Posts Tagged ‘Anthony Napolitano’

Sun Stakes Saturday Eliminations a preview of the July 1st stellar card

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

June 24-30, 2017

The preliminaries are out of the way. This Saturday, July 1, the faithful at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono will get to witness the main event. Or events, as the case may be, as Sun Stakes Saturday will feature four races with huge stakes attached to them, pushing the night’s purses well over $2 million total.

This past Saturday, the eliminations were held, and it was an interesting set of races. Drivers on the top horses had to decide how much effort they asked from their charges. On the one hand, a tired horse in the final is no good to anyone. On the other, a horse that’s held back and then doesn’t make the final is a disappointment.

Here is how the eliminations played out, followed by a primer on what to expect on Saturday night. The outcomes may be unknowable until the races are run, but we can say for sure that it will be an exceptional night of racing.

BEN FRANKLIN PACE for aged pacers

The only favorite to win out of the three eliminations was Mel Mara, who paced the fastest time of the night on the front end in 1:48:4. There were surprises in the other two divisions. While Freaky Feet Pete faded from the lead in his first start of the year and race favorite McWicked was boxed in, Keystone Velocity, trained by Rene Allard and driven by Simon Allard, both Pocono regulars, rallied for the victory. Dealt A Winner was a convincing winner in the remaining elimination, beating heavy favorite Boston Red Rocks by 3 ½ lengths. At least Boston Red Rocks is headed to the final; big names like Freaky Feet Pete, Luck Be Withyou, and McWicked all failed to qualify.

EARL BEAL JR. MEMORIAL TROT for three-year-old trotters

The big news here is that Ariana G, the only filly competing against the male trotters, easily won her split as a 1-9 favorite. Meadowlands invader Long Tom also won as the favorite in his split, meaning that he and Ariana G will compete in the final as 2017 unbeatens, both three-for-three this year. Although Driver Yannick Gingras will likely stick with Ariana G in the final, he also pulled off a surprise in the remaining division with Perfect Spirit, who staged a furious rally on the inside to upend favorite Devious Man at 23-1.

MAX C. HEMPT MEMORIAL PACE for three-year-old pacers

Fear The Dragon received all the betting attention in his elimination, which was understandable considering he hadn’t lost in six races this year and was coming off a win in the North American Cup at Mohawk. But Miso Fast, with Matt Kakaley in the bike for Ron Burke, had other ideas and blitzed Fear The Dragon with a first-over move to win at 11-1. Although Fear The Dragon reaches the final, he goes in knowing that his archrival Downbytheseaside put in perhaps the most impressive performance of the evening. Despite being parked around two turns, the colt trained by Brian Brown battled his way to a victory in a sizzling 1:49:2 with Brain Sears in the bike. The remaining division belonged to the longshots, with 21-1 Santafe’s Coach, driven by Pocono regular Anthony Napolitano, picking up a late-kicking win over 29-1 Ozone Blue Chip in second.

JAMES M. LYNCH MEMORIAL PACE for three-year-old pacing fillies

This was the one set of races where form held, as favorites won all three splits, all on the front end. Tequila Monday, trained by Chris Oakes, bounced back from a disappointing loss in the Fan Hanover Stakes at Mohawk by delivering on the front end in 1:50:4, the fastest of the three winning times from the Lynch eliminations. Meanwhile Bettor’s Up, who had pulled off the upset win in the Fan Hanover, settled for second on Saturday night behind Agent Q, the filly she nosed out for the win in Canada. Brazuca, driven by Corey Callahan for trainer Tom Cancelliere, stayed unbeaten in three starts this year with a rock-solid win in her split.

What to look for in the finals:

BEN FRANKLIN: Mel Mara might be the one to beat but will need a good post for his front-pacing style. He’ll have some powerful competition, especially from Keystone Velocity, who is once again showing the form that made him the Levy champion at Yonkers this year.

EARL BEAL: Ariana G is far and away the best trotting filly in the land, so she’s seeking out the boys for a true challenge. She’ll get just that from Long Tom.

