Posts Tagged ‘Brett Miller’

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.

The most anticipated race in decades is on Sun Stakes Saturday!

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

There will be over $2 million on the line this Saturday evening at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on its Sun Stakes Saturday card, but while the races for the three-year-olds will provide exciting contests and help provide early season pecking order, the main focus will be on one event.

The Showdown.

The Clash of the Titans – Always B Miki, Freaky Feet Pete, and Wiggle It Jiggleit – in the $500,000 Ben Franklin FFA Pace Championship, race 11 on the 14-race card Saturday at Pocono, which is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. first post.

Here’s an overview of the evening’s activities, led of course by the Franklin:

$500,000 BEN FRANKLIN FFAP CHAMPIONSHIP (race 11 of 14 – consolation race 7)

Defending Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit got the best of the post draw among the three Indiana-sired winners in the Franklin eliminations – but then again, the other two are not noted for their quick starting speed, although they may need to show some to get the major share of the purse in the Franklin, which became a field of ten when Shamballa and Always At My Place deadheated for third in an elimination.

The four-year-old son of Mr Wiggles, trained by Clyde Francis for George Teague Jr. Inc. and Teague Racing Partnership LLC, shows five “clean” calls of “1” (no parked-out symbols) at the quarter among his charted lines, and being somewhere near the front has been part of driver Montrell Teague’s basic modus operandi as “Wiggle” has won 31 of 38 career starts and $2.630,760 lifetime, including an easy-looking 1:48.1 score in his Franklin elimination (in which he drew over $73,000 of a $76,500 show pool). What might happen after Wiggle It Jiggleit gets the top (if he goes for the lead) makes for the drama of the story.

The five-year-old Always A Virgin stallion (are the last two words an oxymoron?) Always B Miki will start from post seven for driver David Miller, trainer Jimmy Takter, and his ownership of Bluewood Stable, Roll The Dice Stable, and Christina Takter. “Miki” has forged much of his reputation as an unstoppable finisher deluxe, with several pace-controlling moves made midrace on the straightaway of a big track. He shows only one “clean 1” at the first split on his lines, in a field of six when he was 1-20* in a Meadowlands race earlier this year, but he also has shown the ability to sit outside and still be razor-sharp in the stretch, as he was at Pocono last week when he was hung the better part of ¾ of a mile, mostly uncovered, and still had strong strides to the wire to equal the 1:47 world record for 5/8-mile tracks, set by Sweet Lou in the Franklin Championship here in 2014. He may face a similar trip on Saturday – but he’s shown he can handle it.

The horse that hung Always B Miki, Mel Mara (driven by Corey Callahan), should be mentioned here, as the seven-year-old Lis Mara stallion, trained by Dylan Davis for Robert Cooper Stables LLC and J&T Silva Stables LLC, drew the rail for the Franklin Championship. But Mel Mara has seldom shown early speed racing recently –which may be a strange thing to say for a horse who’s been ahead at the half in 3 of his last 5 races, but he has been parked at the quarter in all three, making second-quarter moves to the top. “Mel” does not figure to benefit from the “inside geometry” of post one as much as many would.

Freaky Feet Pete was in front most of his Franklin victory, with the son of Rockin Image setting a world record of 1:47.1 for his division in his easiest of triumphs (you heard a lot of “He didn’t look like he was going that fast!” comments after his elim). But again, like Always B Miki, the only raceline he shows with a “clean 1” at the quarter was a 1-20* early-season win at Hoosier. Trace Tetrick, Tim’s brother, who will be putting his 1.000 lifetime UDR at Pocono on the line here (last week was his first visit to the mountain oval) for trainer Larry Rheinheimer and owners Mary Jo and Marty Rheinheimer.

With all these horses of superior and variable mid-race tactics – gathered together in a powerpacked field that collectively has earned $11.8M in their careers and has an average mark of 1:47.4 – the trip, combined with some racing luck, will probably tell the tale in this great free-for-all showdown.

