Posts Tagged ‘A Rocknroll Dance’

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

September 13-19, 2013

With only about a month until the Breeders Crown on Saturday, October 19 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, it’s as good a time as any to start looking ahead to how some of the top competitors shape up. Because of the increase in the number of stakes races at Pocono, many more of the North America’s best horses have already traveled over the oval this season than at the same point three years ago when the Breeders Crown was last held at MSPD.

With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at the Top 10 horses in the most recent Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown and see just how well they’ve done this year at Pocono. We’ll count them down in descending order, just like this really good Bob Dylan book I heard about lately.

10. SEVRUGA: This 5-year-old trotting gelding from the Julie Miller barn has won nine of 19 starts this year with earnings of close to $500,000. His first start at Pocono this season was a memorable one, as he ripped off a victory in an Invitational trot in 1:50:3, a new-world record for aged geldings on a 5/8-mile oval. He was upset, however, by Wishing Stone in his last Pocono appearance on Super Stakes Saturday.

9. MAVEN: This 4-year-old trotting gelding is one of the few in the Top 10 who has yet to make an appearance at Pocono in 2013, although fans with longer memories may remember him as a solid performer in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes action at the track as a two and three-year-old. Maven’s biggest success this season has been in Canada, where he in unbeaten in four races for trainer Jonas Czernyson.

8. PET ROCK: A four-year-old pacing stallion from the Virgil Morgan Jr. barn, Pet Rock has had an outstanding season once again in 2013 with earnings north of $600,000. But his story at Pocono has been one of near misses. He finished 3rd and 2nd in the Ben Franklin pace elimination and final in June, then came up just short behind A Rocknroll Dance on Super Stakes Saturday.

7. VEGAS VACATION: Most people have conceded the 3-year-old pacing division to Captaintreacherous, but this gelding trained by Casie Coleman pushed the super-horse to the limit in their last meeting on the Pocono oval, finishing just a nose behind him in the slop in the Max Hempt. He’s been building confidence since then, scoring big-money victories at Tioga and Mohawk.

6. A ROCKNROLL DANCE: Trainer Jim Mulinix hopes the old phrase “horses for courses” applies come Breeders Crown time, because the last two starts this 4-year-old pacer had at Pocono were memorable. In 2012, he turned around a floundering season with a win in the Max Hempt Memorial. His lone start here this season was a win on Super Stakes Saturday in 1:47:4, matching the fastest ever at the track.

5. ROYALTY FOR LIFE: As the Hambletonian winner as well as a victor in several other big stakes races, 2013 has been a great year for Royalty For Life, trained by George Ducharme. Except at Pocono. Back in June, the 3-year-old trotter broke stride in both the elimination and the final for the Earl Beal Jr. In August, he got caught up in a speed duel and faded to 7th as the favorite in the Colonial.

4. FATHER PATRICK: The most celebrated 2-year-old in the country, Father Patrick made his trotting debut at Pocono in July in Pennsylvania All Stars action with a seven-length victory. He returned a few weeks later for another easy score in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. With seven wins in eight races so far for trainer Jimmy Takter, you get the feeling he’ll be tough no matter what track hosts him.

3. I LUV THE NITELIFE: With just one loss in 11 races this season, the pride of the Chris Ryder barn has been without a doubt the class of the 3-year-old pacing fillies division. She has been especially fine at Pocono, winning all three of her races here this year. Included among those were big stakes wins in the James Lynch and the Valley Forge, the latter coming in a world record for her age group of 1:48:4.

2. CAPTAINTREACHEROUS: It took a world-record performance from Sunshine Beach to spoil his unbeaten season at Pocono in the Battle of the Brandywine, and even then it was only in a photo finish. Before that, the Captain overcame a treacherous trip, if you will, to win the Hempt in June. Will the 3-year-old  pacing colt from the Tony Alagna barn step up on Breeders Crown day? Time will tell.