MAX HEMPT: Will Downbytheseaside be in less than top form after his huge effort on Saturday? Can Fear The Dragon shake off his first loss? Is Miso Fast for real and at the same level as the other two?

JAMES LYNCH: Tequila Monday was favored in the Fan Hanover and will have the chance to exact revenge on Bettor’s Up and Agent Q, the two fillies who beat her in that race. Meanwhile Brazuca looks for her fourth consecutive win against the toughest competition she’s yet faced.

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.

Sun Stakes Saturday July 1st – When the stars shine SO bright

Monday, June 26th, 2017

The stars will be out in full brilliance this Saturday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, which is proud to host the $2,169,500 Sun Stakes Saturday card, including a collection of four major races: the $500,000 Ben Franklin Championship for pacing free-for-allers, the $500,000 Earl Beal Championship for three-year-old trotters, the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Championship for three-year-old pacing colts, and the $300,000 James Lynch Championship for three-year-old pacing fillies.

The horses earned their way into these Championship by finishing in the top three in their elimination races last Saturday – a couple of highly-regarded horses did not make the cut, but many of those will be racing in the consolation races for the four events throughout the card. The draw for this Saturday’s Championship events was conducted as an open draw – which, as always, helped the chances of some and may be a hindrance to some others. There will be no betting-coupled entries.

The four Championships will be races nine through twelve on Saturday’s 14-race card. Below is a preview of each Championship as they are being held from front to back on the card, followed by the entire field by post with driver and trainer, and then a paragraph on its consolation race.

$300,000 JAMES LYNCH CHAMPIONSHIP for three-year-old pacing fillies – race 9

The three elimination winners all drew in the middle of the gate or inside that, with the two most likely to draw attention, Tequila Monday and Agent Q, starting from posts one and four respectively. The American Ideal filly Tequila Monday, who won her elimination by a nose over Idyllic Beach in the elims’ fastest time of 1:50.4, may again try to go wire-to-wire from the pole as she did last week for driver Brian Sears, trainer Chris Oakes, and owners Susan Oakes and Chuck Pompey. Agent Q also favors speedy tactics, and went wire-to-wire last week in 1:51.1 for driver David Miller and trainer Aaron Lambert; Martin Scharf shares ownership in the Western Terror filly with Rochetti Cassar Racing and Robert Muscara.

Idyllic Beach, last year’s North American divisional champion and just shaded by Tequila Monday in the fastest elim last week, had a major monkey wrench thrown into her plans for victory when she drew the outside post nine; driver Yannick Gingras will need both sulky creativity and racing luck to overcome this tough starting slot.

The $300,000 JAMES LYNCH CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD: 1, Tequila Monday, Brian Sears, Chris Oakes; 2, Big City Betty, Jim Marohn Jr., Steve Salerno; 3, Inverse Hanover, Tim Tetrick, Nifty Norman; 4, Agent Q, David Miller, Aaron Lambert; 5, Brazuca, Corey Callahan, Tom Cancelliere; 6, Bettor’s Up, Doug McNair, Scott Mceneny; 7, Misqued, Steve Smith, John Balzer; 8, Caviart Ally, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley; 9, Idyllic Beach, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter.

$50,000 Lynch Consolation (race 2): Roaring To Go, 2-1 in the elim won by Brazuca, was used in a 26.1 opening quarter and could only manage a dead-heat for fourth; the rail gives her a good chance to race well-placed throughout. The fastest clocking of all the Lynch consolation entrants from last week, 1:51.4 by YS Tallia, will find that fourth-place finisher starting from post five here.

$500,000 MAX C. HEMPT CHAMPIONSHIP for three-year-old pacing colts – race 10

The two superstar colts from the Brian Brown stable – Fear The Dragon and Downbytheseaside – find themselves sharing the headliners’ spotlight with Miso Fast, who halted the 2017 undefeated string of the “Dragon” with a powerful victory last week.

