Posts Tagged ‘Douglas Berkeley’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

July 23-29, 2016

It was hot this week in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but that’s no real news flash, because it was hot just about everywhere in the country as well. I only mention it because the heat didn’t seem to cause any lethargy in the horses competing this past week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. If anything, we witnessed some of the fastest races at the track in several weeks, with horses routinely putting up career-bests and even coming within shouting distance of world records. Here are some of the best performers this week, via the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: VAGUE TRACES

You never know when you’re going to see a special performance at the track. Vague Traces gave just such a performance on Saturday night. It wasn’t entirely unexpected that this 4-year-old gelding would be good, considering that he went off as the favorite in a field of $14,000 condition pacers. But the extent to which he excelled was what left mouths agape after he cashed in on his promise and scored the victory.

Trained by Ross Croghan, Vague Traces was making his first start at Pocono in 2016. He came in with wins in just two of his 14 races on the year, but they were back-to-back wins at The Meadowlands in June. Coming off a pair of distant finishes against tough company at Yonkers, the gelding didn’t show much in the first half of his first mile at Pocono, sitting an unassuming fourth early. Then driver Andrew McCarthy sent him first-over on the outside, and everything changed.

In a flash Vague Traces blew by everyone in front of him and took the lead prior to the three-quarter pole. But he didn’t stop there, continuing an elongated speed burst that didn’t relent until he crossed the line 7 ¾ lengths ahead of the dumbfounded field. Even more impressively, he tripped the line in 1:48:1, not just a career-best but the fastest at Pocono this week and one of the fastest at the oval this season. Just like that Vague Traces made an impression on the Pocono faithful; let’s see how he handles the tougher competition that’s bound to come.

Other top pacers this week include: Bushwacker (George Napolitano Jr., Chris Ryder), who scored a victory in Saturday night’s $18,000 featured pace in 1:50; Soto (Andrew McCarthy, Eric Ell), a newcomer to the racing wars at Pocono who immediately left his mark with a condition victory on Saturday in a career-best 1:48:4; and Life Is A Beach (Anthony Napolitano, Randy Bendis), who handled Tuesday night’s featured condition pacing mares in 1:52, which matched a career best.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: ARMOR HANOVER

There were several excellent candidates for this honor this week, but this seven-year-old gelding gets the call not just for his last two outstanding performances, but also for how far he’s come in that time. Trained by Douglas Berkeley, Armor Hanover hit rock bottom on July 2 when he went off-stride for a second consecutive race. That meant he’d have to qualify before he could race again. He did just that, winning a qualifier at Monticello on July 6, apparently earning some serious confidence in the process.

In his first race back on July 16, he headed out against a $14,000 condition trotting field as a 17-1 long shot. But driver Tom Jackson drove him aggressively and Armor Hanover responded, holding off Auspicious Hanover by a nose in a thrilling stretch battle to upset in 1:54:3, which was a career-best time.

On Saturday night, he faced off against a $15,500 condition grouping and this time went off at 6-1 with Anthony Napolitano in the bike. With a tremendous back-stretch brush, Armor Hanover left behind the 2-5 favorite Cufflink Hanover. The rest of the field was no match for him either, as he came home six lengths in front. His winning time of 1:52 shattered the career mark he had only just laid down. Armor Hanover has indeed come a long way in a short time, and it will be exciting to see now just where he goes from here.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Tac’s Delight (Jim Marohn Jr., Rene Allard), who handled a $15,000 claiming handicap field in 1:54:1 on Sunday night for his third straight victory; Homicide Hunter (Eric Goodell, Chris Oakes), who captured Sunday night’s $25,000 featured condition pace in 1:51:1, a new career-best, the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono, and only a fifth of a second short of a world record for 4-year-old trotting geldings; and Crazy About Pat (Jim Marohn Jr., Paul Kelley), who shipped in from Yonkers to pick up a condition win on Sunday night in a career-best 1:53:1.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: LARSON HANOVER

This two-year-old trotter’s maiden win on Tuesday night was quite memorable, as he came home a winner at 75-1 to pay out $154.20 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANTHONY NAPOLITANO

Returning from an injury that kept him out nearly two months, Napolitano wasted no time getting in the swing of things by ripping off five wins on his first night back Saturday.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JENNY MELANDER

Melander put together an interesting streak this week at Pocono, as she followed up training wins in both halves of the Late Daily Double Monday night with another victory in the opening race on Tuesday.

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

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

July 17-23, 2015

Now that we’re in the heart of the 2015 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, the schedule provides five nights of racing each week. That means that it’s harder than ever to choose who’s deserving of the Weekly Awards, because there are even more candidates from which to select. But we’re going to take a deep dive anyway and come up with the best of the best from the week that was at Pocono.