1. BEE A MAGICIAN: The number-one horse in the poll is a relative unknown to Pocono fans, since she’s the only one on this list to have never raced at MSPD. The 3-year-old trotting filly from the Nifty Norman barn has done most of her damage in Canada, but she did stop at The Meadowlands this year to win the Hambletonian Oaks as part of her record of twelve wins in twelve races in 2013.

Those are just some of the horses to watch come October at Pocono. With all of that firepower on display, it should be an amazing night.

That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at


Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

September 14-20, 2012

We had only two nights of live racing this past week at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, so the Weekly Awards will have to take a little hiatus until next week. Instead, I thought we’d play a little game of “Where Are They Now?”

If you’re like me, you’re fascinated by all those shows which reveal the whereabouts of celebrities from yesteryear who haven’t stayed in the limelight. Only in our case, the celebrities are of the four-legged variety, particularly those horses who won the four major stakes races at Pocono this season.

What this little exercise should show is just how good those four horses are and that their moments in the spotlight at Pocono were indicative of the way that they’ve performed at other tracks around the country. It should also show that the MSPD stakes schedule, with its hefty purses attached, now attracts the best of the best in the harness racing world.

Our first major stakes race of the season, the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial Trot for 3-year-olds on June 23, was a coming out party for the amazing Googoo Gaagaa. Up to that point, he had been a regional phenomenon for trainer Richard Hans in his home state of Maryland, but his ridiculous win in 1:50:4 in the Beal seemed to serve notice that he was the best sophomore trotter in the nation.

His skeptics had plenty to crow about when he went off stride in his following starts at Yonkers and The Meadowlands. Hans sent him back to Maryland for a confidence-building win in Maryland, then returned him to the fray to face the best of the best, including Hambletonian champ Market Share, in the Colonial at Harrah’s on August 18. Googoo Gaagaa proved definitively that the Beal was no fluke that day, whipping his competition for a victory in 1:52:1.

On June 30, we witnessed one of the sport’s true superstars as 3-year-old filly pacer American Jewel rolled in the final of the James Lynch Memorial stakes. That put her career record at 12 wins in 14 tries, meaning the filly didn’t know much about defeat. She would find out in her next three starts, hitting the board in consecutive stakes races at The Meadowlands, Tioga, and Harrah’s, but failing to pick up a victory in any of those tough battles.

When you’re a filly with as much talent as American Jewel, the near-misses just aren’t going to cut it. That’s why trainer Jimmy Takter had to be pleased when she righted herself with a win in her last start in Canada in the Simcoe stakes. With that win in tow, she appears to be in prime shape for the upcoming Breeders Crown.

When A Rocknroll Dance headed into the Max Hempt Memorial for 3-year-old pacers at Pocono on June 30, he was in the midst of a slump. As a result, despite an outstanding 2-year-old campaign in 2011, the colt from the Jim Mulinix barn went off as a 17-1 shot. He found his stride that day, however, buzzing by the leaders late to pull off the upset.

Buoyed by his win in the Hempt, the colt has since moved into the upper echelon of 3-year-old pacers in the country. A win in the prestigious Meadowlands Pace solidified that standing, and his victory in the Battle of the Brandywine at Harrah’s in August was one of the signature performances of the racing season.

Has there been a better pacer in the country this year than the amazing Betterthancheddar? Trained by Casie Coleman, the 4-year-old put together a thrilling, front-pacing win in the Ben Franklin free-for-all pace at Pocono on June 30, matching the track’s fastest ever pacing time with a mile of 1:48. Coleman then took him back to Canada for three straight victories.

Betterthancheddar was upset by the great Foiled Again in the Canadian Derby at Mohawk, but he quickly bounced back to beat that horse and other top pacers in the Bobby Quiller Memorial at Harrington on September 17. He has legitimate Horse of the Year aspirations.

So, as you can see, the horses that have made their mark at Pocono have gone on to perform with excellence at their subsequent destinations. Maybe we shouldn’t be asking, “Where are they now?” after all. Maybe the proper question is, “What will they do next?”