Fear The Dragon had been put on the lead in his elimination, but driver Matt Kakaley got an instantaneous burst from the Roll With Joe colt Miso Fast when he asked him off the second turn, smoking his personal third quarter in 26.2 to open up a big lead, then having enough to come home in 26.4 to post the victory in 1:49.2 for trainer Ron Burke and the ownership of Burke Racing Stable LLC, Our Horse Cents Stables, and J&T Silva Stables LLC. Miso Fast starts from post four Saturday as he tries to put together a repeat performance.

Fear The Dragon, #1 in the North American Top Ten poll of harness horses going into the race, was certainly not disgraced in the mile – in fact, he came his last quarter in 26.2, faster than did Miso Fast, and regained all but 1½ lengths of Miso Fast’s huge advantage. The Dragon Again colt drew the rail in the Hempt Championship for driver David Miller and the Emerald Highlands Farm.

The other Brown sophomore star, Downbytheseaside, also posted a 1:49.2 clocking in winning his elimination, showing determination with horses charging at him late. Downbytheseaside had his chances hurt a bit when he drew post eight, but he figures to work his way into the mix for “Team Brian”’s other partner, driver Brian Sears, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame the next day.

The $500,000 MAX C. HEMPT CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD: 1, Fear The Dragon, David Miller, Brian Brown; 2, Santafe’s Coach, Anthony Napolitano, Leo Iordan; 3, Funknwaffles, Corey Callahan, John Butenschoen; 4, Miso Fast, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 5, Boogie Shuffle, Scott Zeron, Mark Harder; 6, Ozone Blue Chip, Brett Miller, Ron Coyne Jr.; 7, Donttellmeagain, Tim Tetrick, Jo Ann Looney-King; 8, Downbytheseaside, Brian Sears, Brian Brown; 9, Eddard Hanover, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke.

$75,000 Hempt Consolation (race 7): Every Way Out and Blood Brother were 6-5 and 2-1 respectively in their elimination last week, but both broke stride. Every Way Out will get a chance for redemption in the consolation, starting from post four; that possibility of redemption is extremely low for Blood Brother, as he became the AE1 in the draw and will not race unless there is a scratch in the Championship or the consolation.

$500,000 BEN FRANKLIN CHAMPIONSHIP for free-for-all pacers – race 11:

Two of the Franklin elimination winners, Keystone Velocity and Mel Mara, drew posts one and two, respectively, and a victory would make either one a career millionaire. The other elim winner, Dealt A Winner, was dealt post seven at the pill shake, and he shows only one call in eight racelines better than third at the quarter, meaning he may be staring at a difficult trip for David Miller. (Another numerological shudder for Dealt A Winner: should he triumph, his earnings would stand at $999,290.)

Keystone Velocity went a tick faster than did Mel Mara in winning his elim, 1:48.3 vs. 1:48.4, but Keystone Velocity was rallying off of a 1:20.3 ¾ time put up by Freaky Feet Pete, and just made the lead in the shadow of the wire, while Mel Mara showed a powerful early rush, went to the half in 53 under his own steam, and then drew away in the stretch to a 3½-length victory for driver Corey Callahan. With three wins and a second in four seasonal races, the son of Lis Mara will certainly be one of if not the favorite to win the Franklin jackpot for trainer Dylan Davis and owners Robert Cooper Stables LLC and J&T Silva Stables LLC.

The $500,000 BEN FRANKLIN CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD: 1, Keystone Velocity, Simon Allard, Rene Allard; 2, Mel Mara, Corey Callahan, Dylan Davis; 3, All Bets Off, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 4, Rockin Ron, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 5, Mach It So, Tim Tetrick, Jeff Bamond Jr., 6, Rock N’ Roll World, Brian Sears, Jeff Cullipher; 7, Dealt A Winner, David Miller, Mark Silva; 8, Boston Red Rocks, Tim Tetrick also listed, Steve Elliott; 9, Shamballa, Scott Zeron, Rick Zeron.

