Posts Tagged ‘Breeders Crown’

Van Rose Memorial highlights Derby Day card

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

The Van Rose Memorial Pace on Saturday night, Kentucky Derby night, was another terrific addition to the trophy case of the pnenomenal Luck Be Withyou.

Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono resume of Luck Be Withyou:

2013 – Breeders Crown winner at two at the Northeast PA oval.

2014 – Took his lifetime mark of 1:48 here.

2015 – Franklin Final winner despite post nine and Pocono Pacer of the Year.

2016 – Van Rose Invitational winner in 1:48.4 in only his second start of the year.

Luck Be Withyou, a five-year-old son of Western Ideal who LOVES The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, came out of the pocket behind a blistering pace set by JK Endofanera to win the $50,000 Rose invitational by a neck. “Luck” left strongly to get the garden spot behind JK Endofanera, who whistled to the quarter in 25.4, rated the half against the wind to a fairly-moderate 54.3, then tacked on a 26.2 third quarter (52.3 in the odd-numbered quarters) to open a clear lead at and past the 1:21 ¾.

But George Napolitano Jr., the Downs’ all-time leading driver, got “Luck” narrowing the gap into the stretch, with P H Supercam, the only other horse connected to the front, swinging three-wide as the winner vacated the pocket. Luck Be Withyou drove down the center of the track and picked up JK Endofanera late to win by a neck, with P H Supercam just another neck back in third. Rockeyed Optimist, the favorite from post six, was away sixth and had nonflowing cover, and only able to rally for fourth; Levy hero Bit Of A Legend N, stuck with the outside post nine, was also thwarted by the speedburners inside him, took back, raced fourth-over, and could do no better than sixth.

“The two of us get together on this track pretty well,” understated Napolitano, who also noted, “And this was only second start after a long layoff” (before his 2016 debut last week, he had last raced at Balmoral on November 7). Chris Oakes is the horse’s regular conditioner when he is racing in the area, and John Craig saw his veteran raise his lifetime bankroll to $1,138,781 with the fastest mile of the year at Pocono, taken with the mercury in the low 50’s and with a decent stretch headwind.

Three $30,000 divisions of a Pennsylvania All-Stars event for state-bred three-year-old trotting colts and geldings were featured on the afternoon portion of the Pocono doubleheader, with some sophomores who had been flying “just under the radar” at two taking advantages of breaks by the divisional favorites and getting their 2016 stakes seasons off to a fast start.

In the opening cut, Tyson picked a good time to break his maiden, in control of the situation for the last half in a 1:55.4 mile, last quarter 28.3 for driver Corey Callahan, trainer Trond Smedshammer, and the ownership combine of the Purple Haze Stables LLC, American Viking Racing Stable, Anderson Farms, and Marc Goldberg. The altered son of Donato Hanover stayed steady throughout the mile while his main rivals kept knocking themselves out of competition – first 2-5 chalk Love Matters, then quick-leaving Pilgrims Tide (6-1), and finally pocketsitting Hollywood Highway (7-1), who had yielded command to 9-2 second choice Tyson and his move in front of the stands the first time. Tyson went on to an easy 2¼ length win over Edinburgh, with Will Self rallying for a distant third.

Mikkeli Hanover, named after the Finnish countryside oval where Varenne once set the world standard for 5/8-mile tracks, might have a little ways to go to come close to the talent level of that one, but according to driver Yannick Gingras, he’s still a little green, and yet he was able to lower his mark three seconds by winning his division by a length in 1:56.3. The Andover Hall colt, the 7-1 third choice, made a second move to go to the lead past the 5/8, then benefited when favorite Massive Clout, who had followed him down the back and had retucked in the pocket behind him, made a break on the far turn, leaving Mikkeli with a 4 to 5 length lead late on the turn. Second choice Granite State and Marion Gondolier came on with late bids, but they had to settle for minor honors behind Mikkeli Hanover, who is trained by Ron Burke for his Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Crawford Farms LLC, and Panhellenic Stable Corporation.

