Posts Tagged ‘Don Wiest’

50th Anniversary Week is here!

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

The 50th Anniversary festivities continue at Pocono Downs, with everyone looking forward to an exciting weekend of tremendous racing and events.

Friday, August 21, racing will kick off with a special Post Time of 5:30pm, and the “Legends Race” will start off the night.  The race will feature familiar names such as Bill Popfinger; Don Wiest; Jim Williard; Bill Mullin, Syl King Jr.; Eddie Nickle; and Joe Antonelli.  There  will also be a special Winner’s Circle trophy presention by Pocono’s first leading driver, J.D. Dennis, Sr., and Gene Daisey, who drove in 1965 as well.  Horsemen from the past to the present are all invited into the Circle for the presentation and a group photo.  After the 10th race, Wilkes Barre Mayor Thomas M. Leighton will present a proclamation honoring the track for their 50th anniversary and their contribution to the community.

Immediately following the races on Friday night, there will be a free concert on the apron with a Tribute to Motown featuring The Fellas; and a Tribute to the Supremes, featuring Encorz.  The time for the concert will be approximately 9:30pm.  A $1 Coors Light draft drink special will be at the track apron bars only for the concert fans.  After the concert, fans with the coupon from the live racing program can grab their “Decades of the Downs” 1965  t-shirts on the apron, while supplies last.

Saturday afternoon, August 22, former manager and Major League baseball player Pete Rose drops in for pictures and autographs in the racing lobby from 4:00pm to 6:00pm. This is a wristband-only event, and wristbands are available starting at 1:00pm in the lobby.  Authorized photos will be signed, and are available at the event.

Then the action shifts to the famous 5/8 mile oval with the $2.3 million Super Stakes Saturday.  Representative Eddie Day Pashinski of the 121st Legislative District in Luzerne County will perform the National Anthem to kick off this tremendous night of racing,  featuring the Battle of the Brandywine; the Colonial Trot; and the Valley Forge Pace, plus two consolations of each.  Also featured on this prestigious night of racing is the Sebastian K Invitational Trot, named after the fastest trotter of all time.  The famed trotter will also be honored with a special retirement ceremony after the 4th race on the card, featuring owner Michael Knuttson; driver/trainer, Ake Svanstedt and Bernie Noren; along with James Simpson from Hanover Shoe Farms.  Special collectible Sebastian K color photos will be available for fans after the ceremony.  A special 50th Anniversary souvenir beer mug will be given away to fans with the coupon from the live racing program starting at 9:00pm at the Trackside Concession area on the apron.  Programs are on sale starting at 5:00pm.

The Hanover Shoe Farms Mares Invitational Pace and the USTA Invitational Pace have also been added to this stellar card of racing, with a purse of $50,000 to each.

Immediately following the races, at approximately 10:30pm,  will be a spectacular fireworks display featuring music of all five decades from 1960’s to the present.  Fans are encouraged to arrive early for a good spot on the apron.

Plenty of food will be available on the apron both Friday and Saturday with food trucks Dominic’s; Big Belly BBQ; Johnny Rockets; and Doc Popcorn ready to go with something for everyone’s appetite.  The Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame will be on hand with items for sale as well.

In the racing lobby both Friday and Saturday will be a special display of memorabilia from the past 50 years for fans to enjoy.  Included are old photos; trophies; programs, and more.

As always, parking and admission are free at the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, and valet parking is also free.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

September 19-25, 2014

Racing at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs has geared down somewhat in terms of quantity, as the schedule now features three live nights per week. But the quality hasn’t let down a bit, as evidenced by a Saturday night card that included no pacing miles slower than 1:50:2 and no trotting miles slower than 1:54. We even had a world-record performance, which, of course, stands out among this edition of the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: BIGTOWN HERO

This 6-year-old gelding was struggling with the upper reaches of the pacing ranks when he was last here in June, but he’s been performing well since then at other tracks, winning three of his last five races. The last four of those races came after he switched barns to be trained by Rene Allard, Pocono’s leading trainer, including a come-from-behind win in an Open Handicap in his last race at Yonkers as a 7-1 shot.

His confidence sufficiently boosted, he returned to Pocono to compete on Saturday night in a Preferred Handicap pace for a purse of $25,000. It was a stacked field, including star veteran Golden Receiver and Dancin Yankee, who had owned the oval at Pocono in his previous appearances in 2014. But driver Ron Pierce drove Bigtown Hero as if there were no other horses on the track, sending him to the front for a huge lead as each fraction ticked off proved more impressive than the one before.