That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

July 27-August 2, 2012

We only had two nights of racing this past week at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. That fact makes doing a Weekly Awards pretty impossible, since there aren’t that many candidates and a pretty small sample size from which to choose.

The reason for the short racing week was an 80’s-themed weekend at the track featuring some of the artists who populated the music charts in that wild and woolly decade. With that in mind, I thought I’d use this column to take a look back at some of the memorable performances from the first half of the racing season this week, and, since I’m a child of the 80’s myself, I thought I’d give them an 80’s music flair.


The song was a rather melodramatic ballad from the Australian one-hit wonders Moving Pictures that had some success back in ’82. You can’t blame It’sabouttime, a pacer from the Linda Kakaley barn, for asking the same question. After all he won a $5,000 claimer on July 1 at hefty odds of 42-1. Two weeks later, he moved up in class to the $10,000 claimers, and bettors overlooked him again to the tune of 33-1. He won that race as well. Two huge long-shot victories in the span of three weeks for this pacer means that the only ones asking, “What about me?” were the people who bet on him as they lined up to collect their big winnings at the teller windows.


One of the funkiest songs of the 80’s was this ’82 smash by The Gap Band which came complete with bottle-rocket sound effects. In racing, a bomber is another name for a long shot, and there was no bigger long shot on a June Wednesday night that Celebrity Scandal in a condition pace to close out the card.  The tote board read 99-1, but, in actuality, he went off at a staggering 185-1. In the stretch, however, Mike Simons guided the pacer home to a monster upset, paying off at $373.20 for a $2 win ticket, the biggest win price I’ve seen in my 15 years at Pocono.


Queen was one of the few successful bands in the 70’s that were able to parlay that into hit records in the 80’s, kicking off the decade with this monster smash that crossed all kinds of genres. It’s been the theme song for the mare Billmar Scooter, who has spent all of her time this year at Pocono facing the finest pacing mares on the grounds. Eight times she has gone out against the winners of over $25,000 lifetime mares, and she has won six of those races. Trained by Amber Buter and driven by Tyler Buter, this excellent pacer is certainly an early favorite for Mare of the Year honors with such an outstanding record in place.


This song by Simple Minds was immortalized in the 1985 John Hughes classic film, The Breakfast Club. Speaking of immortalized, A Rocknroll Dance seemed on his way to racing stardom after a brilliant 2-year-old season in 2011. But he was struggling a bit this season coming into the Max Hempt Memorial in July, Pocono’s richest race for 3-year-old pacers. As a result, he got away at 17-1, yet driver Yannick Gingras rallied the colt from the Jim Mulinix barn home for the upset win in the Hempt. Following that up with a win in the prestigious Meadowlands Pace, A Rocknroll Dance has proven that forgetting about him isn’t a smart move.


We have seen some outstanding filly pacers make their way through Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs over the past several years, including Southwind Tempo and See You At Peelers, to name a few. Few have been quite so deserving of this award named after a classic by The Tubes. This superstar from the Jimmy Takter barn swept through the James Lynch Memorial for 3-year-old pacing fillies, winning both the elimination and the final, with Tim Tetrick in the bike for each, in identical world-record times.


The refrain from this New Wave smash by The Talking Heads is “Same as it ever was.” Well, nothing will ever be the same at Pocono after Googoo Gaagaa’s appearance here for the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial for 3-year-old trotters. In a virtuoso, dare I say once-in-a-lifetime performance, he won the Beal in a ridiculous time of 1:50:4, the fastest time ever trotted by any age on a 5/8-mile oval. Corey Callahan did the driving for trainer Richard Hans. While Googoo Gaagaa has since struggled with keeping stride in his subsequent start, nobody can ever take away what he did that Saturday night.

