Posts Tagged ‘Betting Line’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review – 2016 Season Recap

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

2016 Season Review

Well, it’s about time to wrap up the 2016 season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. At press time, there are still a few more nights of racing until we officially wrap things up on November 26, but, for all intents and purposes, this campaign is essentially in the rear-view mirror.

If it seems like the time passes quickly within a single season, imagine my surprise when I was alerted that this month marked the tenth anniversary since Mohegan Sun came aboard to revitalize the racing product at Pocono. In the past decade, we have transformed from just another run-of-the-mill track into one of the finest harness racing establishments in the entire world. Without Mohegan Sun’s commitment to racing, none of that would have been possible.

That commitment, combined with the outstanding work of those folks who take care of our racing surface, is responsible for the fact that we have one of the fastest tracks in the entire country. The Pocono faithful were lucky to witness a lot of that speed in 2016. Five world records were either set or matched at MSPD in 2016. And some of the record-setters turned out to be among the biggest superstars in the sport, including Betting Line, Freaky Feet Pete, and Always B Miki.

Then there were the horses who made Pocono more of a home rather than just an occasional destination. The best of those have been honored with horses of the year awards. Our Pacer of the Year, Keystone Velocity, overcame the fact that he sat out all of last season to put up more sub-1:50 victories than anyone else on the grounds. Our trotter of the year, Wilberforce, managed to move up the ladder from condition trots against mostly younger horses to facing off against the featured trotters on the grounds, winning all the way. And our claimer of the year, McCedes, demonstrated that age is nothing but a number, gliding through the claiming ranks as an 11-year-old to distinguish himself time again in the 2016 meet. Their exploits, along with the performances of so many other Pocono regulars, will not soon be forgotten.

Of course, the horses need some guidance to perform their amazing feats, and this year two horsemen stood above all. Although at press time there was still a slight chance that they could get caught in the percentage categories, it appears that driver George Napolitano Jr. and trainer Chris Oakes will sweep the year-end honors for wins and percentage. Both have been Pocono mainstays for quite some time, but never before have they combined talents to dominate the racing at the track as they did in this past meet. Several other drivers and trainers were serious forces on the Pocono scene this season, but the dynamic duo of Napolitano and Oakes were a notch above the rest.

It’s impossible to sum up all of the exploits of the horses and people who made the 2016 meet so special at Pocono. I write this column week in and week out, and even on that micro level I found myself unable to detail all of the fantastic performances, thrilling upsets, and heart-pounding excitement that I was lucky enough to witness from my perfect view in the announcer’s booth. It was a special season, for sure. Still, with the momentum we’ve built at MSPD, I have a feeling we’ll be able to operate at the same level and maybe even higher for the foreseeable future. I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store.

Before I sign off for the season, I’d like to thank all of the horses, horsemen and horsewomen for their wonderful efforts this year. I’d also like to thank my co-workers, who do so much to bring you such an excellent product night after night. As always, the fans make Pocono what it is now and what is always has been; thanks so much to you all for reading these columns and, of course, for coming out and supporting racing.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t send out a special thanks to Terri Phalen. Terri is responsible for putting these articles in the programs, as well as about a million other tasks in her capacity as Program Director/Clerk of Course. Terri is stepping away from full-time work at Pocono to pursue other exploits. To say she will be missed by the entire Pocono community is obvious to anyone who knows her work ethic; to say that she’ll be missed by yours truly for her patience, geniality, and friendship in the years that I’ve worked as track announcer is the understatement of the year.

That’s going to do it for these articles for 2016. I hope you all have a wonderful winter, and I look forward to seeing you all again in the spring. We’ll see you at the track.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week in Review – Sun Stakes Saturday stars shine!