The third division was also the fastest, and it produced a second All-Stars winner for driver “Captain” Corey Callahan in 14-1 shot Hititoutofthepark, who worked to the lead at the ¼, shook off the first-over challenge of favored Make Or Miss (that colt eventually broke), and then staved off potential rocket rocket Lagerfeld by a head in 1:55, lowering his lifetime best by a tick, with Cloud Nine Hanover third. The Yankee Glide ridgling, a five-time winner at two, is conditioned by John Butenschoen for owners Give It A Shot Stable, Kurt Welling, and VIP Internet Stable LLC.

Saturday features and George Napolitano Jr.’s win streak

Monday, November 9th, 2015

In the $24,000 co-featured events at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Saturday night, November 7th,  both winners used “pocket rocket” tactics to emerge with victories — Extracurricular on the trot and Arthur Blue Chip on the pace.

Extracurricular, a veteran Revenue S gelding owned by Darren Mahoney, had a tougher time making his rally effective — as befits a 10-1 shot trying to catch a 1-5 pacesetting favorite, Somebody As. But Extracurricular dug in for the stretch battle with gameness and edged his frontstepping rival while taking a new mark of 1:52 at age nine for the brother team of driver Simon and trainer Rene Allard.

Arthur Blue Chip was the 11-10 favorite in his event and collared pacesetting Somethinginthewind with a bit more ease, but then the son of Shadow Play had to stay in high gear to withstand the persistent first-over Ontario Success, whose bid for victory came up a half-length shy. Dr. Ian Moore conditions the winner, who was third in his Breeders Crown elimination last month, for the Shadow One Stable.

George Napolitano Jr., the winningest driver in North American harness racing this season, visited Victory Lane five times on the Saturday card at Pocono

to raise his margin over second-place Aaron Merriman to 22, with the score now Napolitano 743, Merriman 721.

“George Nap” will get a chance to add to his margin Sunday afternoon at Harrah’s Philadelphia, but then Merriman will compete on four cards — Northfield Sunday night, The Meadows Monday afternoon and Northfield Monday night, and The Meadows Tuesday afternoon  – before Napolitano resumes sulky action here Tuesday night, concurrent with Merriman racing at Northfield.

There are two more weeks of racing in the 2015 season here at The Downs, with the trotters and pacers going on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday evenings this week and next, with the final night November 21.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

October 24-30, 2015

As we head into the final month of the 2015 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, it’s fun to look back and contemplate what an assemblage of equine talent we were lucky to see this year. As Pocono has ascended in the past decade to become one of the finest tracks in the country, the world’s top standardbreds often make the track an important part of their racing itineraries.

This past Saturday at Woodbine in Canada, the Breeders Crown races, which Pocono has hosted twice before and which serve as the unofficial yearend championships for harness racing’s various divisions, were held. And several of the big winners also spent a little time at MSPD this year, with varying levels of success.

Four of the twelve Breeders Crown champions from Saturday night raced at Pocono at some point this past year. (Two others, Open pacing champ Always B Miki and 2-year-old pacing colt Boston Red Rocks qualified here but never raced under the lights.) So let’s turn our focus to that quartet of big winners, particularly in the context of their 2015 performances at Pocono.

We start with Pure Country, who added an exclamation point to a wondrous debut racing season with her two-year-old pacing win at the Breeders Crown. The Jimmy Takter trainee has won every one of her ten career starts, so she’s been impossible to beat no matter what tracks she frequents. Still there’s a sentimental connection to Pocono, because it was here that she made her racing debut on June 30 in a Pennsylvania All Stars race.

Needless to say, she won that race. She returned in August to pick up another victory, this time against Pennsylvania Sire Stakes competition. This unbelievable unbeaten streak seems likely to continue into her three-year-old campaign next year, at which point we can only hope she returns to the scene of her introduction to the racing public.

Another Jimmy Takter trainee who made his mark at Pocono before busting onto the larger scene is The Bank. For much of the season, this 3-year-old colt came up short behind his more highly-touted stablemate Pinkman. This included his first Pocono appearance on August 22, when he finished 2nd in the $500,000 Colonial behind a typically brilliant Pinkman performance.

But two weeks later it was The Bank’s turn to take the spotlight in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. With Pinkman not in the field, The Bank went from understudy to star that night, scoring a decisive win in 1:53:1. And maybe that was all the confidence he needed, because he outtrotted his old buddy Pinkman to pull off the upset victory on Saturday.

