June 7-13, 2014
With a day-night doubleheader on Belmont Stakes day, this past week featured five live racing cards at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Filling up those cards was no problem, as Pocono welcomed a bunch of shippers from other tracks to go up against the holdovers who have already established themselves throughout the first couple months of the meet. This made for a thrilling week of racing, the best performances of which we now honor by handing out the Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: STEELHEAD HANOVER
This 5-year-old stallion from the Joe Pavia Jr. barn came into Saturday night’s condition pace for non-winners of $22,500 in the last five starts with wins in two of the three starts he made at Pocono in 2014. In a victory on May 31, Steelhead Hanover benefitted from a comfortable trip which allowed him to stay on the inside for much of the mile before rallying late for a victory in 1:50:2.
When a horse enjoys a trip like that, it’s natural to be skeptical if it can have the same success without that kind of relaxing journey. Add that to the fact that Steelhead Hanover was moving up in class, and he seemed more likely to struggle this time around. Yet Pavia, who also did the driving, attacked early with his stallion, taking the lead and setting imposing fractions.
There was no help for Steelhead Hanover on this night, and he made it clear by his stellar performance that he didn’t need any. He didn’t let up on the front end until he crossed the finish line a length-and-a-half in front of his nearest foe in 1:48:3. That time not only now stands as the fastest of the stallion’s career, but it was faster than anybody else paced this past week at Pocono.
Honorable mention on the pacing side goes to: Meirs Hanover (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who moved way up the condition ladder on Saturday night with no sweat, scoring his second straight victory in 1:49:3; Ahead Ofthe Curve (George Napolitano Jr., Paul Holzman), who moved up in class and still managed his third straight claiming victory on Saturday night, beating a field of $20,000 claimers in 1:50:1; and Aracache Hanover (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who won the week’s featured pace, Saturday night’s $25,000 Preferred Handicap, in 1:49.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: LUV YA TYLER
It’s unusual for a horse to win as a significant long shot in consecutive weeks. One of two things usually happens: Either the horse’s performance in his first long shot win is so impressive that it gets a lot more attention at the windows the following week, or, if it is still a long shot the second time around, the law of averages catches up to it and it comes up short.
Somebody should tell that to Luv Ya Tyler, a 7-year-old gelding who had been winless in eight races this year before a claim put him in the barn of trainer Neal Ehrhart. In his first start in the new barn, the gelding went off at 20-1 against a field of $15,000 claimers but rallied for the victory in a career-best 1:54:2.
Once again on Tuesday night, he wasn’t given much of chance at the tote board when he moved up in class to face a $20,000-$25,000 claiming handicap class. All the outside speed in the race eventually wore itself out, leaving room for a closer to steal the race. Luv Ya Tyler, at 19-1 this time around, sat back off the fast fractions early and, with Mike Simons in the bike, came up flying for the victory in 1:54:2, matching that career-best from a week previous. After two straight wins, the odds he’ll need to defy probably won’t be quite so long the next time around.
Other top trotters this week include: Song Of Virtue (Joe Pavia Jr., Jennifer Sabot), a mare who picked up her second straight win over the $7,500 claimers on Saturday morning and did so in a new career-best time of 1:56:2; P L Fantastic (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who burned up the track in a condition win and matched the week’s fastest trotting time on Tuesday night with a victory in 1:53:3; and Revrac Harbour (Scot Zeron, Tony Alagna), who picked up his second straight win at Pocono on Wednesday night, this coming in Stallion Series action in 1:55:4.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: ZIP IT LOCK IT
Tyler Buter has been aboard several huge long shots this year, but none was as big a bomber as this pacing mare on Wednesday night at 75-1 for a $158 payout on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: SCOTT ZERON
This newcomer to the Pocono racing wars has been improving as he gets acclimated to his new surroundings, and five combined wins on Tuesday and Wednesday prove he’s becoming a major factor.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: KEVIN CARR
With a win on Sunday and two more victories on Tuesday night, Carr made a significant jump this week in the Pocono training standings.
That will do it for this week, but I’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com.