The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Season Preview

Welcome back, everyone, to live harness racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The 2017 season is upon us, although it took a little bit longer for it to get here than we originally expected.

The campaign was supposed to open on Saturday, March 18, but Stella, the winter storm of the century in the Northeastern Pennsylvania area, had other ideas. Even though the snow fell a full five days before the scheduled opening night, the pure amount of precipitation meant that there was just no way for even our crack track maintenance staff to have the racing surface ready for the Standardbreds.

The best-laid plans, as they say. And so we begin instead on Tuesday night, March 21, embarking on another outstanding season or racing. Let’s hope the warmer weather arrives sooner rather than later, but fans of Pocono know that the racing action always heats things up even if the temperature stays stubbornly on the low side.

So what can you expect from the new meet? If it’s anything like our recent seasons, some of the finest racing action in North American is certain to occur. The recipe: Take one of the fastest, best-kept racing surfaces anywhere, add in top-notch purses to draw in the best horsemen and horses in the world, and then sit back and watch the excitement.

You can also expect stakes races that bring in the sport’s superstars, a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes schedule that allows the Pocono faithful to see harness racing’s best rising talent, and overnight races that lead to great rivalries from week to week. Each racing night, pacers and trotters take to the 5/8-mile oval at Pocono in search of glory, and the fans are the ultimate beneficiaries of all of this talented horse flesh coming together in intense competition.

The horses are fantastic, but they’re also guided by the one of finest collection of drivers and trainers in the country. There are many questions to be answered among the Pocono horsemen this year. Will George Napolitano Jr. continue his amazing run of dominance on the driving side? Can young drivers like Anthony Napolitano, Matt Kakaley, Jim Marohn Jr., Andrew McCarthy, Marcus Miller and others continue to make inroads in the drivers’ standings? Is there a new face we haven’t yet seen ready to make a mark at Pocono?

On the training side, will the three-way battle for honors between Rene Allard, Chris Oakes and Ron Burke continue to rage until the closing nights of the season as it did a year ago? Or will there be some progress made by some of the trainers who were in the middle of the pack and are looking to move up the standings?

All will be answered in time. The racing schedule, with the exception of a few weeks at the start and end of the season, will be as follows until September: Saturday, Monday and Tuesday nights at 6:30 PM ET, Sunday at 7:30. In September, our Monday cards begin in the afternoon at 4:30 PM ET. I, for one, can’t wait to get it started and see what happens.

I’ll be writing these articles all season long, talking about the exploits of our horses and horsemen, handing out weekly awards to the top performers. I’m looking forward to once again seeing our regular fans, who make The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono such a special place. Every year, when I come back to work in March, it’s like getting together with old friends once again.

And, as always, the sincere hope of everyone at Pocono is that we get a chance to make the acquaintances of some new friends as well. Those of you who might be checking this article out in the program may be new to harness racing. If you are, I encourage you to settle in and get ready an evening of fun and excitement.

Hopefully, you’ll be back again, and you’ll follow along with us through the 2017 season. It has the makings of another great campaign, and I’m extremely lucky to once again have the best view in the announcer’s booth. I hope you stop up to say hello. Good luck on your wagers. Here’s to the season ahead.

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

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