Wild Honey has had some of the finest moments of her racing career at Pocono oval. The 3-year-old filly won the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship at the track as a 2-year-old in 2014, then defended her title this year with a rallying win. That more than made up for a loss as a 1-9 favorite to Smokin Mambo in a preliminary leg of the Sire Stakes at Pocono in June.

But then again, Wild Honey knows a thing or two about atoning for losses. Last year she was the dominant 2-year-old filly in the division but she broke stride in the Breeders Crown, an unfortunate blemish on an otherwise brilliant season. Her three-year-old year has been brilliant as well, but she was the second choice behind Mission Brief in the Breeders Crown finals on Saturday. This time it was Mission Brief going off stride, leaving Wild Honey to pick up the title that eluded her a year ago.

The example of Divine Caroline, a three-year-old pacing filly from the barn of trainer Joe Holloway, shows how fortunes can change, even within the relatively short span of a racing season. The filly raced at Pocono twice in June. In the James M Lynch Memorial elimination, she finished second. She followed that up the next week by finishing sixth in the final won by Bettor Be Steppin.

But the month of October has belonged to her, with four straight victories. The last of those victories came in the Breeders Crown final on Saturday, as she handled a field that included Bettor Be Steppin and a few others who competed in the Lynch way back when, a complete turnaround from the way it all worked out for her in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

So maybe Divine Caroline doesn’t have the fondest memories of the Pocono oval. By contrast, the Pocono faithful can look back happily at these four champions and know that the road to harness racing immortality went right through their backyard.

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.

Oakes & Napolitano team sweep Saturday features

Monday, October 12th, 2015

Driver George Napolitano Jr. and trainer Chris Oakes combined for a sweep of the pacing features Saturday night, October 1oth,  at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with Scott Rocks a pocket rocket in taking the $26,000 pace in 1:50.1 and Luck Be Withyou controlling the pace to report home first in 1:49.1 in a $24,000 event.

Napolitano left hard with Scott Rocks, an altered son of Rocknroll Hanover, forcing a pocket tuck from Lonewolf Currier, then surrendering the front to the brushing Bushwacker past the 27.1 opener. Bushwacker continued on the engine with middle fractions of 54.4 and 1:22.4, and held gamely through the drive, but “George Nap” guided Scott Rocks to the famed “Pocono Pike” passing lane, and wore down the frontstepper by midstretch, posting a neck triumph for the ownership of Susan Oakes and Chuck Pompey; Major Uptrend charged hard late to be a close third.

Luck Be Withyou continued to show his affinity for the Pocono red clay surface, having won the 2013 Breeders Crown two-year-old colt pace and the 2015 Ben Franklin Final against top-level competition. The son of Western Ideal then had a dull patch of form, enabling him to drop down in class, and Saturday he took his third straight win on the comeback trail, moving to the front after Somethinginthewind blew to the quarter in 26, putting up 54.1 and 1:21.4 middle splits, and staying strong with a 27.2 last quarter, winning by 2 1/2 lengths for owner John Craig.

In a $24,000 trot, Ray Hall, who ascended to the top levels during the Weiss Series in the spring of 2014, showed that he might prove a worthy rival to his 2015 “successor,” JL Cruze, ringing up his second win in three starts since being acquired by Team Allard (driver Simon and trainer/brother Rene, also co-owner with Giselle Hebert). The Justice Hall gelding stayed off a wild early duel (25.4, 53.4) between Somebody As and Modest Prince, moved up to a great second-over spot by the 1:23 3/4 marker, then easily outtrotted his rivals home, tallying by 1 1/2 lengths over deep Pikeshooter Doc’s Tebow in 1:52.4.

Pocono now shifts to a 3-night-a-week live schedule, with the trotters and pacers under the lights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays until the meet’s end on November 21.

The stars shine at Sun Stakes Saturday Eliminations

Monday, June 29th, 2015

The racing conditions were not pleasant – cool and rainy, the latter making the track “sloppy” – but the horses seeking places in four Championship races on Sun Stakes Saturday, July 4th,  overcame the challenging conditions to earn their spots for the big showdowns seven days hence at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.  The eliminations were held Saturday, June 27th.

