Posts Tagged ‘Battle of the Brandywine’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

October 29-November 4, 2016

We are approaching the end of the racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Horses around the country are also nearing the end of their respective campaigns, especially in the East where many horsemen choose to let their horses sit out the winter months and wait for the warm weather to return.

It’s why the Breeders Crown championships are held in October, since that’s as good a time as any to culminate the harness racing season. We at Pocono have been lucky enough to hold this prestigious event twice, and it was an enduring thrill to be a part of it. This year’s Breeders Crown was hosted by our good friends at The Meadowlands, and what these races proved once again is that the road to a championship often goes through Pocono.

Of the twelve horses who captured titles last Friday and Saturday night at The Big M, seven raced at least once at Pocono this season. Many captured big stakes victories on our oval; others hadn’t quite peaked while they were at MSPD but saved the best for last in their racing seasons. I thought it would be fun, as we start to wrap up our own season, to look back at the exploits of the Breeders Crown champs who made their way to Pocono this past meet.

Some of the names are obvious. Few will forget Always B Miki’s first face-off with Wiggle It Jiggleit and Freaky Feet Pete in the Ben Franklin pace in July at Pocono. The standout aged pacer came home a winner that night, with those other two superstars chasing him home, in a world-record matching time of 1:47. On Friday night at The Meadowlands, he put an explanation point on his season by defeating Wiggle It Jiggleit again (Freaky Feet Pete sat out due to injury) for the Breeders Crown title.

Racing Hill, who captured the 3-year-old pacing crown on Saturday night at The Big M, made a couple of big-stakes appearances at Pocono this season. In the Max Hempt pace in July, he handled the field in 1:49. He then came up short behind his rival Betting Line (who also sat out the BC) in the Battle Of The Brandywine in August. Broadway Donna, who also dominated her division (three-year-old trotting fillies) on her way to a Breeders Crown title as a heavy favorite, actually began her year at Pocono in June, winning a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes in 1:54:1.

The Breeders Crown two-year-old trotting male pacing champion Huntsville actually made his first two career starts at Pocono. He lost his debut in a Pennsylvania All Stars race to Filibuster Hanover in June, only to bounce back a week later with a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes victory in 1:51:4. That would spur him on to the state championship and, eventually, the BC title as well.

A couple Breeders Crown winners actually didn’t have much luck at MSPD. Bar Hopping, who rolled to the three-year-old male trotting championship on Saturday night, lost both of his big stakes races at Pocono to Southwind Frank; his BC title over Southwind Frank must have been sweet revenge. Meanwhile Call Me Queen Be raced here six times throughout the meet, winning only once in a consolation for the James Lynch in July. The three-year-old pacing filly was repeatedly stymied at Pocono by Pure Country and Darlinonthebeach, but she beat them both on Saturday night when it counted most as a 12-1 long shot with semi-regular Pocono driver Scott Zeron in the bike.

And, speaking of Pocono drivers, Marcus Miller, a regular here the past few seasons who is enjoying his finest meet in 2016, made his own Breeders Crown history with a win aboard Someomensomewhere in the two-year-old distaff pacing division at 17-1. Someomensomehwere, trained by Erv Miller, had a win and a place in a couple starts at Pocono to begin her career early in the summer. The win Saturday night, the first for Marcus Miller as a driver, came at the expense of several horses who had bested her throughout the season in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes circuit.

Many other horses that made appearance at Pocono throughout not just this season, but also in recent years, were factors in their respective races on Friday and Saturday night as well. It’s been a remarkable season at Pocono, and that’s evident by the impact the track’s equine and human denizens made on harness racing’s biggest event.

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 stars shine under the Sun in Sun Stakes Saturday eliminations

Monday, June 20th, 2016

What will be the greatest collection of harness racing talent assembled for one card so far in 2016 will gather at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono this Saturday night, June 25th, as the eliminations for the $2M+ Sun Stakes Saturday Championships will be held, seven days before the Championship events.