In the stretch, Bigtown Hero began to slow ever so slightly. It was a good thing the lead he built up was so substantial, because Dancin Yankee and Aslan came closing at him fast. Pierce urged him home for a half-length victory in a stunning time of 1:47:3. That broke the world record for aged gelding pacers on a 5/8-mile oval, which was set last June at Pocono by Foiled Again and then matched by Abelard Hanover.

Other top pacers this week include: Ring Warrior (Matt Kakaley, Brewer Adams), a colt who followed up four consecutive wins at Ocean Downs with a victory at Pocono in a condition pace on Tuesday night in a career-best 1:54; Cherokee Hunter (Simon Allard, Rene Allard) whose condition win on Tuesday night was his second straight and came in a career-best time of 1:52:1; and Wake Up Peter (Tyler Buter, Larry Remmen), who scorched a condition pacing group on Saturday night in 1:49:2.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SEVRUGA

Not all slumps are created equal. To wit, consider the struggles Sevruga had been having in the summer months. Last year he earned nearly $500,000 facing the best trotters around, and the highlight of his season was a world-record performance at Pocono with a win in 1:50:3. But he had come up empty for three months straight in terms of wins heading into Saturday night’s $25,000 Preferred trot.

In his last three races at Pocono, all against the most rugged trotters on the grounds, Sevruga, a 6-year-old gelding trained by Kevin Carr, had hit the board every time and had lost by just a neck in the last two. On Saturday night, he enjoyed his first quality post position in more than a month and took advantage of it, breezing to the front early with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike.

Things were by no means easy from that point, as Wind Of The North put up a sustained first-over challenge to the lead. But Sevruga had been rated well enough early in the race that he was able to dig deep in the final strides and win by a nose in a rapid 1:52:1. Maybe it wasn’t fair to say that Sevruga was in a slump considering the quality of his competition and the multiple near-misses, but it is fair to say that his losing streak is history and a lengthy winning streak might just be in the offing.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Tui (Anthony Napolitan, Don Wiest), a Pocono fan-favorite mare who scored her first win of the season on Saturday night in a tough condition group in 1:53:1; A Cool Million (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), a mare who moved up her claiming price and won her second straight race on Tuesday night, doing so in a career-best 1:54; and Fortunista (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), a mare who beat the boys in a tough condition group on Saturday night in a career-best 1:53:1.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: TRANSCENDING

An outside post and long odds didn’t bother this veteran pacer as he came from out of the clouds late to shock a condition field on Saturday night at 49-1, paying off an even $100 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: RON PIERCE

Pierce had it grooving on Saturday night, winning four consecutive races on the card, all in gate-to-wire fashion, a streak that culminated with the world-record win by Bigtown Hero.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JOE PAVIA JR.

Joe still does such a great job as a catch driver that his training abilities can sometimes be taken for granted, but a training double on Wednesday night put them front and center.

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, May 17th, 2013

May 11-May 17, 2013    

We are about to get into the heart of stakes season here at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, as Stallion Series and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes races take place this weekend. This is the part of the season when things get really intense, with the best horses and horsemen invading the Pocono oval in a quest for the big purses. On the threshold of this exciting time, another exciting week of overnight racing went down. Here is the cream of the crop from those races with the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: STEELHEAD HANOVER

Managing a single mile of under 1:50 is quite an accomplishment. Doing it in two consecutive victories is an extremely impressive feat. And overcoming an outside post in the second of those miles is even more eye-popping. Since he accomplished all of these things, it’s no surprise that Steelhead Hanover earns the honors as this week’s top pacer.

The 4-year-old stallion trained and driven by Joe Pavia Jr. opened up on the front end in a condition for non-winners of $11,000 in the last five on April 27 for a victory in 1:49:1. Pavia gave him a week off and then returned him to action last Saturday night against the same class. Only this time Steelhead Hanover was a 7-1 third choice, likely because he was stuck in an outside post.

Pavia was able to get him into a prime spot into the pocket early, and that’s where he stayed as furious fractions were hung up on the board by the leaders in front of him. In the stretch, Steelhead Hanover found his stride and rallied for a tight win in 1:49:4. Can he get three in a row under 1:50? Only his next race will tell, but the way he’s going now, anything is possible.

Honorable mention on the pacing side goes to: Mickey Hanover (Joe Pavia Jr., Rene Allard), who followed up a big win at The Meadowlands with a victory in Saturday night’s featured Preferred pace in 1:49:3; Apache Renegade (Andrew McCarthy, Mike Watson), who moved up in class on Saturday night for a win, his second straight overall, over the $12,500 claimers in a career-best 1:51; and Camille (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who won a stretch duel with rival Feeling You in Sunday night’s Preferred pace for mares on 1:51:1.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: AS YA’LL LIKE IT

This mare joined the Amber Buter barn in April and took a shot against the condition trotters in her next two starts, but she could only manage one third-place finish. On May 4 she dropped back into Pocono’s toughest claiming group, the $25,000-$30,000 claiming handicappers, and quickly re-established herself as a force by pouncing late from the pocket for a win in 1:55:1.

