Live music; a QB; and the second jewel of the Triple Crown!

All eyes are on Churchill Downs this week, and the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono’s party for Kentucky Derby 143 will be the biggest and the best, but plans are already taking shape for the second jewel of the prestigious Triple Crown.  Preakness weekend will be full of excitement!

The betting windows will open bright and early at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 20th with Post Time for Pimlico at 10:30 a.m.    Pacer’s Clubhouse will open at 4:00 p.m., by reservation only, 1-888-WIN-IN-PA.

Outside on the apron, the Black-Eyed Susans and other beverages will be flowing, and fans can enjoy a free concert featuring Encorz and The Fellas with a Tribute to Soultown. The concert is from 4:00PM to 6:00PM. 

Fans can watch the Preakness on the jumbo screen or in simulcast, and live harness racing action starts at 7:30PM.

Sunday, May 21st will be exciting for football fans!  Former San Francisco 49ers and Notre Dame QB Joe Montana stops by for a meet and greet in the racing lobby from 5:00PM to 6:30PM.  This is a wristband-only event, and they will be distributed at 1:00PM, while they last.  Only authorized photos will be signed and will be distributed at the event, as well.  A professional photographer will be on hand and photos will be posted on the Facebook page of Mohegan Sun Pocono.

For all racing events, follow us on Twitter @DownsATMSP.

Racing continues Sunday with a Post Time of 7:30PM; and Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday with Post Time 6:30PM.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

April 29-May 5, 2017

For the past month, some excellent young horses have been battling it out at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in the Bobby Weiss late closer series. The series, named after the longtime Pocono track superintendent responsible for overseeing a track surface considered one of the fastest and safest around, pits horses of the same genders and gaits against one another in preliminary legs to determine which will make it to the finals.

Those finals began this past week, with three of the four divisions being decided. (One more is still to come: The male trotters, which we will detail in this space next week.) With $30,000 on the line in each of the final races, the competition was as rugged as you might expect. Let’s take a look at how those final races went down.

THREE AND FOUR-YEAR-OLD PACING COLTS, STALLIONS AND GELDINGS

One of the things that often happens during the Weiss is a horse dominates the preliminary legs when facing small fields but then struggles in the final with a full nine-horse field. Highalator, the even-money favorite in this Monday night final, certainly could have fallen victim to that. The three-year-old colt, trained by Jenny Bier, left from post position #4 with an eight-race winning streak on the line. When he briefly lost the lead on the front stretch, driver Victor Kirby decided that was unacceptable and sent Highalator right back out for the retake at the half-mile marker.

From there, he had to endure a stiff first-over challenge from Dakota Jack. At the top of the stretch, Dakota Jack, three-wide Rough Odds, and pocket horse Dash Of Danger all came up strong. Highalator responded pushing away from the pursuit. Rough Odds provided the staunchest test, closing to within a neck at the finish line but coming up short. Highaltor’s championship victory, and ninth win in a row, came in a new career mark of 1:51:1. It was a clutch performance by a horse who just refuses to lose these days.

THREE AND FOUR-YEAR-OLD PACING FILLIES AND MARES

Going into the Weiss distaff final on Sunday night, a four-year-old mare named Cousin Mary had clearly distinguished herself as the one to beat. Trained by Andrew Harris, she swept three preliminary legs, each time as an odds-on favorite. That was on the heels of winning the Petticoat series at Yonkers. She came into the final having won ten of twelve races on the season, and unsurprisingly was installed as the 1-5 favorite.

Nor was it surprising when driver Anthony Napolitano hustled Cousin Mary to the front end early. What was a bit of a shock was how A-Nap and the mare were able to get to the half-mile marker at the leisurely pace of 57:4. That meant that the mare could really burn it up in the second half of the mile and, despite a good effort from I Deal In Kisses, she was never really seriously threatened. Cousin Mary rolled home in front by 2 ¾ lengths, and her winning time of 1:51:4, a new career-best, included an incredible 54-second mark for the second half of the mile.