(By the way, Luck Be Withyou, the defending Franklin champ, will be racing in the Consolation this year, from post 1. He won his 2015 elim from post 8 and his final from post nine – and went wire-to-wire, with “clean 1”s, in both contests.)

$500,000 EARL BEAL JR. 3CT CHAMPIONSHIP (race 12 — consolation race 5)

Lost a bit in the uproar about the speedy Franklin elimination show last Saturday was the fact that Southwind Frank, the favorite for the August 8 Hambletonian, suffered only the second loss of his career. The three-year-old son of Muscle Hill, driven by Yannick Gingras for trainer Ron Burke and Southwind Frank Partners, was limbed out most of the first 3/8s before getting the top and went on to fast fractions before getting edged at the end by a game Bar Hopping in 1:52.1. The Beal elim was only “Frank”’s third start of the year, and first since June 4, and he figures to be a bit better this week, although again needing to overcome post seven in a field of nine.

Bar Hopping, who caught Southwind Frank late in posting the upset last week, may have an even more difficult road to hoe on Saturday, as the pillshake was unkind enough to give him the outside in the field of nine for trainer Jimmy Takter and the ownership of Christina Takter, Hatfield Stables, Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld. But the son of Muscle Hill will be driven by Tim Tetrick, who showed the best ability to cope “against the odds” on Elim Saturday – of the nine eliminations, seven were won by favorites, and Tetrick drove the other two: Bar Hopping ($24.60) and 3PF Newborn Sassy ($8.20).

If these two get involved in vicious early dueling, there is a horse who has proven he has a wicked closing kick – and he lives right down the shedrow from Southwind Frank. That would be Burke trainee Dayson, an altered son of Conway Hall who has never lost in his career when flat (11 for 14, with three breaks). That pattern looked in serious jeopardy as late as midstretch last week, but driver Jim Morrill Jr. got a furious late kick out of Dayson for a 1:52.3 tally, and from post two he might again be in prime position to “pick up the pieces” for Burke Racing Stable LLC, Our Horse Cents Stables, J&T Silva Stables LLC, and Rossie Smith.

$500,000 MAX C. HEMPT 3CP CHAMPIONSHIP (race 10; no consolation – only 13 in elims.)

Racing Hill and Control The Moment were 2-3 behind Hempt non-eligible Betting Hill in the recent $1MC North America Cup at Mohawk, and both followed on their fine showing in Canada by winning their respective Hempt elims. For the Hempt Championship, Racing Hill has the better draw, PP2 vs. PP8, and the Roll With Joe colt, trained by Tony Alagna for owner Tom Hill of the U.K., was the faster elim winner, winning in 1:49.1 under a hold the last 1/16 by driver Brett Miller.

However, few people would be surprised if the Well Said colt Control The Moment gave a giant accounting of himself despite landing behind the 8-ball at the post draw. The Brad Maxwell trainee, owned by the Control The Moment Stable, won in 1:49.3 last week, snapping home in 27 last Saturday to hold off 2015 divisional champion Boston Red Rocks, who has post six in the Hempt Final.

If one were looking for an upsetter in the Hempt, one could make a case for the Art Major gelding Talk Show, who starts in the middle of the field of nine for driver Scott Zeron and trainer Steve Elliott (also the trainer of Boston Red Rocks). The timer malfunctioned during his elim, and it wasn’t until after the race that it was noted that Racing Hill blitzed the third quarter in 26.3 to hold off a spirited challenge from Talk Show – who was four lengths off the lead at the half, meaning he went his third quarter raw in 25.4! Such pure speed, under perfect circumstances, could find Talk Show in the thick of things in the Hempt final.

$300,000 JAMES LYNCH 3FP CHAMPIONSHIP (race 9 – consolation race 6)

Last year’s division champion Pure Country went 10-for-10 in her freshman campaign. This year, largely due to some early-season sickness, the road has not been as easy for the daughter of Somebeachsomewhere, owned by Diamond Creek Racing, but as trainer Jimmy Takter notes, “She’s won the two biggest races of the season for her division so far, the Miss Pennsylvania (at Pocono) and the Fan Hanover.” Last week Pure Country showed her grittiness by overcoming a first-over trip to win in 1:50.1 for driver Brett Miller, as she looks to raise her “majors” record to 3 for 3; the two foes who were within a half-length of her at the wire start on either side of her Saturday: Blue Moon Stride, getting post eight after a second, and Darlinonthebeach, in post six after closing for third.