That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at



Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

June 29-July 5, 2012

When I first heard that we at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs were going to be hosting not one, not two, but three major stakes races in a single day, I immediately thought back to the last time we had that kind of star-packed card, the 2010 Breeders Crown. While 3 stakes races can’t quite match up to the 12 we had that October night two years ago, the excitement and star power at the track was comparable.

It also helped that the conditions for Sun Stakes Saturday on June 30 were ideal for racing. There was even a track record matched before we got to all the six-figure races, as 5-year-old claimer Hrubys N Luck, trained by Cad Gregory and driven by George Napolitano Jr., paced to a victory in 1:48:2, matching the mark set by Pilgrims Toner for aged pacing geldings back in 2010.

With that sizzling mile as the appetizer, the three-part main course began in Race 8 with the James M. Lynch Memorial, a $250,000 stakes race for 3-year-old pacing fillies. The star attraction in that race was a filly named American Jewel, who came into the race with wins in 11 of her 13 lifetime races. One of those wins came in the Lynch elimination in a world-record matching time of 1:49:2, so it wasn’t too surprising that the gem of the Jimmy Takter barn was made the heaviest kind of favorite at 1-9.

Her foes were out to derail what the bettors thought was inevitable, and, as a result, American Jewel was forced to make a first-over move from the middle of the back on the back stretch. Such moves are treacherous, but this filly is special for a reason. Despite a good fight from pacesetter Economy Terror and a late challenge from Darena Hanover, driver Tim Tetrick was able to coax home American Ideal in 1:49:2, matching her world record time for 3-year-old pacing fillies on a 5/8 oval. I’ve been lucky enough to see some great fillies come through Pocono, including Southwind Tempo and See You At Peelers; American Ideal can go toe to toe with them all.

Remember how I said that a first-over journey can be perilous? 3-5 favorite Hurrikane Kingcole found that out the hard way in the $300,000 Max C. Hempt memorial for 3-year-old pacers. After matching a world record in winning his Hempt elimination the previous week, Hurrikane Kingcole tried to sweep by pacesetter Bolt The Duer on the back stretch in the final, but the leader wasn’t having any of it.

Meanwhile, sitting patiently about two lengths off the lead on the inside was A Rocknroll Dance. After a spectacular 2-year-old season which saw him earn a big chunk of change, this colt from the Jim Mullinix barn struggled early in 2012, winning just one of his first five races. As a result, he was somewhat overlooked at the betting windows and got away at 17-1.

On the final turn, driver Yannick Gingras saw a crack of daylight and wheeled A Rocknroll Dance to the outside. After saving ground the whole mile, he was full of pace and zipped by the tiring leaders to score a thrilling victory in 1:48:3. Some of the racing luck that had frowned on this colt in his earlier starts smiled on him on Saturday, but give him credit for being good enough to take advantage of it.

All that was left after that was the $500,000 Ben Franklin Pace, one of the nation’s premier showcases for older pacing talent being held for the first time ever at Pocono. Talk about a loaded field: Out of nine horses in the field, five had already earned at least a million dollars in their career.

Yet the 6-5 favorite was the youngest of them all, 4-year-old stallion Betterthancheddar. Pocono fans remember him from his win in the Cane Pace last year. His 2012 season heading into the Franklin final was just as impressive, as he had posted wins in four of five against superb competition for trainer Casie Coleman.

Driver George Brennan rolled the dice with Betterthancheddar, sending him on a first-over journey on the front stretch in an attempt to get the lead. We Will See was reluctant to give up his lead, and, as a result, the favorite was used hard before clearing for the lead. In the stretch, We Will See came back at him in the passing lane, but Betterthancheddar showed his mettle by holding off his rival by three-quarters of a length.

When the dust settled and the timer stopped, all in attendance saw what a special mile this was. Betterthancheddar paced the mile in an incredible time of 1:48, which matched the fastest time ever paced on a 5/8-mile oval in the history of the sport.