THREE AND FOUR-YEAR-OLD TROTTING FILLIES AND MARES

After Highalator and Cousin Mary delivered as favorites in their respective Weiss divisions, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Checkmate Time would do the same in the distaff trotting group. After all, he had won his lone Weiss preliminary appearance in a time a full two seconds faster than anyone else in the group. But the 1-9 shot made a break as he attempted a second-over move on the front stretch, throwing Monday night’s final into disarray.

Connie Jean set the pace but was hounded first-over by Sunrise Avenue. Whambamthankumaam entered the picture with a three-wide move around the final turn. But it was Abbie’s Celticlass, a 47-1 shot who had been last at the half-mile marker, who found the best stride late. Moving four-wide around the last turn with Matt Kakaley in the bike for trainer Ken Hess Jr., she chased down Whambamthankumaam to pull off a stunner by a half-length in a career-best 1:55:2. It was Kakaley’s first time driving the four-year-old mare, who stepped up when it counted the most for a memorable victory.

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.

Hats, Harness Racing, and Derby Horses! Kentucky Derby Day is here!

A double header of live harness racing; a hat revue with 6 categories including the “Triple Crown” winning hat;  and a Champagne Brunch are all part of the biggest Kentucky Derby party north of Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May at the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono!

Doors open Saturday, May 6th at 10:00AM and the tellers open at the same time, with Churchill Downs Post of 10:30AM.   Post for the first of the double-header of live harness racing card is 11:00a.m., and a patio bar will be open just for those early birds!  Pacer’s Clubhouse will host a Champagne Brunch like no other starting at 11:00 a.m., featuring delectable Southern delicacies and Brunch favorites, by reservation only.  Call 1-888-WIN-IN-PA.  The dinner seating is currently sold out.

Ladies can proudly wear their elaborately decorated Kentucky Derby hats for the Run for the Roses Hat Revue, sponsored by Spa Sapphire, the salon and spa in the casino.  All hats must be registered between 2:00 and 5:15 p.m. in the lobby, and the Revue takes place at 5:30 p.m. in front of the Winner’s Circle with cash prizes and Spa Sapphire gift cards.  Six categories will be judged, including “Most Colorful” and “Most Horsie”.  The “Most Fashionable Couple” will receive dinner for two at Pacer’s Clubhouse.  Judges include drivers Simon Allard and Anthony Napolitano, who will definitely be a hit with the crowd of ladies on hand for the festivities!

A photo booth in the lobby will be open at 3:00pm to capture the best moments of the day, with a $1 minimum donation to the Standardbred Retirement Foundation.  For those last-minute accessories, or even a hat or Fascinator, ladies are invited to stop by the Sapphire Boutique in the lobby, featuring a fabulous array of colorful hats and more!

The Trackside Concession bars and the Party Tent open at 2:00PM, and of course, Mint Juleps will be available all day in the official Kentucky Derby 143 souvenir glasses!

Following Kentucky Derby 143 on the jumbo screen, fans can stay and enjoy another exciting live card under the stars.

As always, parking and admission is free, and free valet parking is available on the casino level.

The Downs will open for advance wagering on Friday, May 5th at 10:00AM.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

April 15-21, 2017

Even with only three days of racing last week due to our taking Easter Sunday off, there was a ton of exciting action that took place at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. We saw our first sub-1:50 mile of the meet, the continuation of the Bobby Weiss late closer series, and, in general, some wild and woolly racing. Without further ado, let’s review it all by handing out our Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: MIGRATE BLUE CHIP

Moving up in class is never an easy feat, but this five-year-old stallion from the Ron Burke barn was ready to do just that on Saturday night. After all, he had won back to back starts against the non-winners of five pacing conditioners in his previous two races, putting up times of 1:52:1 and 1:53 in the process. Saturday night’s test came against the non-winners of seven colts, stallions and geldings. The betting public had faith in Migrate Blue Chip though, installing him at 1-9 as the heaviest kind of favorite.