$75,000 Franklin consolation (race 8): The two biggest surprises from the elims missing out on the final were McWicked and Freaky Feet Pete. McWicked did not even enter into the consolation event, but Freaky Feet did, though he’ll have to deal with the outside post nine. In his elim, he rolled to the ¾ in 1:20.3 in his seasonal debut before tiring; he certainly can be tighter here.

$500,000 EARL BEAL CHAMPIONSHIP, for three-year-old trotters – race 12

The three Beal elimination winners drew posts one, two, and eight.

The filly got post eight.

Ariana G, a superstar sophomore trotting filly challenging the colts in the Beal, won her elimination race in hand, finishing out her 1:53.4 victory in 27.3 without drawing a labored breath. There may be a labored breath or two required this week from the tough starting slot, although the Muscle Hill filly, who won in 1:51.1 at The Meadowlands two starts ago, must still be rated the favorite to give driver Yannick Gingras his fourth straight win in the Beal (Father Patrick, Pinkman, Southwind Frank) as he steers for trainer Jimmy Takter and the partnership of breeders Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld.

Long Tom took his elim in 1:52.3 and may provide the main opposition to Ariana G for driver Tim Tetrick and trainer Marcus Melander, while Perfect Spirit, who scooted up the far inside to post a 23-1 upset in 1:54.1, has already had her trainer Åke Svanstedt read the writing on the wall and list David Miller as his candidate to replace his filly’s driver from last week – Gingras.

The $500,000 EARL BEAL CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD: 1, Long Tom, Tim Tetrick, Marcus Melander; 2, Perfect Spirit, David Miller, Åke Svanstedt; 3, Sortie, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley; 4, Moonshiner Hanover, Scott Zeron, Christopher Beaver; 5, Bill’s Man, Corey Callahan; 6, Lucky Matter, David Miller also listed, Christopher Beaver; 7, Devious Man, Andy Miller, Julie Miller; 8, Ariana G (*filly), Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 9, Dover Dan, Brett Miller, John Butenschoen.

$75,000 Beal consolation (race 5): One of the likely favorites would have been Rubio, who went offstride in his elim, but like Blood Brother, he drew AE1 and will not race unless there is a scratch in either of the Beal events. Giveitgasandgo, the 2016 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champion, sat right behind Long Tom much of last week, but could only finish fourth; despite PP8 he should get attention in a balanced grouping.

FINISHING LINES – The sixth race, a $25,000 winners-over handicap pace, is named the Herve Filion Memorial, in honor of the incomparable Hall of Fame sulky wizard and former Pocono regular who passed away last week at age 77 … The first race on the huge Saturday card lists a 6:30 post time.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

June 17-23, 2017

Next week in this space we’ll be detailing all of the action from the Sun Stakes eliminations, which take place on Saturday night, June 24. On that night, the sport’s superstars will be congregating at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono to battle it out in an effort to reach the high-stakes finals the following week. In the meantime, we witnessed an excellent four nights of racing just past, the best of which will be highlighted now in the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: ONE TO DRAW TO

For the second straight week, this award goes to a claimer on an impressive winning streak. Last week, it was Tell Us More, who, by the way, added another win on Saturday night to make it five in a row. This week the honors go to One To Draw To, a five-year-old gelding who came into Saturday night’s $25,000 claiming pace for four and five-year-olds with two consecutive wins in that class in front-pacing fashion.

Hot claimers are subject to switch barns, and One To Draw To was indeed claimed from his victory on June 10, leaving the Rene Allard barn and joining Steve Salerno’s contingent of racers. His first start for the new barn looked a lot like the previous two for the old barn. Leaving from post position #1 in a field of nine as a 7-5 favorite, the gelding quickly took control of the pace with Anthony Napolitano doing the driving. The fractions he set were merciless, even faster than he had in his previous two victories.

Anyone hoping that those quick early times would lead to a late comeuppance had another thing coming. Despite pressure from Next Success, a formidable presence who won this award earlier in the meet, One To Draw To held string through the lane, winning by 1 ¾ lengths. The winning time was a real eye-popper, as the gelding came home in 1:49:3, a new career-mark and the fastest pacing time laid down this past week at Pocono.