BEN FRANKLIN ELIMINATIONS (FFAP)

Two for $30,000; top four plus fastest fifth-place horse return for $500,000 Championship

5YO+ FFA pacing division leader State Treasurer, last most of the way and coming from eighth nearing headstretch, stormed home with a wicked last 1/16 that picked up the entire field in his 1:50.3 elim. Driver David Miller sent the son of Real Desire five-wide in the lane and let his horse do the rest, getting up by a neck over a very durable Dynamic Youth, who was overland for 7 of the race’s 8 furlongs, with Clear Vision and Mach It So taking third and fourth behind the winner, trained by Dr. Ian Moore for owners Sally and Paul Macdonald.

Long-memoried fans who recalled that Luck Be With You won the 2013 2PC Breeders Crown Championship here at Pocono over a sloppy track were rewarded with 6-1 win odds Saturday, as the son of Western Ideal went coast-to-coast in 1:50. “Luck” eliminated luck by laying down fractions of 26, 53.4, and 1:22 in staying safe by 1¾ lengths over 8-5 favorite Vegas Vacation, who had to rally four-wide on the final turn. Captive Audience, last at the ¾, did a masterful bob-and-weave in the lane to be up for a DH3 with Pocono Pike-shooting Domethatagain; Foiled Again, the $7 Million Dollar Man, was fifth after having to travel the last turn three-wide, with his 1:50.2 clocking earning him the last Franklin spot. Luck Be With You’s driver and trainer, George Napolitano Jr. and Chris Oakes respectively, have combined for many an engine victory at Pocono; if they can win next week, neither they nor owner John Craig will be fussy about the path the horse travels.

Brittany Farms bred both Franklin elim winners and was a partner breeder in Artspeak, giving them a temporary tie with Hanover Shoe Farms in breeding three winners (Cruzado Dela Noche, Stacia Hanover, and Wicker Hanover), but then Hanover “reclaimed the lead” with Wakizashi Hanover in the tenth race.

EARL BEAL JR. ELIMINATIONS (3CT)

Three for $25,000; top three return for $500,000 Championship

Uncle Lasse, “not the favorite at 4-5” (how often do you see that phrase?), just caught 3-5* Crazy Wow in the shadow of the wire to take an exciting Beal elim in 1:54. The son of Donato Hanover, trained by Jimmy Takter, sat the pocket, got out behind Crazy Wow as that one raced up uncovered to go to the lead on the far turn, then inexorably gained on his game rival to be along by a head, with Shoot The Thrill another two lengths back in third. Uncle Lasse is undefeated in four seasonal starts for the interlocking owner/breeder combine of Solveig’s Racing Partners/ Solveig’s Breeders.

The Explosive Matter colt Wicker Hanover ($35.20), a double PA Sires winner but yet to prove himself at the highest level, exploded in the last 1/8 to catch 2014 champion Pinkman, heretofore undefeated this year, by a half -length in 1:54.1. Pinkman was sent to the lead early and cut a reasonable pace in the off going, but Wicker Hanover, who had to pause past midturn as his cover Donatomite was the third of the race’s three breakers, regathered and overpowered the champ late for driver Andrew McCarthy, trainer Noel Daley, and owner Christer Haggstrom Racing Stable Inc. Centurion ATM also qualified for the Beal Final, 1 1/2 lengths behind Pinkman and a half-length in front of Pinkman’s stablemate Whom Shall I Fear (the coupled betting entry going down at 1-9*).

A fast pace, and the early break of 2-5 favorite Habitat, helped set up the Muscle Massive colt Cruzado Dela Noche to sweep the field into the far turn and draw off to a 2¼-length victory in 1:53.3 over the two longest shots in the field, Southwind Mozart and Boots N Chains. Cruzado Dela Noche, only a half-length behind Uncle Lasse in a PA Sires event two starts back, took a new lifetime mark with the triumph for driver David Miller, trainer Nancy Johansson, and owner Courant A B as the 3-1 second choice.