The rest of the field wasn’t about to concede the race to the heavy betting choice. In fact, pacesetting Pan Of Steel was particularly prickly. Each time Migrate Blue Chip attempted to get to the front, Pan Of Steel would dig in his heels and push him back. This left the favorite with an unenviable trip, first-over around two of the race’s three turns.

Despite losing the lead to Pan Of Steel twice, Migrate Blue Chip, under the steady guidance of driver Matt Kakaley, strove onward and finally took over the lead in the stretch. At that point, you might have expected one of the closers to pounce on the tired favorite. But the stallion was having none of it, stretching the lead to two lengths at the line and winning in 1:51:3, a new career-best time. That makes three in a row for a horse who might be ready to take on more experienced pacers on the highest rungs of the condition ladder.

Other top pacers this week include: Orillia Joe (Eric Carlson, Matias Ruiz), who captured Saturday’s $25,000 condition pace in 1:49:4, a new career-best and the fastest time of the young season at Pocono; Dash Of Danger (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who captured his third straight Bobby Weiss win and fourth in a row overall on Monday night, this one coming in a new career mark of 1:51:3; and Hypothetical (Andrew McCarthy, Ross Croghan), a three-year-old colt who picked up his second straight condition win on Tuesday night in 1:53:1.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: DOLCE DUCCI

This 10-year-old gelding from the Norman Morford barn has a knack for rising up with a big mile when you least expect it. He scored his first victory of the season on April 10 at Pocono against the $8,500 condition trotters. Coming off that confidence-builder, he moved up to the $11,000 group on Monday night. He didn’t receive too much attention, however, going off as an 11-1 shot.

As the race progressed, Dolce Ducci seemed to be an afterthought indeed. As Tea Party Politics set the pace, he lolled about near the back of the pack. When Raven Victory took over the lead with a first-over charge on the back stretch, the gelding was sill eighth in the field of nine. He must have been lulling them into a false sense of security, because Dolce Ducci started to boogie around the last turn. At the top of the stretch, driver Tom Jackson guided him four-wide so that he had a clear look at the horses ahead of him and the finish line.

Dolce Ducci then kicked into gear, making up several lengths with a furious move. Raven Victory held on for as long as he could before he finally caved to the charge of the horse coming from behind. Dolce Ducci swept by to win by a length-and-a-half in 1:57:1. Expect another move up in class for this veteran trotter, and expect him to sneak up again if the race breaks his way.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Get To Doin It (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who scored a condition win on Saturday night in the week’s fastest trotting time at Pocono of 1:53:3, which was also a career-best; Hilarious Hero (Matt Kakaley, Jenny Melander), whose Bobby Weiss series victory on Tuesday night in a career-best 1:55 gave him three wins in as many starts this season; and Ooh Rah (Jim Morrill Jr., Kathleen La Montagne), who churned out his second straight Bobby Weiss series victory on Tuesday night in 1:56:1.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: ORILLIA JOE

It’s not often that the longest shot of the week comes home in the week’s feature race, but Orillia Joe did just that on Saturday night at 20-1 for a win payout of $42.40 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ERIC GOODELL

It’s been a nice start to the meet for Goodell, and his three victories on Saturday night provided a taste of the success he’s been able to achieve early this season.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: MATIAS RUIZ

Ruiz chalked up a training double on Saturday night, with the highlight coming in Orillia Joe’s surprising victory in the featured pace.

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

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

April 8-14, 2017

Our first full racing week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with racing on four straight evenings, coincided with the best stretch of weather that we’ve enjoyed in the early part of the meet. As a result, we are practically inundated with possibilities and candidates for this edition of Weekly Awards. Tough choices had to be made, and here are the results.

