The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

May 6-12, 2017

It was a particularly busy week of racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Due to the doubleheader on Kentucky Derby day, we enjoyed five racing cards in a four-day stretch. That means that we have even more candidates for the Weekly Awards than usual. As it turns out, though, picking the top two horses of the week was an easy matter, as it came down to the winners of the week’s two biggest purses. Here now are the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: BARIMAH A

In Saturday night’s Van Rose Memorial pace, which carried a purse of $50,000, Barimah A, a seven-year-old gelding from the Scott DiDomenico barn, went off at 14-1. This was despite the fact that he won the previous week’s featured pace at Pocono in a career-best 1:50 and despite his drawing the inside post. The betting attention, understandably, went to some of the millionaires in the field, horses like Sunfire Blue Chip, Somewhere in L A and McWicked who were coming in from the rugged early-season races at Yonkers.

The sloppy track did not dissuade the superstars in the field from going for the engine with reckless abandon. Three different horses led in the first three-eighths of a mile, and the fractions created by the speed duel were ruthless: 25:4; 53:1, and 1:20:4. At the top of the stretch Somewhere in L A was on top, Mach It So was hounding him first-over, and favorite Sunfire Blue Chip overcame some tiring cover on the back stretch to rally again in the passing lane.

All of those horses were very close to the blistering pace for much of the mile. The difference for Barimah A was that driver Pat Berry kept him back early, only asking for some kick on the back stretch. As they rounded the final turn, Barimah A was firing on all cylinders, and he eventually outpaced Sunfire Blue Chip in the final strides to get up for the victory by a head. His winning time of 1:50 matched the career-mark he set in the win the previous week, although it was even more impressive this time around because of the sloppy conditions.

Other top pacers this week include: Brickman (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who switched barns and still scored his third straight victory over $25,000 claimers on Saturday night, winning in the slop in 1:53:1; Inspiration View (Jim Marohn Jr., Ron Burke), who moved up the ladder to win a second consecutive condition race on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:52:1 in the slop; and Tempus Seelster (Jim Marohn Jr., Tony Dinges), a mare who picked up her third straight victory, two of which have come at Pocono, with a condition victory on Tuesday night in a career-best 1:50:1.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: OOH RAH

On Tuesday night, the last of the Bobby Weiss late closer series finals was held. In this case, it was the three and four-year-old trotting colts, stallions and geldings going at it for the $30,000 purse. The preliminary legs had seen several horses step up with solid performances, but Ooh Rah, a four-year-old gelding trained by Kathleen La Montagne, stamped himself as the favorite by winning three of his four starts in the series.

In the final, Ooh Rah left from post position #3 in a field of nine as the 3-5 betting favorite. After sitting third early, driver George Napolitano Jr. decided he wanted to be in charge with the favorite. Ooh Rah swooped past Hilarious Hero on the front stretch to take over the lead. Although Uncle Leroy made a first-over brush, the leader never seemed to feel the pressure and was able to cut out the mile at a relatively leisurely pace.

That came into play late, when Hilarious Hero popped out of the pocket in the stretch ready for a fight. Ooh Rah had energy to spare, powering home to hold off Hilarious Hero by a length. The winning time of 1:55 was faster than any horse had been able to post in any of the previous Weiss legs in this group, and it also marked a career-best for Ooh Rah, a deserving and dominant champ of the division.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Tuonoblu Rex (Andy Miller, Julie Miller) who followed up a win at The Meadowlands in his U.S. debut with an easy victory in the slop on Sunday at Pocono over a tough condition field in 1:53:1, easily the fastest trotting time of the week; Andy Ray (Marcus Miller, Jim Campbell), who rallied on Saturday night for a condition win in the slop in 1:57, giving him victories in the last three starts he’s made at Pocono; and Meme Hanover (Charlie Norris trainer and driver), a colt who followed up his maiden victory with a condition win on Monday night in 1:56:1, matching his career-best time.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: OOH DEAR SAM

With Anthony Morgan in the bike, this veteran pacer surprised a field of claimers on Saturday night to the tune of 26-1, paying out $54.80 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: JIM MAROHN JR.

Marohn seemed to enjoy the daylight hours on Saturday, winning four out of ten races on the matinee card before returning for another victory on Saturday night.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: TONY DINGES

The Dinges barn was all about efficiency on Tuesday night, sending out three starters and earning victories in every one of those races.

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.

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