We mentioned Newborn Sassy earlier as one of two non-favorites, both piloted by Tim Tetrick, to win an elim, and on Saturday the Western Ideal miss, trained by co-owner Jo Ann Looney-King for herself and partner CC Racing LLC, will begin from post three off her 1:51.3 elimination tally. I Said Diamonds, that elim’s chalk who came up just short after not having raced in 29 days, certainly has a license to be better off of that race, and will start from post two.

ANOTHER STAR WILL BE AT POCONO SATURDAY

Well-known baseball superstar Pete Rose will be making an appearance at The Downs at Mohegan Sun at Pocono before the evening’s races (and may well stay and bet a few, if his past performances are any indication).

Wristbands to attend the session with Rose will be distributed starting at 1 p.m. in the Racing Lobby. There are a limited number of wrist bands, which will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. The session with Rose will take place between 4 and 6 p.m. Only authorized photos will be signed, and distributed at the event!

AND TO END, THE FIELDS FOR THE “BIG FOUR” ON SUN STAKES SATURDAY (post, horse, driver, trainer):

$300,000 JAMES LYNCH 3FP CHAMPIONSHIP, race 9: 1, JK Fannie, David Miller, Nancy Johansson; 2, I Said Diamonds, Matt Kakaley, Matias Ruiz; 3, Newborn Sassy, Tim Tetrick, Jo Ann Looney-King; 4, Lindwood Beach Girl, Yannick Gingras, Mark Steacy; 5, Skinny Dipper, Andrew McCarthy, Ross Croghan; 6. Darlinonthebeach, David Miller also listed, Nancy Johansson;  7, Pure Country, Brett Miller, Jimmy Takter; 8, Blue Moon Stride, McCarthy also listed, Mark Harder; 9. Penpal, driver/trainer Pat Lachance.

$500,000 MAX C. HEMPT 3CP CHAMPIONSHIP, race 10: 1, More Dragon, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 2, Racing Hill, Brett Miller, Tony Alagna; 3, Western Fame, George Napolitano Jr., Jimmy Takter; 4, JK Will Power, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 5, Talk Show, Scott Zeron, Steve Elliott; 6,  Boston Red Rocks, Tim Tetrick, Steve Elliott; 7, Katies Rocker, David Miller, Jim Campbell; 8, Control The Moment, Randy Waples, Brad Maxwell; 9, Big Top Hanover, Gingras also listed, Ron Burke.

$500,000 BEN FRANKLIN FFAP CHAMPIONSHIP, race 11: 1, Mel Mara, Corey Callahan, Dylan Davis; 2, Shamballa, Scott Zeron, Rick Zeron; 3, Wiggle It Jiggleit, Montrell Teague, Clyde Francis; 4, State Treasurer, Tim Tetrick, Dr. Ian Moore; 5, Sunfire Blue Chip, Brett Miller, Jimmy Takter; 6, Freaky Feet Pete, Trace Tetrick, Larry Rheinheimer; 7, Always B Miki, David Miller, Jimmy Takter; 8, All Bets Off, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 9, Rock N’ Roll World, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 10 (2T), Always At My Place, Gingras also listed, Ron Burke.

$500,000 EARL BEAL JR. 3CT CHAMPIONSHIP, race 12: 1, Reigning Moni, Scott Zeron, Jimmy Takter; 2, Hollywood Highway, John Campbell, Staffan Lind; 3, Truemass Volo, Eric Goodell, Doug Hamilton; 4, Dayson, Jim Morrill Jr., Ron Burke; 5, Trolley, Marcus Miller, Erv Miller; 6, Brooklyn Hill, David Miller, Jonas Czernyson; 7, Southwind Frank, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 8, Dice Man, driver/trainer Åke Svanstedt; 9, Bar Hopping, Tim Tetrick, Jimmy Takter.

