Posts Tagged ‘Bill Mullin’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week in Review

Friday, November 6th, 2015

October 31-November 6, 2015

This will be our last article this year that features our Weekly Awards. With only two weeks left in the 2015 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, we’ll close it out the next few weeks by looking back on the season gone past. But, before we do, let’s make these count and hand out the awards to the best of the best in the week that was at Pocono.

PACER OF THE WEEK: PREPARTY

It makes sense that our last Pacer of the Week award goes to a horse from the barn of trainer Rene Allard, since his horses have dominated this column space for most of the season. Yet this particular Allard trainee would have seemed an unlikely choice for these honors a few months back. Preparty, a 4-year-old gelding, had a stretch of three races in August and September at Pocono in which he finished no better than seventh.

On September 18, he returned from a third-place finish at Saratoga to face our $8,500 condition pacers. That’s the lowest level of condition action at the track, so Preparty needed to step up with these or run the risk of an even more prolonged slump. A gate-to-wire win seemed that night reinvigorated him, and he came into Saturday night’s featured $20,000 condition pace having won three out of four, all while moving significantly up the condition ladder from that earlier nadir.

On Saturday night as the even-money favorite, the gelding found a perfect pocket spot as a speed duel raged in front of him. In the stretch, driver Simon Allard guided Preparty into the inside passing lane. From there he overtook Rockin Rumble, a game long shot who battled all the way on the outside only to come up short by a nose. With the victory in 1:52, Preparty now has won two straight and four out of five, and those down times seem like a distant memory.

Other top pacers this week include: Mickey Hanover (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who is now two-for-two at Pocono since returning from New York after a condition win on Saturday night in 1:51; Mr Massimo (George Napolitano Jr., Kevin Reynolds), who continued his late-season torrid streak by moving up in class to win his fourth straight claimer on Saturday night, this one in 1:50:4; and Scandalicious (Marcus Miller, Scott DiDomenico), who captured Wednesday night’s featured distaff condition pace in 1:52:2.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SOMEBODY AS

If you’ve watched any harness racing at all at Pocono over the last two months, you’ve probably noticed that symbol AS showing up at the end of the names of a lot of winning trotters. It’s an abbreviation for an ownership group based in Kentucky who generally uses trainer Anette Lorentzon to condition their horses, usually with outstanding results.

Somebody AS, a 6-year-old gelding, has climbed the highest of these trotters in the Pocono condition ranks. After spending a lot of time this year in Ohio, he shipped in for a $20,000 condition trot on October 3 and pulled off an upset win in the slop in 1:54:4 as a 10-1 shot. He then moved up in class to face the $24,000 condition pacers, acquitting himself well with back-to-back thirds.

On Saturday night, he dropped back down to the $20,000 level. Driver George Napolitano Jr. sent Somebody AS to the front and set nasty fractions, losing the pursuit behind him in the process. Somebody AS ended up seven lengths in front of the rest at the line, trotting the mile in a career-best 1:52:2, the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono by a wide margin and a very impressive number considering the chilly temperatures. Bottom line: when you see that AS name, don’t sleep on the horse’s chances in that particular race.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Code Bon (Simon Allard, Ake Svanstedt), a 3-year-old colt who followed up a win at Lexington with a condition victory on Tuesday night at Pocono in 1:53:2; Musical Rhythm (Marcus Miller, Tony Alagna), a 3-year-old colt who rallied from far back early to score in Tuesday night’s featured condition trot in a career-best 1:56; and Vimy Ridge (Howard Parker, Bill Mullin), who dominated a claiming handicap group on Wednesday night in a career-best 1:53, picking up his second straight victory in the process.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: HOPE FOR BADLANDS

In a condition pace on Tuesday night, this gelding with Andrew McCarthy blew by his competitors late as a 38-1 long shot to pay off a hefty $79.80 on a $2 win ticket.

In lieu of driver and trainer of the week awards this week, I’d like to take a moment to salute our entire community of drivers and trainers. The balance among the drivers and trainers community has been incredible all year long. Tuesday night was typical: 10 different drivers won at least one race and the 16 victories on the care were divvied up among 15 different trainers. It’s never been as competitive at Pocono, and the ladies and gentlemen doing the driving and training are a big reason why. Nice job, folks.