The Ben Franklin FFA Pace has attracted an overflow field of 22 entrants, including such superstars as Wiggle It Jiggleit, Always B Miki, Freaky Feet Pete, Rockin Ron, and $30,000 supplement Mel Mara, and will be raced in three eliminations, with the top three finishers from each elim coming back for the $500,000 Championship event.

The races for the three-year-olds – the Earl Beal 3C Trot, the Max C. Hempt 3C Pace, and the James Lynch 3F Pace, number their entrants in the teens, which means there will be two eliminations for all three sophomore events, with the top four finishers in each elim joining the faster of the fifth-placed finishers going into their rich Championships, the Beal and Hempt racing for $500,000, the Lynch for $300,000.

On an overall basis, how strong are these fields? Well, take the Franklin: it boasts the defending divisional champion in State Treasurer, PLUS it has the defending Horse of the Year and 3YO champion, Wiggle It Jiggleit, as he makes the stepup to the older ranks. Also, the only possible defending champion in the four stakes, Luck Be Withyou, is in the field.

And each of the events for three-year-olds sees its defending champion from two coming to Pocono: Southwind Frank (3TC), Boston Red Rocks (3PC), and Pure Country (3PC).

In addition: the Top Ten poll reflecting this past weekend’s results has not been completed by “post time” for this release, but six of the top ten horses from the last poll will be at Pocono: Wiggle It Jiggleit (1st), Southwind Frank (3rd), Freaky Feet Pete (4th), Rockin Ron (6th), Always B Miki (8th), and Mel Mara (10th).

Here’s a closer look at the fields for all four sets of eliminations, starting with the one that will likely draw the most attention, the Franklin FFA Pace:

BEN FRANKLIN FFAP (Championship purse $500,000; eliminations this Saturday slotted for races 10-11-12):

In addition to the accomplishments listed above, the 22 Franklin entrants have combined lifetime earnings over $20M (ten of the card’s fourteen millionaires are in the Franklin), and their average lifetime mark is 1:48.2.

The first elimination, race 10, finds returning Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit, who won the Hempt and the Battle of the Brandywine at Pocono last year, drawing post six in a field of eight for driver Montrell Teague, trainer Clyde Francis, and his ownership of George Teague Jr Inc. and Teague Racing Partnership LLC. The four-year-old altered son of Mr Wiggles has won 7 of 10 races so far this year and over $400,000, and has taken his last three outings, including a 1:48.1-26.4 runaway victory in a Graduate leg at Tioga despite broken equipment; the race before that, he set the all-time track record with a 1:47.3 at Philly.

State Treasurer, the reigning Older Male Pacer of the Year, has post five in “Wiggle”’s elimination, but is winless so far in 2016, while Luck Be With You, the defending Franklin champion, is saddled with the outside post eight  – but he won his Franklin elim last year from PP8, and then won the Championship from PP9.

The second elimination features Always B Miki, who has by many been considered the purely-fastest horse of the last two years, with his speed matched only by bad racing fortune, most notably an injury at the end of his three-year-old season. But the five-year-old Always A Virgin stallion has come back in 2016 with three wins and two seconds in five starts, including setting the all-time Canadian record of 1:47.1 in Mohawk’s Gold Cup this past Saturday. David Miller is slated for sulky duty as “Miki” starts from post five for trainer Jimmy Takter and owners Bluewood Stable, Roll The Dice Stable, and Christina Takter.

Always B Miki faces several tough foes here, but none that has been more a thorn in his side recently than Mel Mara, starting from post one for driver Corey Callahan. The horse was placed in the care of trainer Dylan Davis almost two months ago, and since then Mel Mara has passed “Miki” in the stretch, only to be outfought on the end by a neck, and then, in Mel Mara’s last race, he held off Always B Miki by two lengths in 1:47, only a tick off the all-time record for speed in a race – reason enough for his connections, Robert Cooper Stables LLC and J&T Silva Stables LLC, to pony up a $30,000 supplemental entry fee to get him in the race. Mel Mara qualified this past Saturday at The Meadowlands, winning in 1:49.2, with a last quarter of 25.4 …

… a last quarter, which, unbelievably, was bettered by third elim likely choice Freaky Feet Pete, as he flew to the wire in 25.3 in a 1:51.2 Hoosier morning session. Freaky Feet Pete, a son of Rockin Image, completes the “Indiana triumvirate” of dominant free-for-allers which includes “Wiggle” and “Miki,” and he may be able to add to his already-burnished credentials as he starts from post one for driver Trace Tetrick, trainer Larry Rhineheimer, and owners Mary Jo Rhineheimer and Marty Rhineheimer.