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.

Pennsylvania Classic and Miss Pennsylvania shine on Derby night

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

Ron Burke trainees finished 1-2-3 in the inaugural $561,500 Pennsylvania Classic Final for state-sired three-year-old pacing colts and geldings Saturday night, May 7th, Kentucky Derby night, at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with Check Six going a big mile on the front end to reduce his mark a tick to 1:50.3, while in the companion filly event, the $313,800 Miss Pennsylvania Final, Pure Country bounced back from her first loss in the previous week’s elimination race, going the first-over route and still matching the 1:50.3 clocking of Check Six.

Check Six was three-wide a good part of the first turn, then when The Catamount Kid backed off from between horses, Check Six was sent to the front by driver Yannick Gingras to go around stablemate Big Top Hanover, with the first quarter of 27.2 not too taxing despite the extra real estate. Check Six got a further breather when the half was tripped in 56.1.

The price of pacing went up exponentially down the backstretch when another Burkeite, Check Six’s fellow Classic elim winner JK Will Power, advanced to give a stern first-over challenge. The ¾ was tripped in 1:23.1, and then despite going into a stretch headwind the battling duo still stormed in 27.2, with Check Six holding off JK Will Power, let go at a surprising 12-1, by a neck, with Big Top Hanover another 1¼ lengths back. The Catamount Kid held for fourth, with Lyons Snyder, a slight favorite over the winner with both sent off at 2.10-1, unable to capitalize on second-over position and settling for the last check.

Trainer Ron Burke took home $488,850 of the rich purse in the Classic, while Check Six became the second-largest moneywinner of the year by boosting his 2016 bankroll to $301,250, with his career bankroll for Burke Racing Stables LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, William Switala and James Martin at $416,139.

Yannick Gingras, who drove both elim winners for Burke, picked Check Six for his Classic mount, “but the choice was closer than I would have thought earlier – JK Will Power really showed me a lot last week, and he was big again tonight.” But Check Six came up biggest of all at the finish and took in the glory of winning the first Pennsylvania Classic.

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She’s b-a-a-a-a-a-c-k!

Pure Country, last year’s champion two-year-old filly who suffered her first loss in a Miss Pennsylvania elim in her seasonal debut, looked like a filly who could rank with the greats when she overcame a hard first-over trip to win the Miss PA Final in the same time as Check Six, a new lifetime mark.

Pure Country settled midpack early as Call Me Queen Be went a stinging 25.2 first quarter, then yielded to 4-5 favorite Darlinonthebeach (Pure Country was the 2-1 second choice, the first time she had gone off higher than 3-5 in her career). Darlinonthebeach went on to the half in 53.3, with driver Brett Miller having Pure Country in gear first-over at that point and advancing the length of the backstretch to be right in contention at the 1:21.3 ¾.

Pure Country just kept on advancing the turn, gaining the  lead past the curve’s midpoint, and continued on strongly through the lane, holding off the late rush of second-over I Said Diamonds by 1¼ lengths, with Call Me Queen Be, Newborn Sassy, and I Said Please getting the minor awards in that order; the favored pacesetter Darlinonthebeach tired and finished seventh.

Speaking of her Miss Pennsylvania elim loss, trainer Jimmy Takter noted that “she had been a little sick and I had lost two weeks” of preparation for her 2016 bow. The “real” Pure Country showed up at Pocono Saturday, and the smiles on the faces of Takter and owner Adam Bowden of the Diamond Creek operation were big indeed.

(And yes, both winners were second choices, both won in 1:50.3, and both took new marks. The styles of the two races, though, couldn’t have been more different.)

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In the race before the two Pennsylvania stakes finals, the American Ideal gelding Bigtown Hero, no stranger to extreme speed when at his prime, went the fastest mile in North American harness racing this year, 1:48.1, in an $18,000 pace. Simon drove the Hero like he was the best, and the horse validated his judgement, moving to the lead after a 26.2 opener and then hanging out middle splits of 53.4 and 1:20.3 before holding of the late charge of Aslan to win for Simon’s brother, trainer Rene Allard, and the partnership of Allard Racing Inc and Yves Sarrazin.