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 Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week in Review

Monday, August 10th, 2015

July 31-August 6, 2015

As we head into the month of August, all of us at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono are keeping our eyes on the coming weeks, specifically the span from August 14th to the 22nd when we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the track with a series of promotions and events on and off the track. Until we get there though, we still have plenty of outstanding racing to enjoy. This week’s action was particularly feisty and fine, as you’ll be able to tell from this edition of the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: R GAUWITZ HANOVER

Claimers often get an unfortunate and often inaccurate rap that they’re somehow inferior to condition pacers and trotters. Week after week that fallacy is disproven, both by the comparable times between the two types of races and by the fact that several former claimers have moved on to be successful in condition and even Open races. And certainly there has been no horse in any type of race who’s been as impressive as R Gauwitz Hanover, who competes in mid-priced claimers, has been the past few weeks at Pocono.

In his last five races heading into a $15,000 claiming event on Saturday night, R Gauwitz Hanover had three second-place finishes sandwiched around a pair of wins. The 6-year-old gelding had achieved that streak while switching barns three times. On Saturday night, racing for trainer Paul Holzman, he was made the 1-5 favorite, and he had to respond when John’s Polyview aggressively took the lead and burned off sizzling fractions.

Driver George Napolitano Jr. never flinched though, and he began guiding R Gauwitz Hanover closer and closer on the back stretch until he blew by. The gelding didn’t stop until he was eight lengths out in front of the rest for the victory. His winning time of 1:49 was not only his career mark, it was also the fastest mile of the week by anybody at Pocono. Don’t let anyone tell you claimers are somehow a lower class of horse, at least not while R Gauwitz Hanover is there to prove otherwise in such convincing fashion.

Other top pacers this week include: GD Airliner (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who didn’t let a month-and-a-half layoff stop him from picking up his second straight condition victory on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:52; Kiss Of Terror (Simon Allard, Dean Eckley), a 3-year-old who rallied at 10-1 on Sunday night for a condition win, his second straight, in 1:54:1; and Spirit Of Desire (Anthony Napolitano, Timothy Lancaster), who captured Wednesday night’s featured condition pace for mares in 1:52.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: PRAIRIE FORTUNE

This 3-year-old gelding from the barn of trainer Mike Deters just knows his way to the winner’s circle. After a 2-year-old campaign in which he won three of six races, he’s been even tougher to stop in 2015. Other than an upset loss at Tioga, Prairie Fortune has been spotless, winning his other four races while splitting time between Pocono and Tioga.

His last win at Pocono on July 28 came in a career-best time of 1:53:4, but it was with the non-winners of three. Wednesday night figured to be a tougher test as he stepped up to face the non-winners of five. After sitting fourth in the early part of the mile, driver Matt Kakaley started Prairie Fortune in motion on the straightaway of the front stretch and easily reached the lead.

From that point on, nobody was even able to put a scare in the gelding, as he held a comfortable lead which he then extended once they turned for home. Prairie Fortune ended up handling his competition effortlessly by 4 ½ lengths in 1:54:3. That’s what you call moving up in class in style, and it’s what you call a horse that just doesn’t plan on losing anytime soon.

Honorable mention on the trotting side includes: House Of Cash (Joe Pavia Jr., Ron Burke), who captured the week’s featured condition trot on Saturday night in a career-best 1:54; Uriel (Scott Zeron, Luca Derrico), who rallied for a tough condition win on Wednesday night in a career-best 1:53:4, which was the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono; and Sonnyforall (Bill Mullin driver and trainer), who picked up a condition win on Wednesday night in 1:56.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: HOUSE OF CASH

This trotter with Joe Pavia Jr. in the bike started Saturday night’s racing off with a band, upsetting a condition field at 24-1 for a $51 payoff on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: AKE SVANSTEDT

He’s an outstanding trainer, but Svanstedt also drives a lot of his winning trainees, like he did on Sunday night when he guided three 2-year-old trotters to their maiden wins in his only three drives of the night.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: DEAN ECKLEY

Eckley has been a name to watch all season long at Pocono, and three more wins this week, including a double on Sunday night, will ensure that continues to be the case.