Other top pacers include: Baby Kitty (Simon Allard, Eric Foster), who moved up the condition ladder to win his second straight at Pocono on Saturday night, this one coming in a career-best 1:50:1; Art Of Illusion (Jim Marohn Jr., James Guagliardo), who scored his second straight victory over the $15,000 claimers on Saturday night, doing so in a career-best 1:50:4; and Deerfield Beach (Corey Callahan, Dylan Davis), whose victory on Sunday night in a condition pace on a sloppy track in 1:51:4 gave the three-year-old gelding wins in four of his last five races.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: TIRADE HANOVER

This seven-year-old gelding trained by Rene Allard has put together an accomplished career, with earnings pushing near $800,000. But he had been in a little bit of a slump until managing a big effort from the #9 post to win a condition trot on June 5 in 1:54:4. That proved to be the impetus for a step up in class, as Saturday night Tirade Hanover jumped up a couple notches on the condition ladder to face off against a $14,000 group.

Although he won his previous start on the front end, Tirade Hanover raced toward the back of the back early on this time around. It proved to be a good choice by driver Simon Allard, because a raging speed duel between Madhatter Bluechip and Armor Hanover created unsustainable fractions. Allard chose a three-wide path on the back stretch for his charge, and the horse picked off the foes in front of him until he took the lead rounding the final turn.

In the stretch, Tirade Hanover had to deal with a late move from 3-5 favorite Wilberforce, but he proved ready for the challenge, holding him off by a length for the win. His winning time of 1:53:1 was a personal best for the 2017 season to date, and he also provided nice value for his backers at 5-1. With a two-race winning streak that was achieved with two extremely different strategies, Tirade Hanover has proven to be as versatile as he is quick.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Top Dollar (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who ripped off his second straight condition win on Saturday night, achieving a new career-best time of 1:53:1 in the process; Treviso (Charlie Norris driver and trainer), who stayed a perfect four-for-four in 2017 with a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes win against other three-year-old fillies on Sunday night in 1:54:2; and Overdraft Volo (Andy Miller, Julie Miller), a filly who followed up a Sire Stakes win at Chester with another at Pocono Sunday night, getting it done in a career-best 1:54:3.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: ABOUT THE BENJAMINS

With Marcus Miller in the bike, this condition pacer sprung a surprise on Sunday night with a rallying win at 16-1, paying off $34.20 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MARCUS MILLER

Miller not only scored wins on every racing night this past week and had multiple victories on three of those nights for his best stretch of the meet thus far.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: DOUG HAMILTON

Monday was a good night at the Stallion Series for three-year-old trotting fillies for the Hamilton barn, as Itsgoodtobequeen won at 13-1 and Out Of Luck picked up a victory at 10-1.

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.

Sun Stakes Saturday Eliminations Night showcases the best of the best

Monday, June 19th, 2017

The very best trotters and pacers in North American harness racing will be converging on The Downs at Mohegan Sin Pocono the next two Saturdays, with elimination races being held this Saturday in order to qualify horses to participate in the Sun Stakes Saturday supercard on Saturday, July 1.

The $500,000 Franklin Pace for free-for-allers, the $500,000 Hempt Pace for three-year-old colts and geldings, the $500,000 Beal Trot for three-year-olds, and the $300,000 Lynch Pace for three-year-old fillies all drawn sufficient entrants that there will be three eliminations for each event this Saturday night, with the top three finishers in each elim advancing to their rich Championship event on July 1.

Here’s a look at the elimination events for the four big races, starting with the one where a top filly is going to try “the boys”:

EARL BEAL TROT: $500,000 Championship; $25,000 eliminations in races 2, 9, and 14

This may be the case of “saving the best for last,” as super filly Ariana G will test male opposition in the Beal, contributing factors being a lack of top-money events in her division right now and the still-awaited return of top colt Walner, and she will be the next-to-last horse to post parade on Saturday, starting from post six in a field of seven in the 14th and final race.