Such a command performance was truly extraordinary, and yet it was the only fitting way to close out such a memorable night of racing. Maybe it wasn’t 12 stakes races, but Sun Stakes Saturday was pretty spectacular in its own right, and, hopefully, a tradition in the making.

That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at

Record-setting Night of Stakes at Pocono

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

June 30, 2012

Favorites, long shots, world records: Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs’s inaugural Sun Stakes Saturday had a bit of everything for harness racing fans.

The favorites delivering world records were American Jewel in the $250,000 James M. Lynch Memorial for 3-year-old pacing fillies and Betterthancheddar in the $500,000 Ben Franklin Pace, which was held at Pocono for the first time. A Rocknroll Dance filled the long shot’s role, winning the $300,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial for 3-year-old pacers at odds of 17-1.

In the Lynch, American Jewel was made the 1-9 betting favorite, but the race didn’t turn into the walkover that the odds might have suggested. Leaving from post position #1 in the field of nine, the super filly from the Jimmy Takter barn sat back off the blistering opening quarter of 25:3 set by Shelliscape. Economy Terror took the lead on the front stretch and took the field to the half in 54:1, while driver Tim Tetrick held American Jewel back in 4th.

On the back stretch, the filly by American Ideal began her charge first-over, coming up even with Economy Terror at the three-quarter pole in 1:22:1. American Jewel wore down the leader in the stretch and then held off hard-charging Darena Hanover to win by a length-and-a-half in 1:49:2, matching the world record time for 3-year-old pacing fillies on a 5/8-mile oval that she also managed in last week’s elimination. Economy Terror finished 3rd.

The win gives American Ideal 12 wins and 2 seconds in 14 career starts, an amazing record that has earned her $1,152,193 in her young career. She is owned by Brittany Farms of Kentucky.

Next up was the Hempt, where Hurrkane Kingcole was made the heavy 3-5 favorite off his record-setting mile in last week’s eliminations. A Rocknroll Dance left from post position #8 in the nine-horse field and driver Yannick Gingras aggressively sent the colt from the Jim Mulinix barn early, settling him in the pocket behind early leader Allstar Legend, who tripped the quarter-mile timer in 26:2. The lead changed hands on the front stretch when Bolt The Duer brushed from 3rd to the front, hitting the half in 54:2.

Hurrikane Kingcole made his move first-over on the back, but Bolt The Duer gamely fought him off for the lead, hitting three-quarters in 1:21:1. Gingras’ patient drive paid off on the final turn when the ground-saving A Rocknroll Dance was able to find daylight three-wide. In the stretch, A Rocknroll Dance swept by Bolt The Duer and Allstar Legend to win by a neck in 1:48:3. The two also-rans finished in a dead heat for the second spot.

The win ends a string of bad racing luck for A Rockroll Dance, who earned $863,325 in a stellar 2-year-old campaign but had won just once in five tries in 2012 coming into the Hempt final. The son of Rocknroll Hanover now has 9 victories in 17 lifetime starts and his career earnings jump into seven figures at $1,064,750.

Rounding out the night of big stakes races was the Franklin, where Betterthancheddar left from the #3 post as a 6-5 favorite in a field of nine. The colt sat 3rd early as his rival We Will see gunned to the lead in 26 seconds even. The fireworks began on the front stretch, when George Brennan cut Betterthancheddar loose first-over. The stallion struggled to clear We Will See until finally getting by at the half-mile mark in a scorching 52:4.

Despite receiving outside pressure from Aracache Hanover on the back stretch, Betterthancheddar was able to get the slightest breather, hitting the three-quarter mark at 1:20:4. In the stretch, We Will See came at him again, but the 4-year-old trained by Casie Coleman responded to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:48, matching the fastest time ever paced on a 5/8-mile oval by any age. Aracache Hanover finished a game 3rd.

Sired by Bettor’s Delight, Betterthancheddar has now won five of six in 2012 and 15 of 24 lifetime races. He also broke into the million-dollar club with the high-stakes win, as his career total now sits at $1,132,383.