind Roulette (Somebeachsomewhere-Southwind Rio), driven by Corey Callahan for trainer Doulglas Lewis, won her split in 1:53:2. Other All Stars winners on the night: Macarena Mama (Mcardle-Hay Macarena), driven by Mark MacDonald and trained by Blake McIntosh, in 1:54:2; Shes Some Treasure (Somebeachsomewhere-Worldly Treasure), driven by Tim Tetrick and trained by Tony Alagna, in 1:54:4; Arielle Lynn (Somebeachsomewhere-Ladyking), driven by Tetrick and trained by Kevin McDermott, in 1:53:4; and Eloquently Stated (Well Said-Jennie Fanetta), driven by Yannick Gingras and trained by Ron Burke, in 1:53:4.