Ariana G is a daughter of Muscle Hill trained by Jimmy Takter for owners/breeders Marvin Katz and Al Libfield. She was named divisional champion as a two-year-old off the strength of 9 wins in 11 starts, earnings of over $700,000, and a win in the Breeders Crown. This year Ariana G has been perfect in two starts, winning her last race, a New Jersey Sire Stakes final for fillies, in a career-best 1:51.1.

Two state champion colts will square off in the second race elimination, which has eight entrants. Giveitgasandgo, a Yankee Glide ridgling, won the 2016 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championship and comes off a PaSS victory in his last start; he’ll begin in post four for driver Corey Callahan and trainer John Butenschoen. Two starting slots to his right will be Long Tom, recent New Jersey Sire Stakes final winner, with the son of Muscle Hill backed by the team of driver Tim Tetrick and trainer Marcus Melander. Rubio (post three, Yannick Gingras for Jimmy Takter) will also get respect off a sharp PaSS win in his 2017 bow.

The state of New York weighs in in the ninth race Beal elimination, as the Credit Winner colt Devious Man comes to the mountain oval off a win Sunday in the Empire Breeders Classic final. Devious Man will be behind slot six in the eight-horse grouping for Team Orange Crush – driver Andy Miller and trainer/wife Julie.

BEAL RACE 2 ELIMINATION (PP, horse, listed driver, trainer): 1, Common Parlance, Jim Marohn Jr., Joseph Skowyra; 2, Snowstorm Hanover, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 3, Rubio, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 4, Giveitgasandgo, Corey Callahan, John Butenschoen; 5, Lucky Matter, David Miller, Christopher Beaver; 6, Long Tom, Tim Tetrick, Marcus Melander; 7, Sortie, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley; 8, President Lindy, Andy Miller, Julie Miller.

BEAL RACE 9 ELIMINATION: 1, Southwind Woody, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 2, Dover Dan, Corey Callahan, John Butenschoen; 3, Don Dream, Brian Sears, Chris Oakes; 4, Andy M, David Miller, Christopher Beaver; 5, Meteoric, Joe Bongiorno, Richard Johnson; 6, Devious Man, Andy Miller, Julie Miller; 7, Perfect Spirit, Yannick Gingras, Åke Svanstedt; 8, King On The Hill, Jim Marohn Jr., Jimmy Takter.

BEAL RACE 14 ELIMINATION: 1, What The Hill, David Miller, Ron Burke; 2. Ei Ei O, Corey Callahan, Richard Hans; 3, Backstage Pass, Mike Simons, Mike Simons; 4, Bill’s Man, Corey Callahan also listed, John Butenschoen; 5, Muscles Jared, Brian Sears, George Ducharme; 6, Ariana G (*filly), Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 7, Moonshiner Hanover, Scott Zeron, Christopher Beaver.

BEN FRANKLIN PACE: $500,000 Championship; $35,000 eliminations in races 5, 7, and 11

The two horses likely to attract much attention in the 11th race elimination will be starting at opposite ends of the gate in the seven-horse field. Getting the innermost draw is Mel Mara, a son of Lis Mara scheduled to be handled by Corey Callahan for trainer Dylan Davis and owners Robert Cooper Stables LLC and J&T Silva Stables LLC. Mel Mara has a mark of 1:47, was fourth in the Franklin Final last year, and comes off of a 1:48 victory at The Meadowlands in which he paced his last quarter in 26.

The Western Ideal stallion Luck Be Withyou had no luck at the pill shake with the outside draw, but the outer fringes of the starting gate are nothing new to him: he won his 2015 Franklin elim from post eight and then the 2015 Championship from post nine! Also a winner of the 2016 Franklin Consolation and his Breeders Crown event here as a two-year-old, Luck Be Withyou is truly a “horse for the course,” with 15 wins in only 22 starts at Pocono, and over $700G of his $1.3M lifetime bankroll earned locally. George Napolitano Jr. will have sulky duties for trainer Chris Oakes.