In that race she was assigned the outside post because she had the highest claiming price, but, with only six horses in the field, it wasn’t that difficult a proposition. When As Ya’ll Like It took on the same group on Saturday night, her outside post was the #8 hole, meaning that it would be that much tougher to get to the lead in the early going.

Yet the mare made it to the front end quickly, and driver Tyler Buter took advantage of a lack of outside pressure to rate her speed perfectly. As Ya’ll Like It took it from there, getting all the way home in 1:55:4. She was claimed after the race, so we’ll see if the new barn keeps her in the class she’s been dominating or sets her up for even bigger and better things based on her recent outstanding form.

Other top trotters this week include: Berkshire (Jim Morrill Jr., Antonella Galie), who scored his second straight condition trotting victory on Tuesday night in 1:55:2; Celebrity Maserati (Tom Jackson, Susanne Strandqvist), who returned to Pocono following a big stakes win at Freehold and rolled to a condition win on Wednesday night in 1:53; and Tui (Anthony Napolitano, Don Wiest), the standout mare who rolled to her second straight condition trotting win on Wednesday night, this time in 1:53:1.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: HEYTHEREGEORGIEGIRL

This mare had been struggling mightily in search of her maiden win, but driver Ron Pierce coaxed a big effort out of her on Tuesday night to upset the field at 28-1 for a $59 payout on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.

It’s no surprise that Napolitano is among the driving leaders at Pocono yet again, and he improved his standing this week with a four-win explosion on Sunday night.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: NICK SURICK

One of the best young trainers in the business made his mark at Pocono this week by scoring three victories, including a double on Sunday 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

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

May 4-10, 2013

It was an extremely busy week at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, featuring one extra racing card thanks to our Kentucky Derby day doubleheader. With all of that thrilling action, there were plenty of fantastic performances to witness and a bevy of top choices for the Weekly Awards. Those were some tough choices to make, but here are the best of the best from this jam-packed week.

PACER OF THE WEEK: GOLDEN RECEIVER

Back before Pocono ascended to one of the top tracks in the nation, it was common for horses that did well here to struggle when they got to the bigger stages. That has all changed in recent years, and no horse exemplifies that transformation any better than Golden Receiver, who was once the best at MSPD but proceeded to be one of the best in the whole country.

Coming off a 2012 season which saw him earn $941,025, he picked up where he left off with six straight victories to start this year before a loss at Harrah’s on April 5. After a month off, he returned to racing at the scene of so many of his greatest triumphs in Saturday night’s $50,000 Van Rose Memorial pace. The fans remembered the 8-year-old gelding from the Mark Harder barn well, making him the 1-5 favorite in a star-studded field.

He didn’t disappoint. Driver George Napolitano Jr. sent him to the front end early, and Golden Receiver did the rest, winning by 1 ¾ lengths in 1:50 without even breaking a sweat. It was a kind of victory lap for the superstar, but, with the Breeders Crown scheduled for Pocono in October, he’ll likely be back to go for an even bigger crowning score at his former home.

Honorable mention on the pacing side includes: Lorrie Please (Eric Carlson, Michael Hall), a mare who won her second straight Preferred distaff pace on Sunday night, rallying for the victory in 1:51; Mustang Art (Andrew McCarthy, James McGuire), who burned it up on the front end in a condition pace for a win in 1:49:3, the fastest time posted at Pocono this week; and Blissful Dreamer (Jim Morrill Jr., Brewer Adams), who won her third straight race at a third different claiming price, this time out on Wednesday night over the $10,000 claiming mares in 1:52:3.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: CLASSIC MARTINE

Sunday night featured the last of the four $30,000 finals for the Bobby Weiss Series, the races which featured some of the best young talent on the grounds over the first month of the season. The last of the groups to take center stage was the assemblage of 3-year-old trotting fillies, and the final was distinguished by the fact that Classic Martine was a prohibitive favorite.

It didn’t take too much in the way of investigation to see why, considering that the filly from the Todd Schadel barn had won her last three starts in the previous legs of the series, beating at one time or another in that stretch every horse that she would face in Sunday’s final. Still, the 1-2 favorite could have had any number of things go wrong, like a break of stride or some bad racing luck, to derail her chances.