$30,000 RACE 10 ELIMINATION (PP, horse, listed driver, trainer): 1, Dude’s The Man, Corey Callahan, Jessica Okusko; 2, Always At My Place, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 3, Take It Back Terry, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 4, Ideal Cowboy, Tim Tetrick, Jeff Bamond Jr.; 5, State Treasurer, Tim Tetrick also listed, Dr. Ian Moore; 6, Wiggle It Jiggleit, Montrell Teague, Clyde Francis; 7, Shamballa, Scott Zeron, Rick Zeron; 8, Luck Be Withyou, George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes.

$30,000 RACE 11 ELIMINATION: 1, Mel Mara*, Corey Callahan, Dylan Davis; 2, Melmerby Beach, Marcus Miller, Ettore Annunziata; 3, Mach It So, Tim Tetrick, Jeff Bamond Jr.; 4, Alexa’s Jackpot, George Napolitano Jr., Marty Fine; 5, Always B Miki, David Miller, Jimmy Takter; 6, All Bets Off, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 7, Rockin Ron, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke. (*- $30,000 supplemental nomination.)

$30,000 RACE 12 ELIMINATION: 1, Freaky Feet Pete, Trace Tetrick, Larry Rhineheimer; 2, Limelight Beach, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 3, Cooperstown, George Napolitano Jr., Daniel Renaud; 4, Rock N’ Roll World, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 5, Bushwacker, Eric Carlson, Chris Ryder; 6, Sunfire Blue Chip, Mark MacDonald, Jimmy Takter; 7, In The Arsenal, Brett Miller, Kelvin Harrison.

EARL BEAL 3CT (Championship purse $500,000, Saturday eliminations races 7 and 9):

Most of the attention for the Beal will be drawn by Southwind Frank, last year’s divisional champion and a Breeders Crown winner, and 13-for-14 in his career for trainer Ron Burke and owners Southwind Frank Partners. “Frank” will have two challenges going into Saturday’s race 9 elimination: he hasn’t started since winning the New Jersey Sire Stakes Championship on June 4, and he’ll leave from post eight in the field of nine for driver Yannick Gingras (who does have an early “double call” in the race with Lagerfeld). Speaking of Lagerfeld, he and Love Matters, both two-time winners in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes program this season, look to be “Frank”’s main opposition.

Decorum will be the watchword in the seventh race elim, as three of the potentially-fastest of the nine entrants come into the Beal elim off of breaks in their last star: Dayson, Milligan’s School, and Jack Vernon. All have shown the speed that puts them near the top of their class if they are errorless, and a good time to begin their improved behavior would be right here.

$25,000 7TH RACE ELIMINATION: 1, Brooklyn Hill, David Miller, Jonas Czernyson; 2, Dayson, Jim Morrill Jr., Ron Burke; 3, Milligan’s School, Andy Miller, Julie Miller; 4, Jimmy William, Brett Miller, Jimmy Takter; 5, Jack Vernon, Tim Tetrick, Randy Beeckman; 6, Dupree, Åke Svanstedt, Åke Svanstedt; 7, Reigning Moni, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 8, Truemass Volo, Eric Goodell, Doug Hamilton; 9, Hollywood Highway, John Campbell, Staffan Lind.

$25,000 9TH RACE ELIMINATION: 1, Dice Man, Åke Svanstedt, Åke Svanstedt; 2, Love Matters, Brett Miller, Jimmy Takter; 3, Trolley, Marcus Miller, Erv Miller; 4, Lagerfeld, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 5, Iron Mine Bucky, George Dennis, Greg Haverstick; 6, Bar Hopping, Tim Tetrick, Jimmy Takter; 7, Promise Delivered, Andrew McCarthy, Staffan Lind; 8, Southwind Frank, Gingras also listed, Ron Burke; 9, Leggs Matter, David Miller, Robert W. Clark.