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.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Friday, August 1st, 2014

July 18-24, 2014

It’s hard to believe, but we’ve reached the halfway point of the 2014 season at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The first half seemed to speed by as fast as so many of the record-setting horses that have graced the Pocono stage so far this year. We can only hope that the second half holds that same kind of excitement. If the past week of racing is any indication, it surely will. Here are some wonderful performances worthy of the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: QUINCY

In the late 70’s and early 80’s, Jack Klugman played a medical examiner named Quincy who always figured out all the crimes that the cops were too dense to solve. But it’s really been no mystery how this horse of the same name has reeled off such an impressive streak of late against the toughest claimers at Pocono. Early speed gives this 4-year-old stallion a great chance to win each and every time he leaves the gate.

His recent stretch of nearly unbeatable racing began with a win over the $20,000 claimers on May 28. He moved up to the $27,500 claimers, the highest claiming price at Pocono, the next time out and won in a dead heat with Giddy UP Blackfly. After a hiccup with a third-place finish in his following start, Quincy reeled off three straight victories in that rugged claiming group, with a career-best mark in 1:49:3 on June 28 the highlight of that series of races.

On Saturday night, it was business as usual as Quincy rejoined the barn of trainer Kevin Lare and powered to the front end early in the race. Driver Anthony Napolitano rated him well, which was important late as both BJ’s Rameau and Machin Music took shots at him in the stretch. But Quincy hung tough to win by a neck in 1:50, making it four in a row and six out of seven. He’s the hottest pacer around, and that case is closed.

Other top pacers this week include: Skitsofrantic (Anthony Napolitano, John Barchi), who won his third straight start and sixth in his last seven with a conquest of the $5,000 claimers on Sunday night in a career-best 1:52; Luck Be Withyou (George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes), a 3-year-old whose victory against older pacers in a condition on Saturday night came in the week’s fastest time of 1:48; and Mickey Hanover (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who reeled off his third straight win and his second consecutive sub-1:50 mile thanks to a victory on Saturday night in 1:49:2.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SWISS LIGHTNING

This 5-year-old gelding started the year quietly, going winless in his first six races with just one finish in the money. The tide started to turn with a victory over $7,500 claimers on 1:55:2 on June 8. After breaking stride in his next start, he bounced back in his next two with back-to-back wins, the latter coming in a career-best 1:55.

Following a claim that put him in the barn of trainer Marcus Marashian, Swiss Lightning stepped up in class to face the $10,000 claimers on Wednesday night. Not only did he have a tough #7 post in the field of eight, but he had to deal with Frenchmen, a trotter who had won his last start at that claiming price handily and had the inside post.

That didn’t seem to worry driver Scott Zeron, who quickly urged Swiss Lightning to the front end to dictate the pace. Frenchmen lurked in the pocket all the way around, but when the stretch rolled around, it was Swiss Lightning who emerged as the class of the race. He kicked away from his competitors to win by 2 ¾ lengths in 1:54:4, which was a new career-best for the gelding. With that third straight victory, the trotter demonstrated how to move up in class in style.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Hoorayforvacation (George Napolitano Jr.-Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), whose condition victory came on Saturday night came in 1:52:1, which was not only a career-best but was also the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono; Highest Peak (Andrew McCarthy-Noel Daley), a filly who followed up a win at Harrah’s with a condition victory at Pocono on Tuesday night in a career-best 1:54:1; and Tamasin Hall (Scott Zeron-Bill Mullin), a mare who beat the boys in Tuesday night’s featured claiming handicap, winning in a career-best 1:54.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: AFTER ALIMONY

With Simon Allard in the bike, this mare finagled a pocket spot out of an outside post and upended a field of claimers on Sunday night at 29-1, paying off $61 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.

On Friday night, the meet’s leading driver decided to hog all the glory for a good portion of the night, reeling off six consecutive wins at one point in the card.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JOHN BARCHI

The veteran of the Pocono racing wars is having his finest season in years, as evidenced by four wins this week that included a training double on Sunday.