PACER OF THE WEEK: NEXT SUCCESS

First horse to three wins on the meet? This four-year-old gelding from the Les Givens barn had a shot at it on Saturday night against a field of $25,000 claiming pacers. He came to Pocono fresh off a win at Rosecroft on March 19, then promptly surprised a condition pacing group at 19-1 in his first effort at MSPD. He followed that up with a $25,000 claiming victory on April 1.

The big thing working against him on Saturday night was his #9 post. To overcome that, driver Jim Morrill Jr. had Next Success, who went off as the 8-5 favorite, charging toward the lead right out of the gate. When he broke stride, it seemed like all hope was lost; even though he quickly caught stride, he still had to retreat to the back of the pack in order to heed the breaking rules. It looked like a lost cause when Morrill set him in motion on the back stretch to try and make up ground.

It helped Next Success that there was a logjam at the front of the field, with nobody able to pull out to a big lead. At the top of the stretch, a wall of horses lined up to chase leader Baggage Claim. Lo and behold, there was Next Success winding up with a five-wide move around the final turn, and he exploded past the field to prevail by a length in 1:53:3. With the last-to-first conquest, he now has three straight victories at Pocono and four in a row overall, and his name couldn’t be more apropos, because we can’t wait to see what his next success will be.

Other top pacers this week: Dash Of Danger (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), whose win at Pocono on Sunday night in 1:51:4, which matched his career best time, gave him three straight victories, two of them coming in Bobby Weiss series action; Mariner Seelster (George Napolitano Jr., Mark Ford), who rallied to win a condition pace on Saturday night in 1:51, which was a new career mark and his second straight win; and V I P Bayama (Eric Carlson, Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who moved up in class on Saturday night to pick up his second straight win, this one coming in a career-best 1:51:2.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: WHAT A PEACH

This five-year-old gelding has been razor sharp since arriving at Pocono at the start of the meet following a victory at Miami Valley in Ohio. He picked up a condition win on Opening Night and followed it up with a heartbreaking loss by a nose behind Charles VII. On April 2 in the $15,000 to $20,000 claiming handicap group, What A Peach hooked up in a stretch duel with the mare Dreamsteeler, who needed a break of stride to finish ahead at the line, meaning What A Peach inherited the win via disqualification.

What A Peach faced the same claiming handicap group on Sunday night, including his old friend Dreamsteeler, who lined up just inside of him in the #3 post in a seven-horse field. As the 3-5 betting favorite, What A Peach, making his first start in the Paul Fusco barn following a claim, grabbed the engine with George Napolitano in the bike. He had to deal with a first-over charge from Chipps Lake on the back stretch, meaning that he expended some extra energy before he would need it in the home stretch.

In the stretch, Dreamsteeler, who had worked out the excellent pocket trip, charged up the passing lane to make a play for the lead. What A Peach, undaunted, battled her stride for stride. In an odd instant replay, Dreamsteeler once again went off stride, only this time What A Peach was still able to get ahead at the line. The victory, in 1:55:1, made it four victories out of five for the gelding as he heads to a new barn following yet another claim.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Andy Ray (Marcus Miller, Jim Campbell), who picked up a condition win on Saturday night in a career-best 1:53:2, which was the fastest of any trotter on the grounds this past week; Sunrise Avenue (Eric Carlson, Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who won her second straight Bobby Weiss series race against distaff trotters on Tuesday night in 1:55:4; and Alexander Hanover (Anthony Napolitano, Mike Watson), who moved up in class to score a second consecutive condition win on Tuesday night, this one in 1:56.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK:  ONE TO DRAW TO

The very first race of the night on Saturday brought a huge upset, as this claiming pacer driven by Marcus Miller lit them up at 31-1 for a $65 payoff to win on a $2 ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANTHONY NAPOLITANO

A-Nap had his finest night of the young season on Sunday, scoring four wins, highlighted by a victory aboard 10-1 long shot Itty Bitty in the Bobby Weiss series.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: ANDREW HARRIS

Harris won the featured pace on Saturday night with Casimir Jitterbug and then followed it up with three training wins on Sunday night, including two in the Bobby Weiss series.

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.