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

July 2-8, 2016

I’ve had the opportunity to call two Breeders Crowns during my time as track announcer at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, and yet I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a race as highly anticipated as the Ben Franklin pace that was contested last Saturday at Pocono as part of Sun Stakes Saturday. Three of the sport’s most talented horses at the absolute peak of their powers battled it out in a race that justified every bit of the hype. And although the result doesn’t technically prove anything but who was the best on that given night, the victory is a great feather in the cap of Always B Miki, who won the three-way dance. After all, the opportunity for he and Freaky Feet Pete and Wiggle It Jiggleit to converge on the same night at the same track in the same race might be a long time coming, if it ever happens again at all, so bragging rights might last a while.

Before we talk about exactly how the Franklin played out, there is the not-so-small matter of the three other huge stakes races that took place on Sun Stakes Saturday. In each of those races, the prohibitive favorite silenced any doubters that he or she might have faced coming into the race with a definitive performance. These performances may have removed some of the suspense from the proceedings, but they also solidified the greatness of the horses that delivered them.

In the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial pace for 3-year-old fillies, Pure Country came in looking to recapture the mantle of invincibility she possessed as a 2-year-old when she went unbeaten in ten races. She had won half of her six starts in 2016 coming into the Lynch, losing twice to Darlinonthebeach, who was in the Lynch field as well. But Pure Country, trained by Jimmy Takter, dusted that one by brushing by her in the front stretch, then held off a game Blue Moon Stride in the stretch by a half-length in a career-best 1:49:2.

Driver Brett Miller was aboard for Pure Country, and he continued his big night by piloting Racing Hill, who rolled to victory in the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial pace for 3-year-olds. Racing Hill is the lone Sun Stakes champion who can’t really claim divisional supremacy, considering that Betting Line swept through him and several other Hempt competitors in the North American Cup in Canada and didn’t make his way to Pennsylvania for this race. But Racing Hill, trained by Tony Alagna, still earns credit for handling the Hempt field with such ease on the front end, winning by a comfortable 2 ½ lengths in a career-best time of 1:49.

The $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial Trot for 3-year-olds seemed to be a perfect place for Southwind Frank to continue his dominance of the sophomore trotting division, at least until he was upset at 1-9 in the elimination by Bar Hopping. A #7 post in the final seemed like an invitation to more problems. But Yannick Gingras never sweated the trip, guiding Southwind Frank to the lead on the front stretch, rating him expertly, and then coasting home for a two-length victory in 1:52:4. Suddenly the loss in the elimination seems like a blip, and the career record of 14 wins in 16 races looms large as Southwind Frank heads toward the Hambletonian hype.

Back to the Franklin, which carried a purse of $500,000. For those who might have forgotten, the three main competitors were Wiggle It JiggleIt, defending horse of the year and one of the most popular stars the sport has seen in years; Freaky Feet Pete, a four-year-old counterpart of Wiggle It JiggleIt with a record almost as gaudy despite coming from humble origins in the Midwest; and Always B Miki, whose world record-matching victory in the Franklin eliminations was the latest in a series of jaw-dropping victories for the 5-year-old stallion.

As if so often the case, these big races never go exactly according to plan. Most people expected several horses to be winging it toward the front end and a sturdy outer flow to develop. Certainly that’s what driver David Miller expected when he sent Always B Miki to the outside on the first turn. But instead he cruised to the front of the pack and past Freaky Feet Pete for the lead at the 3/8-mile marker.

It was by no means easy after that, as Wiggle it Jiggleit came hard at him first-over on the back stretch. Once that charge was repelled, Always B Miki, trained by Jimmy Takter, had to summon more energy to hold off Freaky Feet Pete in the pocket. But after a trip in the eliminations in which he was parked for two turns, Saturday night must have seemed like a breeze for Always B Miki. He fended off Freaky Feet Pete by a length, once again pacing the mile in 1:47 to match his world-record time from the previous week.

The enthusiasm and excitement generated by both the Franklin and all of the big races on Sun Stakes Saturday demonstrate just how much the fans of this sport care for it. They want to see greatness, and they had that chance on Saturday night. Let’s hope that fate provides even more opportunities for the harness racing stars to align in such a manner in the very near future.

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.