MAX C. HEMPT 3CP (Championship purse $500,000, Saturday eliminations races 3 and 5):

Betting Line, the winner of last Saturday’s $1M North America Cup at Mohawk, was not eligible to the Hempt, but the horse that finished 2-3 in the Cup, Racing Hill and Control The Moment, will be going at Pocono on Saturday, as will fourth-place Cup finisher Boston Red Rocks, last year’s two-year-old champion, and many of the early stars of the state’s tough Pennsylvania-sired contests. These two eliminations look to be fairly wide-open, as the sophomores try to establish early position behind leader pro tem Betting Line as they travel the path towards the Meadowlands Pace, the Battle of the Brandywine, the Little Brown Jug, and the Breeders Crown. (And remember that last year’s Hempt winner went on to have a pretty good 2015 – his name was Wiggle It Jiggleit.)

$25,000 3RD RACE ELIMINATION: 1, Boston Red Rocks, Tim Tetrick, Steve Elliott; 2, JK Will Power, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 3, More Dragon, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 4, Control The Moment, Randy Waples, Brad Maxwell; 5, American Passport, Brian Sears, Tony Alagna; 6, Western Dynasty, Tim Tetrick also listed, Chris Ryder.

$25,000 5TH RACE ELIMINATION: 1, Racing Hill, Brett Miller, Tony Alagna; 2, Tailgunner Hanover, Tim Tetrick, Ray Schnittker; 3, Big Top Hanover, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 4, Katie’s Rocker, David Miller, Jim Campbell; 5, Talk Show, Scott Zeron, Steve Elliott; 6, Western Fame, David Miller also listed, Jimmy Takter; 7, Another Daily Copy, Jim Morrill Jr., Nicholas DeVita.

JAMES LYNCH 3F PACE (Championship purse: $300,000, Saturday eliminations races 6 and 8):

Pure Country was pure perfection as a two-year-old, going undefeated in 10 starts and being named divisional champion. This year, like a typical country song, there have been a few “bumps in the road,” but as trainer Jimmy Takter noted last week, “She’s won the two big races for her group so far” (last Saturday’s $341,640 Fan Hanover Championship at Mohawk, and the $313,800 Miss Pennsylvania Championship here at Pocono). The daughter of Somebeachsomewhere, owned by Diamond Creek Racing, is set to have Brett Miller in his accustomed perch in the sulky as the pair start from post three in the nine-horse race eight elimination, with a battle sure to come from Darlinonthebeach, the only horse ever to be favored against Pure Country (in the Miss Pennsylvania final, where she set a lightning pace then tired), and second in the Fan Hanover final.

In the sixth race elim, the Well Said filly I Said Diamonds should draw her fair share of attention from post four, with Matt Kakaley driving for trainer Matias Ruiz and Little Bapa LLC from post four. This “Diamond” was second to Pure Country in the Miss Pennsylvania Championship after winning her elimination, and she also shows 2016 stakes triumphs in the Pennsylvania All-Stars and the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes.

$20,000 6TH RACE ELIMINATION: 1, Shezarealdeal, John Campbell, Ross Croghan; 2, Skinny Dipper, Andrew McCarthy, Ross Croghan; 3, JK Fannie, David Miller, Nancy Johansson; 4, I Said Diamonds, Matt Kakaley, Matias Ruiz; 5, Newborn Sassy, Tim Tetrick, Jo Ann Looney-King; 6, Sail To The Beach, John Campbell also listed, Richard Bilach; 7, Princess Fabulosa, Jim Marohn Jr., Greg White; 8, Terror At Night, Brett Miller, Les Givens; 9, Lindwood Beachgirl, Yannick Gingras, Mark Steacy.