The charismatic Freaky Feet Pete, second to Always B Miki in the Franklin Championship last year, will be making his seasonal debut in the seven-horse seventh race elimination, starting from post two for driver Trace Tetrick and trainer Marty Rheinheimer. His prime opposition could come from McWicked, the 2014 Hempt champion, and the razor-sharp Rockeyed Optimist, second to Mel Mara last week.

The fifth race looks the most wide-open of the three Franklin eliminations; if anyone has an advantage, it may be the “home cookin’” of Napolitano and Oakes behind Split The House, who starts in the middle of the field of seven, and who won his last race here at Pocono in 1:48.2 – 27.2.

FRANKLIN RACE 5 ELIMINATION: 1. Dealt A Winner, David Miller, Mark Silva; 2. Check Six, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 3. Boston Red Rocks, Tim Tetrick, Steve Elliott; 4. Split The House, George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes; 5. Soto, Art Stafford Jr., Eric Ell; 6. Dude’s The Man, driver TBA, Jessica Okusko; 7. Shamballa, Scott Zeron, Rick Zeron.

FRANKLIN RACE 7 ELIMINATION: 1. McWicked, David Miller, Casie Coleman; 2. Freaky Feet Pete, Trace Tetrick, Marty Rheinheimer; 3. All Bets Off, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 4. Mach It So, Tim Tetrick, Jeff Bamond Jr.; 5. Keystone Velocity, Simon Allard, Rene Allard; 6. Lyons Snyder, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 7. Rockeyed Optimist, Andy Miller, Steve Elliott.

FRANKLIN RACE 11 ELIMINATION: 1. Mel Mara, Corey Callahan, Dylan Davis; 2. Wakizashi Hanover, Tim Tetrick, Jo Ann Looney-King; 3. Anwar Hanover, Jim Marohn Jr., Frank Kamine; 4. Rockin Ron, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 5. Rock N’ Roll World, Brian Sears, Jeff Cullipher; 6. Sunfire Blue Chip, Mark MacDonald, Jimmy Takter; 7. Luck Be Withyou, George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes.

MAX C. HEMPT PACE: $500,000 Championship; $25,000 eliminations in races 3, 10, and 12

“Fear The Dragon” is not just the name of a three-year-old colt – it’s the watchword of everybody campaigning a high-class sophomore pacer right now. The son of Dragon Again, trained by Brian Brown for the Emerald Highlands Farm, won the “big showdown” this past Saturday in the $730,000 (U.S.) North America Cup, closing strongly to notch a 1:48.4 victory for driver David Miller, and establishing himself as the leader in the sport’s glamour division. In going five-for-five this year, the Dragon has shown he can overcome obstacles in his road: tough posts (he does have PP2 in a field of six here), first-over trips, and even an errant head number thrown to the track that caused him to skip in the stretch of his N.A. Cup elim, but he quickly righted and even won that contest.

Fear The Dragon’s stablemate in the Brian Brown Stable, Downbytheseaside, suffered his first seasonal defeat in finishing third in the North America Cup, but in his defense he was pushed to brutal middle fractions of 52.1 and 1:19.3, the latter the fastest clocking at the ¾ on the continent in 2017. The Somebeachsomewhere colt will look to regain his winning ways as he starts from post five in the seven-horse twelfth race elimination, with Brian Sears driving.

Trainer Dylan Davis, who has Mel Mara in the Franklin elims, saw his Every Way Out sweep two eliminations and then the final of the New Jersey Sire Stakes series at The Meadowlands, and he will turn the lines over to Tim Tetrick in hopes of remaining undefeated in 2017 as they begin from post four in the seven-horse elim.

HEMPT RACE 3 ELIMINATION: 1. Blood Line, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 2. Santafe’s Coach, Anthony Napolitano, Leo Iordan; 3. Boogie Shuffle, Scott Zeron, Mark Harder; 4. Every Way Out, Tim Tetrick, Dylan Davis; 5. Air Strike, Corey Callahan, Joe Holloway; 6. Ozone Blue Chip, Brett Miller, Ron Coyne Jr.; 7. Western Joe, Matt Kakaley, Chris Choate.

