‘Rock’ solid in second colt-pace elim

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – His foes tried to make a drama of this, the second colt-pacer elim for the Breeders Crown at Pocono Downs, Oct. 2, but Rock N Roll Heaven took control and sped up to leave tons of space between the wire and We Will See, who finished second.

The mile went in 1:49.1.

“He got real good this time last year.,” said trainer Bruce Saunders, admitting that he doesn’t care how “Rock” wins, leaving the judgement to driver Dan Dube.

Shoobee’s Place left early, while “Rock” sat fourth at the quarter. Fred And Ginger gave Rock second-over status, good enough for Rock to loop three deep after a 1:21.4 three-quarters and pace strongly away from the field.

Fred And Ginger got third and He’s Gorgeous made the final on the merit of his season’s earnings, though he finished fifth here.

Frank Bellino owns the magnificent pacer.

Fashion Feline’ filly fierce in trot elim two

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The second of a trio of Breeders Crown elims for filly trotter sophs went to Fashion Feline at Pocono Downs, Oct. 2. The mile went in 1:55.2.

The Jim Campbell-trained filly did some dueling early as Coast Rica urged to the top during a :27.4 first panel. “Costa” took over, giving “Feline” a ground-saving pocket trip while Up Front Juansteen came first up to make a lunge at the leader.

On the inside, Feline was able to close and overcome Costa as “Juansteen” stayed strongly outside to get second.

Spicy Wings was in the mix late, getting third.

Jim Campbell said, “She came into the race on a good note … the season hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to go for her but she’s on her way now. She likes this track and goes well with Jim [Morrill].”

Fashion Farms owns the filly.

Behindclosedoors is awesome in soph Crown filly-trot elim nightcap

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The last Breeders Crown elim for filly trotter sophs went to Behindclosedoors at Pocono Downs, Oct. 2. The mile went in 1:54.3.

Munis Blue Chip took the top early with Merger Blue Chip until that one broke.

But from the rail “Behindclose” was not content to take a pocket trip; she took over and cruised through a half in :56.2, moving onto three-quarters in 1:24.2 and soaring home with daylight between the finish line and second-place Impressive Kemp.

Dave Palone, who drove, said he thought he was going to follow Bar Slide but he changed his tactics and went to the top, where she was satisfied to stay the rest of the way.

Merger Blue Chip regained her gait after the early jump and managed to finish third.

Chuck Sylvester trains the filly, owned by Melvin Hartman, Herb Liverman and David McDuffee.

New York Champ Ready to Take on the Best


Just how tough was the New York Sire Stakes program this year? As Frank said, “If you can make it there you can make it anywhere.” Well, on Friday night we’ll find out if anywhere is Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs and if that somebody is two-year-old trotting colt Dejarmbro.

It’s hard not to be fascinated by a beautiful dark brown two-year-old trotting colt that was virtually unbeaten racing on the half-mile tracks in New York. Virtually, we say because on two occasions he was disturbed by breakers and lost his stride. But let’s just say when Dejarmbro didn’t run into road trouble he treated his rivals like was the model of excellence.

The Purple Haze Stables LLC (Wanda Polisseni)-owned colt was plucked from last year’s Harrisburg sale for $65,000 by the husband and wife-training team of Howard and Jessica Okusko. “He was a big handsome colt,” recalled Jessica. “Ed Gold told us to look at the Fair Winds Farm consignment. We loved the colt when we saw him and were very lucky to get him.”

For the Okuskos who maintain a training base at Vernon Downs, Dejarmbro did everything right from the start. He had the usual sickness that young horses get in the spring but by the time the racing season came around he was ready. “We put the hobbles on him before we were ready to qualify,” noted Jessica. “There are some difficult half mile tracks in New York and you just don’t want them to make a mistake.”

Driver Jeff Gregory picked up the driving assignment behind the Credit Winner-sired colt in his second start at Tioga Downs on August 1. The pair came from off the pace with an effortless 2:00 trip winning by open lengths.

The colt got involved in an early speed duel at Batavia two weeks later but was resilient in an incredible 1:58.4 mile. Gregory who appears rather low key when it comes to this horse, gave him high marks nonetheless. “You can pretty much do anything you want with him. He’s got a great mouth and can grind all day.”

At his home track on September 2 Dejarmbro showed his ability to sprint at both ends of the mile leaving in a :27.4 clip and coming home in :28 flat to score in a career best 1:55.3 mile.

Post seven and eight are usually killers for juvenile trotters going around half-mile tracks but Dejarmbro easily overcame those obstacles with consecutive NYSS preliminary scores at Yonkers and Monticello in early September.

As difficult as the NYSS circuit can be with so many legs and multiple wins needed to qualify for the final, Dejarmbro came into the $200,000 final last week poised for the challenge. The colt from an outstanding maternal family which includes former Breeders Crown champion Armbro Flori, was pushed to the limit having to race overland. In the end the long journey proved fruitful with Dejarmbro overtake pacesetter Surface Tension and holding off Whitewater Rapids in an unreal 1:57 mile. That mark broke the track standard by 2 full seconds.

“I don’t think he was at his best in the final,” said Gregory. “I think he will be better on the big track.”

Both Gregory and Okusko see that nothing fazes this colt. “It’s like a game to him,” said Jessica, “he goes out and plays and has fun.”

Owner Polisseni has fun too says Okusko. “She’s the greatest owner. She comes to the barn regularly to see her horses and enjoys it tremendously. She brings 50 pounds of carrots and loves to treat her horses well.”

 Driver Gregory has proven over the years to be a solid force in the sulky and has been among the top drivers wherever he races. Currently a regular at Yonkers, he did much of his racing in earlier years upstate New York and has been friends with the Okuskos for more than 20 years. He’s even-keeled, which is a great quality to have when steering young trotters in big races.

“I don’t know how he’ll be racing against this caliber of horse after racing in New York,” said the driver, “But I don’t think he’ll embarrass himself.”

In addition to drawing post eight in one of three $25,000 Breeders Crown elimination fields for juvenile colt trotters this Friday, Dejarmbro faces a solid group that includes two speedy colts from the Jimmy Takter stable. Both Leader of the Gang and Johnny B Kemp sport sub-1:56 marks this season.

The luck of the draw went to lucky Chuck Sylvester who will send out Live Jazz, an Andover Hall-sired colt that has been kept away from the big races thus far but steps into the limelight off back-to-back 1:56.4 miles first at Chester Downs and then last week in a division of the Standardbred at Delaware.

For team Okusko a big effort by Dejarmbro in the Breeders Crown will be the icing on the cake of a dream season. The pair managed to capture two NYSS Championships last week when Dejarmbro’s stablemate three-year-old Blacktuxwhitesox, also by Credit Winner, won his division for the second straight year.

Omen Hanover captures Fillies and Mares Open Handicap Pace

 WILKES-BARRE, PA (September 29, 2010)—Omen Hanover, reined by Jim Pantaleano and trained by Nick Surick, won the fillies and mares open handicap pace Wednesday evening at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.

Leaving from the six hole in the six-horse field, Pantaleano sat third and second for three-quarters of the race with Danika Hanover (Matt Kakaley) sitting on the front end.

Opening split went in 26.1, half in 55.2 and three-quarters in 1:22.3 before Omen Hanover stopped the timer in 1:51. This marked the eighth victory for the six-year-old Western Hanover mare in 31 starts.

Ubetterthink Think (George Napolitano Jr.) lost the race by a neck with Danika Hanover finishing one-half length behind Omen Hanover, a winner of more than $161,000 in 2010.