Driver Andy Miller took some of the variables out of play by sending Classic Martine to the front end. He then allowed the filly to dictate the pace and expend only as much energy as necessary. In the stretch, she glided home over horses giving all-out efforts to get to her, winning without exerting herself at all in 1:55:3, making this Weiss final look like a foregone conclusion.

Other top trotters include: As Ya’ll Like It (Tyler Buter, Amber Buter), who trotted away and hid for a claiming handicap victory on Saturday night in 1:55:1; Sand Wyndham (Joe Pavia Jr., Rene Allard), who made a late rally to win Tuesday night’s featured condition trot in 1:54; and Tui (Anthony Napolitano, Don Wiest), who rolled to an easy win in Wednesday night’s featured condition trot, scoring in a quick 1:53:2 despite sloppy conditions.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: TWIN B FLIRT

Saturday’s very first race of the morning on the special racing card woke the patrons up quickly, as driver Marcus Miller guided this condition pacer to a win at 32-1 for a $66 payout on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MATT KAKALEY

Matt had one of his best weeks of the season to date, including a monster weekend with eight wins in two days and a five-bagger on Sunday night.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: PJ FRALEY

With three wins on Saturday night’s program and then two more on Tuesday night, Fraley continued what has been an extremely hot start to the Pocono meet.

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

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

2012 Horses of the Year

As we wind down the 2012 racing season at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, a season which finishes up on Wednesday, November 21, it’s about time to start celebrating some of the outstanding equine performers who have shined for the Pocono faithful this year. In other words, it’s time to honor our horses of the year.

This is a tough task for those of us who do the choosing each and every year, but 2012 has been particularly competitive and, as such, it’s been darn near impossible to distinguish the best from the very, very good. What makes it even more difficult is that so many top horsemen are bringing their horses through Pocono, it’s hard for any horse to sustain consistent success, especially in the highest classes of racing.

Still, it’s fun to look back and recall some of the outstanding horses we’ve seen throughout the campaign, and, after careful deliberation, we came up with four standouts who were just a notch above the rest. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the 2012 MSPD Horses of the Year.

CLAIMER OF THE YEAR: MCSOCKS

Many horses in the claiming ranks move up and down the ladder until finding a spot that fits them. By contrast, McSocks settled into the $25,000 claiming class for 4-year-olds and just couldn’t be dislodged from the winner’s circle. The gelding won five times in that class at Pocono, including an amazing four-race winning streak in the month of August.  He set his career-mark in one of those races with a 1:50:2 mile. His early speed was simply too hot for most of his foes to handle, and, in typical claiming fashion, McSocks won for four different trainers at Pocono this year, as he scored for Doug Berkeley, Pete Pellegrino, PJ Fraley, and Jason Robinson.

MARE OF THE YEAR: TUI

One of Pocono’s fan favorites, this 4-year-old mare from the Don Wiest barn showed off her prodigious talent in 2012. In 20 races this season, she hit the board in 12 and won seven times. All of the wins came with Anthony Napolitano in the bike, as Anthony would usually send Tui to the front and dare everyone else to play catch-up. The mare was fearless, winning at five condition levels racing primarily against male horses. The highlight of her season came back on May 25, when she scorched the Pocono track to the tune of 1:52:3, a new track record for 4-year-old trotting mares.

TROTTER OF THE YEAR: ANDERS BLUESTONE

This 6-year-old stallion proved himself among the finest trotters on the grounds a year ago, but he was even better in 2012. Week in and week out, the pride of the Eric Ell barn went up against the finest trotters on the grounds and always acquitted himself well. He finished in the money in every one of his eight starts at Pocono this season, and each of those starts came in either Open company or in our highest condition group, the winners of over $25,000 lifetime. With George Napolitano Jr. in the bike, Anders Bluestone won three of those races, with the highlight coming when he beat former Breeders Crown champ Arch Madness in October.

PACER OF THE YEAR: BILLMAR SCOOTER

I can’t remember a year where the top pacing award went to a mare, but this standout from the Amber Buter made it just about impossible to pick anybody else. She was the closest thing to unbeatable that we witnessed at Pocono this season. The 7-year-old won her first two starts at Pocono after arriving from New York in May. After a fourth and a second in her next two starts, Billmar Scooter reeled off four straight victories against the best mares at the track. To add an exclamation point, she followed it up after a stint at Yonkers with back-to-back wins in the fall. Tallying everything up, she won 8 of her 11 starts at Pocono against extremely stiff competition, certainly an award-worthy performance.

Next week in this column, we’ll be wrapping up the 2012 season by honoring the season’s finest drivers and trainers and recapping some of the year’s most memorable races.

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.