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.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week In Review

Monday, July 21st, 2014

July 11-17, 2014

We are coming out of a particularly busy stretch of stakes races at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, and, as those races dominated the conversation, it necessitated the Weekly Awards taking a bit of a hiatus for the past three weeks. The good news is that the Awards are back, and there is a pile of worthy candidates lining up to make their cases. Let’s see who gets the nods.

PACER OF THE WEEK: SCOTT ROCKS

The barn of trainer Chris Oakes is so full of top performers that it’s easy for an individual horse to get a little bit lost in the shuffle if it isn’t churning out wins with regularity. Such was the case with Scott Rocks, a big earner as a 3-year-old who won just one of his first eight starts in 2014 at age four. The turnaround began with a win in a condition pace on June 3 in 1:50.

After a fourth-place finish in his following start, the hot streak really began. On June 28, Scott Rocks took down the non-winners of $12,500 in the last five starts group in 1:49. The next week, it was the non-winners of $17,500 in the last five starts that felt his wrath, as he rolled home in 1:50:2. On Saturday night, he stepped up into the highest condition group at Pocono, the non-winners of $25,000 in the last five starts, and he made it look easy.

Once again with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike, Scott Rocks made a huge first-over move on the back stretch to pounce on a hot early pace. From there, he poured it on for a three-length victory over the field in a career-best 1:48:3, which was also the fastest pacing time posted at Pocono this past week. With performances like that, Scott Rocks need not be concerned about being overshadowed.

Other top pacers this week include: Quincy (Simon Allard, Marty Fine), who rolled to his third straight victory in the rugged $27,500 claiming pacing group on Saturday night, this time in 1:50:1; Mickey Hanover (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who rumbled to his second straight condition win on Saturday night, scoring in 1:49:4; and Wakizashi Hanover (Corey Callahan, Jim King Jr.), whose Pennsylvania Sire Stakes win on Wednesday night in 1:51 set a new track record for 2-year-old geldings on the pace.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: IBANEZ

Baseball fans will recognize that name as being the same as the longtime slugger Raul Ibanez. His trotting namesake has been a pretty powerful slugger at the track the past few weeks. He joined the Rene Allard barn following a claim in June, then found his stride and his confidence with a solid condition victory on July 8 in 1:53:4.

On Tuesday night, Ibanez heading back into Pocono’s toughest claiming group for the trotters, the $20,000 to $25,000 claiming handicappers, and, to make matters worse, was hamstrung with the outside post in a field of seven. As a fast pace materialized on the front end, driver Corey Callahan patiently kept the 5-year-old gelding near the back of the pack.

Around the final turn, while the leaders started to feel the burden of the pace, Ibanez was just gearing up. Callahan spun him out wide and he went charging by in the final strides for the win in a new career-best time of 1:53:4. You could even say that it was the harness-racing equivalent of a game-winning, pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the ninth, so that name is pretty fitting after all.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Swiss Lightning (Brett Miller-Bill Mullin), whose victory over the $7,500 claimers on Friday night in 1:55, a new career mark, was his second straight win; Harbor Point (Tyler Buter-Mark Ford), who handled a condition field on Saturday night in 1:52:4, which was not only a career-best but also the fastest trotting time at MSPD this week; and Commander K (Matt Kakaley-Douglas Berkeley), who picked up his second straight claiming victory on Wednesday night in 1:54.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: MCARDLES LIGHTNING

Even with a Sire Stakes race in his last start at the Meadows, this 2-year-old pacer shad 25-1 odds for his come-from-behind win in a Sire Stakes at Pocono on Wednesday to pay off $52.20 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MATT KAKALEY

Kakaley has been one of Pocono’s leading lights for several seasons now, so it was only fitting that he picked up his milestone 3,000th victory at the track on Wednesday night.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: MARTY FINE

With one of the best percentages at the track in terms of training winners, Fine continued his excellent season with three more victories, including a double on Saturday night.