Fast Times for Second Division Weiss Series Pacers

Monday, April 11th, 2016

Second round action for pacers of both sexes in the Bobby Weiss Series of contests at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono brought some fast times and spirited racing on  Sunday , April 10th.

The first division for males had end-to-end action, with Settlemoir leaving to the top and Iwillmakeyousaywow, the fastest winner at 1:51.4 last week, having to go three-wide well past the 1/8 and two-wide past the scorching 26 opener to take command, keeping the lead through middle splits of 54.1 and 1:22.2.

But underway from midpack was the Camluck gelding Midnight Lightning, who had been reserved off that swift pace, and the battle between two of the first-round winners became joined as Midnight struck on the far turn and into the stretch, finally wearing down the game Iwillmakeyousaywow, gallant in defeat, by a head in 1:51, with Settlemoir, who had swung wide in the stretch, missing taking the whole shebang by a half-length while moving fastest of all at the wire.

Matt Kakaley guided the four-year-old Midnight Lightning to a new mark by a full second in the hard-fought triumph for trainer Shaun Vallee, co-owner with D P V Racing Stable.

Driver Corey Callahan took the other two Weiss divisions for “the boys,” using fast last quarters to guide sophomore geldings back to Victory Lane. In the first, Options Are Adream kept his record unblemished in eight career starts, going to the lead off the first turn and then coming home in 27 flat to turn back early leader Rollaroundtheworld in 1:52. The son of If I Can Dream joined Midnight Lightning as a two-time winner in the Weiss for trainer Dick Lewis and owners David Banks and Layfield Horses LLC.

Callahan and Sentencing Memo came home even faster in the other Weiss male division, sprinting home in 55.1 – 26.4 to defeat first leg winner Maxdaddy Blue Chip while equaling his career best of 1:52. The son of Western Terror used a more favorable draw this week to turn the tables on his conqueror of seven days previous for trainer Eric Foster and owner Arty Foster.

In the four divisions of the female sector, the only division that matched two first-round Weiss winner saw Candy Corn Hanover remained undefeated in her two-start career, sitting second-over while first-up Southwind Tango, the other winner last week, battled pacesetter Nip’s Beach Girl through a 27.4 third quarter, then rolled by them both late in 1:52.3, reducing her mark by 4/5 of a second. The Dragon Again filly was again handled by Anthony Napolitano for trainer Travis Alexander and the Fiddler’s Creek Stables LLC.

Candy Corn Hanover paid $32.80 in her debut victory, but the fans caught on quickly and she paid only $4.80 tonight. Similarly, Some Fancy Filly went from a $50 win mutuel last week to a $3.20 for $2 proposition in her Weiss cut, and she too made it two straight in the series while lowering her mark 2/5 of a second to 1:53. David Miller, who added two winners at The Downs to the five he brought home at Harrah’s Philadelphia in the afternoon, was sulkysitting behind the Somebeachsomewhere-Fancy Filly filly for trainer Nancy Johansson of JK She’salady fame and owners Courant A B.

Mystery Writer, who had to settle for second last week behind Some Fancy Filly, bounced back to record her sixth win of the year in another division for the females, going out in 26.4 then coming home in 56.3 – 28 and needing every bit of her 1:54.2 clocking to withstand American Image by the shortest of margins. Jim Morrill Jr. drove the Sportswriter mare for trainer Kevin Lare and owner Frank Chick.

The final Weiss cuts for the ladies saw the Somebeachsomewhere filly Albany Girl parlay a pocket trip to a career-best win in 1:55 while winning an exciting three-way stretch duel with Winners Over and Q T Pie Hanover. Brett Miller got the sulky call from trainer Jimmy Takter as Albany Girl won for owners Christina Takter, John Fielding, and Joe Sbrocco.