HEMPT RACE 10 ELIMINATION: 1. Summer Side, Tim Tetrick, Ray Schnittker; 2. Fear The Dragon, David Miller, Brian Brown; 3. Ponderingjacksfame, Brett Miller, Les Givens; 4. Miso Fast, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 5. Pointomygranson, Brett Miller also listed, Chris Ryder; 6. Funknwaffles, Brian Sears, John Butenschoen.

HEMPT RACE 12 ELIMINATION: 1. Eddard Hanover, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 2. Heaven’s Gait, David Miller, Nicholas Devita; 3. Donttellmeagain, Tim Tetrick, Jo Ann Looney-King; 4. Photobombr Hanover, Brett Miller, Tom Fanning; 5. Downbytheseaside, Brian Sears, Brian Brown; 6. Highalator, George Napolitano Jr., Jenny Bier; 7. Talent Soup, Scott Zeron, Bruce Saunders.

JAMES LYNCH PACE: $300,000 Championship; $20,000 eliminations in races 1, 4, and 13

Bettor’s Up defeated Agent Q by a nose in last Saturday’s Fan Hanover final at Mohawk, and the two figure to be slugging it out again as they are matched up in the six-horse race 13 Lynch elimination. Bettor’s Up, who starts from post three for driver Doug McNair and trainer Scott McEneny, has been victorious in half of her 16 career starts, while Agent Q, the 2016 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champion who will begin from the rail for driver David Miller and trainer Aaron Lambert, has been first or second in all but one of her 15 career trips behind the gate.

In the first race elimination, a seven-horse field, Tequila Monday and Idyllic Beach look to rebound: they were the favorite and second choice in the Fan Hanover, respectively, but respectively finished third and fourth. They have the advantage of inside starting positions on Saturday: Tequila Monday starts off from the rail for driver Brian Sears and trainer Chris Oakes, while Idyllic Beach, the 2016 North American champion for this division, begins just to her right for driver Yannick Gingras and trainer Jimmy Takter.

Misqued eked out a nose victory in her New Jersey Sire Stakes final on June 2, and perhaps that race will be a better sign for her as she begins from post two in a grouping of six for driver Steve Smith and trainer John Balzer. This Lynch elim appears to be the most wide-open of the event’s trio of races.

LYNCH RACE 1 ELIMINATION: 1. Tequila Monday, Brian Sears, Chris Oakes; 2. Idyllic Beach, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 3. Inverse Hanover, David Miller, Nifty Norman; 4. Kate Is Well Said, Tim Tetrick, Jim Campbell; 5. YS Tallia, Simon Allard, Rene Allard; 6. Pittstop Danika, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 7. V String, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley.

LYNCH RACE 4 ELIMINATION: 1. Brazuca, Corey Callahan, Thomas Cancelliere; 2. Misqued, Steve Smith, John Balzer; 3, Big City Betty, Jim Marohn Jr., Steve Salerno; 4. Gallic Sea, Brian Sears, Jim Campbell; 5. Roaring To Go, Brett Miller, Kevin Lare; 6. Risky Romance, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley.

LYNCH RACE 13 ELIMINATION: 1. Agent Q, David Miller, Aaron Lambert; 2. Hail Damage Blues, Mike Simons, Tom Fanning; 3. Bettor’s Up, Doug McNair, Scott McEneny; 4. Caviart Ally, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley; 5. Concerto, Andrew McCarthy also listed, Kelvin Harrison; 6. Miss Jones, Corey Callahan, Joe Holloway.

THE UNDERCARD: A $25,000 winners-over pace in race 8, with a field of eight with combined earnings of $3.8M and an average lifetime mark of 1:49, and a $22,500 “nw22500L5” pace where the field of nine has amassed over $2.4M in earnings and an average speed badge of 1:50. (Six horses in each race took their marks at Pocono.)

First post for this first-rate Sun Stakes Saturday elimination night card, with action literally from beginning to end, is listed for 6:30 p.m.

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The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

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.