MAX C. HEMPT ELIMINATIONS (3CP)

Three for $25,000; top three return for $500,000 Championship

Artspeak set an evenly-rated pace, looked to be threatened at headstretch, but responded gamely late to withstand Pocono Pike challenger In The Arsenal for a 1:50 triumph. The son of Western Ideal, 2YO champion and now 11 for 15 lifetime, made the lead just before the 27 first quarter, and got the middle splits in 55.1 and 1:22.3. But around the final turn first-over Pierce Hanover made a menacing move, and the 8-5 In The Arsenal had been literally breathing down the neck of 3-5* Artspeak’s driver Scott Zeron (winner of half of the first four elim winners). In The Arsenal took a pair of fumbly steps entering the Pike, but then found high gear, and Pierce Hanover just wouldn’t go away, but Artspeak showed his class to dig down and preserve a head margin at the wire, with ”Pierce” only another ¾ of a length behind and also advancing. Artspeak is trained by Tony Alagna for owners Brittany Farms (also co-breeder), Marvin Katz, Joe Sbrocco and the In The Gym Partners.

Wiggle It Jiggleit bounced back nicely after his first career loss, making a move in front of the stands to the front nearing the 5/8 and going on to an in-hand 4 length victory for driver Montrell Teague in 1:50.1. 67-1 National Seelster had the good fortune of the 1-20*’s cover for a quarter-mile, then the bad luck to be left raw, but he fought home gamely to beat early pacesetter Betting Exchange by a neck for the place. The winning altered son of Mr Wiggles is now 12-for-13; Clyde Francis handles the training for George Teague Jr Inc.

Wakizashi Hanover completed a Hempt elim sweep for favorites, rallying in the Pocono Pike to catch Lost For Words by 1½ lengths in 1:50.4. The victorious Dragon Again gelding was three-wide much of a 26.4 opener before making the top, but Lost For Words came from seventh at the quarter with a bold move that carried him to the top past the 55.1 half. Past the 1:22.4 3/4s, the main question seemed to be if there would be a pocket rocket or a sustaining pacesetter, and “Wakizashi” answered the question with his crisp rally, while in his defense Lost For Words, well-clear of third-place A Bettor Hat, had not raced in three weeks, and figureesto be tighter next week. But this, like in the North America Cup Final, was the night for Wakizashi Hanover, who was guided by Tim Tetrick for trainer Joanne Looney-King and the Tri-County Stable (the second straight winner, after State Treasurer, with Maritime connections, and giving Hanover a fourth breeding credit.

JAMES LYNCH ELIMINATIONS (3FP)

Three for $20,000; top three return for $300,000 Championship

The middle and perhaps “featured” Lynch elim was supposed to be another matchup of 2014 Harness Horse of the Year JK She’salady and Sassa Hanover – but nobody told The Show Returns. The second-place finisher in the Fan Hanover despite PP10 at 113-1 was backed down to 9-2 locally, and she rallied for a strong two length victory in 1:51.3. The winning daughter of Rocknroll Hanover shot to the top for John Campbell, yielded to a midrace brush from slight favorite “JK” to sit the pocket, then slipped out on the far turn when Sassa Hanover challenged and went to the lead headstretch. Campbell tipped her wide and went by “Sassa” late, with Single Me third and JK She’salady fading to fifth. Chris Ryder trains the winner for Richard and Joanne Young, whose I Luv The Nitelife set the divisional world record for “f” tracks, 1:48.4, right here.

Stacia Hanover, returning to the races with Lasix after a month layoff, came back sharp for trainer Steve Elliott, making the lead past the 1/8 and going on to a 1¾-length victory for driver Scott Zeron while earning a new speed badge of 1:51.3. Bettor Be Steppin photoed out Wicked Little Minx for second, with both qualifying for the Championship along with the winner, who is owned by David Van Dusen and Michael Cimaglio and was the even-money chalk.

Momas Got A Gun dueled with favored Divine Caroline through the last 3/16, then went past her in deep stretch to take her elim by a half-length in a new mark of 1:51.3. The Somebeachsomewhere filly, making her second move of the race a winning one, was driven by Brett Miller for trainer Virgil Morgan Jr. and owner Geoffrey Martin.  Deli Beach, over 10 lengths out at the half behind a bad gapper, rallied for third and advancement.

FINISHING LINES – Brett Miller, David Miller, and Scott Zeron all had stakes driving doubles; eleven different trainers won the eleven eliminations….As mentioned Hanover had a 4-3 breeders edge over Brittany in a great night for both, while in the siring ranks Western Ideal was the only stud with more than one winning offspring: Stacia Hanover, Artspeak, and Luck Be With You.