$20,000 8TH RACE ELIMINATION: 1, Kiss Me Onthebeach, John Campbell, Chris Ryder; 2, Yankee Moonshine, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 3, Pure Country, Brett Miller, Jimmy Takter; 4, Blue Moon Stride, Andrew McCarthy, Mark Harder; 5, Lyons River Pride, driver TBA, Bruce Goit; 6, Darlinonthebeach, David Miller, Nancy Johansson; 7. Penpal, Pat Lachance, Pat Lachance; 8. Some Fancy Filly, David Miller also listed, Nancy Johansson; 9, Call Me Queen Be, Scott Zeron, Ross Croghan.

ALSO ON THE CARD – a $25,000 winners-over pace in the four-slot, matching Rockeyed Optimist, 18-of-29 the last two years and consistently close against top free-for-allers (including showing a win over Always B Miki in that one’s 2016 bow), and Wakizashi Hanover, a million-dollar winner in his three-year-old form, who was eligible to the Franklin, but is making his 2016 seasonal debut on Saturday. “Wakizashi” adds Lasix as he enters his older form, and trainer Jo Ann Looney-King decided to go into this event rather than throw her pride and joy against the bullyboy FFAers in his bow this season; Tim Tetrick is scheduled for sulky duty behind Wakizashi Hanover from post four in a field of eight, while Rockeyed Optimist starts in post six for driver Brett Miller and trainer Steve Elliott.

First post for this Saturday extravaganza of trotting and pacing prowess is listed at 6:30 p.m.

2016 Season Preview

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

2016 Season Preview

Hello again, everyone! It’s wonderful to be back, writing to the Pocono faithful on the eve of another amazing racing season. Once again I’ll be with you in this column every week, giving you the goods on all the finest performances, shocking long shots, and outstanding action taking place at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in this 2016 campaign.

After about four months away, everyone associated with the track is ready to roll on the new meet. And it feels like it’s a case of carrying over momentum, not just from our special 50th anniversary season of 2015, but also from the past decade or so of racing, during which time Pocono has ascended from just another harness track in a field of many to one of the finest racing establishments in all of North America.

It’s a bit hard for me to believe that this will be my ninth season calling the races at the track. I’ve been writing these columns for more than a decade now as well, so I hope people are used to my big yapper and long-winded bloviating by now. And in 2016 I’ll be adding host of the racing show to my duties from the beginning of the season, which should be a blast. With all of the excellent racing to discuss, and with my good buddies in the TV department propping me up, I might just be able to bluff my way through it.

So what does the 2016 racing season have in store for you? Well, for starters, there are some changes in the schedule. We start things off on Saturday March 19 at our normal starting time of 6:30 ET for Race 1. After a few weeks of easing into things, we settle into our normal four-night-a-week slate in April. The difference is that the four nights in question will be Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and that’s pretty much the schedule we keep right through to closing night, with a few exceptions.

There are some slight post time differences to note as well. Sunday nights will feature a 7:30 ET post time for Race 1. And come the months of September, October and November, our Monday cards will begin at 4:30 ET for a little afternoon racing. Obviously it’s a lot of information to swallow all at once, but rest assured that we’ll be keeping you up to date all season long as need be.

Our schedule will feature our usual combination of outstanding overnight racing and plentiful stakes action. Concerning the stakes, we’ve added once again to the bounty up for grabs for the harness racing’s finest horses. In addition to Sun Stakes Saturday in July, featuring the Hempt, Lynch, Beal, and Ben Franklin, and Super Stakes Saturday in August, when you’ll see the Battle of Brandywine, the Colonial, and the Valley Forge, we’ve added a couple biggies on the first Saturday in May. As part of a day-night dual card on May 7 that sandwiches the simulcast of the Kentucky Derby, Pocono will be hosting a pair of new stakes races: The $500,000 Pennsylvania Classic for 3-year-old pacers and the $300,000 Miss Pennsylvania for 3-year-old filly pacers.

Don’t forget that we’ll also see a steady diet of Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, Pennsylvania All Stars, and Stallion Series races throughout the season. In other words, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a track anywhere putting that kind of money on the line.