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.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Friday, June 13th, 2014

May 31-June 6, 2014

The month of June arrived at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs and brought with it some of the most competitive racing we’ve had all year long. We saw a little of everything: Standout performances, stunning long shots, drivers and trainers putting in big efforts, and much, much more. It’s never easy to pick out the very best of such a crowded field, but that’s what we’re here to do by handing out another edition of the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: BJ’S RAMEAU

Like any other athlete, character is often most clearly revealed in a harness racing horse when adversity strikes. In the case of BJ’s Rameau, that adversity came in the midst of an outstanding season as one of the top claiming pacers at Pocono, when, in his first start in the barn of trainer Matias Ruiz on May 17, he finished dead last in a field of nine despite having a lead at the top of the stretch.

That rare clunker of a finish was mitigated somewhat by the fact that he started the race from the outside post, meaning that the lead he captured was extremely hard-fought. Still, the bettors were skeptical enough that in his next start, BJ’s Rameau went off at a tepid 6-1. He responded with a gutty win from the pocket in 1:50:2.

On Saturday night, he was the even-money favorite once again in his usual $25,000-$30,000 claiming handicap group, and he delivered a bravura effort. With Joe Pavia Jr. in the bike, BJ’s Rameau made the lead about 3/8 of a mile into the race and poured it on from there, beating the toughest pacers on the grounds by 5 ¾ lengths and doing so in a career-best 1:49:1, which was the fastest pacing time posted this week at Pocono. Like all the finest horses, this 5-year-old gelding bounced back from his brief bout of adversity stronger than ever.

Other top pacers this week include: Morgan Shark (Simon Allard, Pierre Paradis), who ripped off his third straight claiming win on Saturday night and did so in a career-best 1:50:1; Skitsofrantic (Mark MacDonald, John Barchi), who continues to tear up the lower claiming ranks, winning in 1:53:3 on Sunday night for his fourth consecutive victory; and Stanhope (Anthony Napolitano, Steve Salerno), a three-year-old who won his third straight condition race on Sunday, this one in 1:52:4, despite the fact that he wasn’t favored in any of those starts.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: JOHNHANNIBALSMITH

Fans of 80’s television will recognize this name as being the same as the leader of the A-Team, a guy famous for saying, “I love it when a plan comes together” at the end of every episode. For the trotter of the same name, an 11-year-old gelding from the barn of trainer Gilberto Garcia-Herrera, the plan has been pretty simple. He just goes out and beats everybody he faces.

Coming into Wednesday night’s $12,500 claiming trot, Johnhannibalsmith had made seven starts in 2014 and won six of them. His only loss was by a heartbreaking head to Fortissimo on April 25 at Chester, but he ripped off three more wins in a row following that defeat, two of them coming at Pocono.

On Wednesday night, he upped his claiming price from $10,000 to $12,500 for a new challenge, but the race played out the same when the gelding booked to the front end. With his regular driver George Napolitano Jr. in tow, Johnhannibalsmith led all the way even though he was tested at the end of the mile. That extra effort led him to a career-best time of 1:54:3, meaning that this veteran trotter deserves another victory cigar lit in his honor, just like his television namesake liked to do.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Tamasin Hall (Bill Mullin driver and trainer), a mare who picked up her second straight condition win on Tuesday night, this one in 1:56:3; Bufalino Hanover (Matt Kakaley, Todd Schadel), whose condition win on Tuesday night came in the week’s fastest trotting time of 1:53:3, which was also his career-best; and Truth In Action (Mike Simons, Jenny Melander), who overcame an outside post position to win a claimer on Tuesday night in 1:55:2.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: PSYCHOBABBLE

The filly’s maiden victory on Tuesday night with Tom Jackson in the bike was probably just as memorable for her bettors as it was for her, as she cashed in at 36-1 for a $74.40 payout on a $2 ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: JOE PAVIA JR.

Joe proved this week that he is still a force in the sulky when he takes on enough drives, posting back-to-back three-win nights on Saturday and Sunday night.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: FRED GRANT

Grant pulled off a unique training double on Tuesday night, as each of his winners, trotter Psychobabble and pacer Somenicebeach, earned their maiden victories.

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.