It’s predictable then that all that dough brings out a ton of human talent, in terms of owners, trainers, and drivers, to the Pocono oval to get their share of the loot. Our driving colony is as deep as it comes, but there’s no doubt George Napolitano Jr. will have a target on his back after his record-setting 2015 season. Guys like his brother Anthony Napolitano, Simon Allard, Andrew McCarthy, and many others will be trying to take the top spot away. On the training side, Rene Allard and Chris Oakes will return to defend, respectively, their training wins and training percentage titles against an outstanding group of handlers, some who have barns at Pocono, others who will be shipping in their best equine talent.

There will be lots of promotions and events in store throughout the season as well, and we’ll be keeping you up to date on all of it. But now it’s time for the horses to go to the gate and for our 2016 season to be underway. To all our regular fans, I wish you a profitable wagering season. And to all you newcomers, I guarantee you’ll have a fantastic time at the races. The 2016 season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun is about to begin. See you all at the track.

As always, feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono announces 2016 live racing schedule

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

Racing on four consecutive nights and a double-header on Kentucky Derby day are included in the 2016 live racing schedule for the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, as announced by Vice-President of Racing Operations, Dale Rapson.

Racing opens at the renowned 5/8 mile oval in Wilkes Barre, PA on Saturday, March 19th, and will continue for the month of March on Tuesday, March 22, Sat., March 26, and Tuesday, March 29.

In April, racing moves to Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday, with Sunday, April 3rd the 1st leg of the Bobby Weiss Late Closing Series for 3 and 4 year olds, named for the beloved former Director of Track Maintenance.  Bobby retired in 2011, and was responsible for the record-breaking track surface that is maintained today.  The series continues throughout April with the finals on May 1st and 3rd.  There will be no live racing on Monday, April 4th.

The prestigious Sun Stakes Saturday is set for Saturday, July 2nd, and will feature the Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial 3-year-old Trot; the James Lynch 3-year-old Filly Pace; the Max Hempt 3-year-old Colt & Gelding Pace; and the Ben Franklin Free For All Pace.  Eliminations will take place on Saturday, June 25th

Saturday, August 20th is the $2.1 million Super Stakes Saturday with the Colonial 3YO Trot; Valley Forge 3YO Filly Pace; and the Battle of the Brandywine 3YO Open Pace.

The newly-created Pennsylvania Classics for 3YO PA-sired pacing colts & geldings will be held on Kentucky Derby Day, May 7th with eliminations the week before.

Also on the celebratory Kentucky Derby is a double-header with two Pocono live race cards.  Post Time for the first card will be at 11 a.m., and the second will be immediately following the 142nd running of the Derby.  In between, there will be the Run for the Roses Hat Review and a huge party on the track apron.  Live racing will immediately follow the second and third legs of the Triple Crown, the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

The first Qualifiers of the season will be Tuesday, March 8th; Wednesday, March 9th; and Wednesday, March 16th.

Post Time for Sunday nights is 7:30p.m., with all other nights 6:30p.m.  In September, October, and November, Monday night Post Time will switch to a 4:30p.m. Post.  The 51st season of live racing concludes on Saturday, November 26th.

$1.7 Million PA Sire Stakes Championship Night Saturday 9/5/15

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

The richest Sire Stakes Championship series begins Saturday night, September 5th,  at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono will host four $350,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championship for three-year-olds. Each of the four divisions will also have a $60,000 Consolation race; the total program on Saturday at Pocono will distribute purses of $1,770,000.

COLT PACERS

$350,000 Championship – race 12

$60,000 Consolation – race 5

Championship record: 1:48.4, McWicked, 2014 (fastest Championship in PA history)

Defending champion from 2YO year: Yankee Bounty

Leading pointwinner in four preliminaries: Lost For Words

Most of the attention in the “glamour division” will be focused on Wakizashi Hanover, already a winner of over $840,000 this year, including the North America Cup Final, and regarded as second-best on the North American scene to the amazing Wiggle It Jiggleit. Wakizashi has driven post five for the Championship, and as usual trainer Joann Looney-King has tapped Tim Tetrick to drive the altered son of Dragon Again for the Tri County Stable of Nova Scotia. The sophomore has experience over the track, winning a Hempt elimination and then finished fourth from a difficult draw, and following that outing up with a second to “Wiggle” in the Battle of the Brandywine.

It’s unusual to see a defending champion and a leading prelim pointswinner regarded as “outsiders” in the field, but Yankee Bounty and Lost For Words, respectively, are not only figurative outsiders, but the literal outsiders as well in the field of eight – Yankee Bounty, starting from post seven for all-time Sire Stakes driving champion Dave Palone,does come off a 1:49.3 win in a Sire Stakes prelim, while Lost For Words (post eight, David Miller) was the only three-time winner in the Sires prelims.

COLT TROTTERS

$350,000 Championship – race 11

$60,000 Consolation – race 4

Championship record: 1:52.4, Father Patrick, 2014

Defending champion from 2YO year: Billy Flynn (the only 3YO who did not qualify for these finals)

Leading pointwinner in four preliminaries: Wicker Hanover

Wicker Hanover and Uncle Lasse were both three-time Sires prelim winners. Wicker Hanover, an Explosive Matter colt who has done well on or off the pace, will start from post six for driver Andrew McCarthy, trainer Ross Croghan, and the Christer Haggstorm Racing Stable Inc., while the Donato Hanover colt Uncle Lasse, third in both the Hambletonian Final and the Colonial, drew post two for driver David Miller, trainer Jimmy Takter, and owners Solveig’s Racing Partners and Goran Falk.

A horse conspicuous by his absence is Pinkman, #2 in the prelim pointstandings while achieving three victories, but when he won the Hambletonian trainer Takter chose the Triple Crown road for him, and he goes Saturday night at Yonkers in the Yonkers Trot, the second Crown leg. But even with two recent losses to Crazy Wow, in the Colonial and Yonkers Trot elim, Pinkman likely would have been a big favorite here, and using the “glass is half full” theory, the race is much more competitive this way.

FILLY PACERS

$350,000 Championship – race 10

$60,000 Consolation – race 3

Championship record: 1:49, Economy Terror

Defending champion from 2YO year: Southwind Roulette

Leading pointwinner in four preliminaries: Somewhere Sweet

Perhaps the best testimony to the contentiousness of this division all year, and in theory here Saturday, is the fact that prelim pointleader Somewhere Sweet won only once in the prelims. But the daughter of Somebeachsomewhere, trained by Brian Brown for Miller’s Stable, has been a very consistent miss, winning half her ten seasonal starts and never finishing worse than fourth, and she draws the favorable post two for driver David Miller.

There were two two-time prelim winners in this division, but for Saturday they had the misfortune of drawing the two outside spots on the gate: Serious Filly (PP7, also trained by Brown, Tim Tetrick listed) and Safe From Terror (PP8, trainer Ron Burke, also listing Tetrick on the early sheet).

FILLY TROTTERS

$350,000 Championship – race 9

$60,000 Consolation – race 14

Championship record: 1:51.3, Check Me Out, 2012 (fastest trot Champion ever)

Defending champion from 2YO year: Wild Honey

Leading pointwinner in four preliminaries: Sarcy (not entered), Smokinmombo #2

Last year’s divisional champion Wild Honey has come back sharply in 2015, with a win in the Hambletonian Oaks Final and two Sire Stakes wins. The Cantab Hall filly is likely to be held as the horse to beat despite drawing post eight for driver Dave Palone, trainer Jimmy Takter, and the ownership combine of Takter, Fielding, Liverman, and Fielding.

Jimmy Takter is also the trainer of Sarcy, who was #1 in the prelim points, but that filly has not raced since finishing fifth in the Oaks Final on August 8 and has not won since June 25, so she is not entered in the Championship. But Wild Honey is certainly a fine “backup plan.”

FINISHING LINES – Dave Palone has 38 career wins in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championships, and the driver in second needs a telescope to see him even though winning five Championships last year – Yannick Gingras, with a total of 12. We know Yannick will not duplicate that output in 2015, as he will be driving Pinkman at Yonkers on Saturday. Palone, however, has a call in three of the four Championships, and there are two to-be-resolved double calls in the race he currently is not listed.