PACER OF THE WEEK: CAUTION SIGNS

It’s been a lot of fun to chart the ascendancy of this 5-year-old stallion in 2015. On April 16, he finished third in a $12,500 claimer at Yonkers. That’s when he was claimed by owner/trainer Tracy Brainard, who immediately coaxed better efforts from the horse in New York, as he won two of his next three starts. But that was nothing compared to the run of success he’s put together at Pocono. Since arriving at the end of May, Caution Signs has four wins and two places in six races, all while climbing the highest rungs of the condition ladder.

On July 4, he completed his climb by beating Open pacers in 1:48:4, his third straight win. On Saturday night he took on Open company again and a field that was reduced to four by a couple of scratches. Although that might have seemed like an easy assignment, Caution Signs was dealing with a sloppy track. And, as he took the early lead, he was also dealing with a horse in Scott Rocks who sat the pocket and wouldn’t let him get away to a comfortable margin.

In the stretch, Scott Rocks came out of the pocket full of sound and fury looking to upend the even-money favorite. But no horse wins as consistently as Caution Signs has of late without being more than a little game. The stallion, with Joe Pavia Jr. doing the driving, fought hard to hold on to his lead, eventually winning by a neck in 1:49:4, a blistering time considering the sloppy going. Something tells me you wouldn’t be able to get Caution Signs for $12,500 right now, or maybe even five times that, considering his current hot streak.

Other top pacers this week include: Priceless Edition (Anthony Napolitano, Pierre Paradis), an 11-year-old veteran who cranked out his third straight claiming handicap on Friday night, this one coming in 1:54:4; Union Man Hanover (Andrew McCarthy, Tracy Brainard), who moved up his claiming price on Saturday night to $25,000 and still easily scored his third straight victory, this one in 1:51:4 in the slop; and Request For Parole (Anthony Napolitano, Ron Burke), a mare who followed up a win at The Meadowlands with a victory in Friday night’s featured pace in 1:49:2, the fastest time posted at Pocono this past week.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: AUSPICIOUS HANOVER

When I’m making the morning line odds for some of the top condition races on the card at Pocono, it’s always difficult to assign long odds to horses with strong performance backgrounds. There have to be long shots in every race, of course, so I grit my teeth and hope the public sees it the same way. That’s my way of explaining how a horse as solid as Auspicious Hanover could ever get away at 25-1 like he did on Saturday night.

The 4-year-old gelding from the Chris Oakes barn was coming into the condition trot for non-winners of $22,500 in the last five races, which carried the week’s top trotting purse of $24,000, off a 6th-place finish at Saratoga, but that was in an Open Handicap. Prior to that he had ripped off back-to-back wins at middling prices on the 5/8-mile oval at Harrah’s. Yet he was way back in the betting pecking order, with Madewell Hanover the even-money choice.

None of that mattered once the race started. Driver Kevin Wallis urged Auspicious Hanover to the lead at the quarter in a zippy :26:4. He was able to rate things much more reasonably through the middle portion of the race though, so that Auspicious Hanover didn’t just withstand the late pursuit of Madewell Hanover, but he actually lengthened the lead at the line to 2 ¼ lengths with a winning time of 1:54:1 in the slop. The win payout was $53.20 on a $2 ticket, so those who waded through the talented field to find the merits of this talented gelding were definitely rewarded.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Can I Say (Tom Jackson, Douglas Berkeley), a mare who beat the boys in a tough condition race on Saturday night in 1:54:1 in the slop; Demons N Diamonds (Simon Allard, John McDermott), a filly who stepped up in class on Sunday night and ripped off her second straight win, this one in a career-best time of 1:54; and Born To Fight (George Napolitano Jr., Mark Ford), who stepped up in class on Tuesday night to win his second straight condition won, this one coming in 1:55:2 in the slop.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: BLINTZ

This filly made here maiden victory a memorable one on Sunday night, scoring for trainer/driver Bob Krivelin at 55-1, paying off $118 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.

On Saturday night we honored George Nap for picking up his 7,000th career victory earlier in the week at Harrah’s, and he reminded us of how he reached that milestone by winning the night’s first three races.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: TRACY BRAINARD

Brainard’s efficiency at Pocono has been off the charts in recent weeks, and two more victories on Saturday continued that torrid training streak.

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

Monday, August 12th, 2013

August 1-7, 2013

The month of August started out without the sizzling temperatures that are the norm for this time of year in Northeastern Pennsylvania. It’s a good thing then that plenty of heat was generated on the track at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs this past racing week. It’s gets harder and harder to narrow down the very best of the outstanding performances we see each and every night at Pocono, but that’s what we’ll try to do right now by handing out the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: MATTADOR D

It’s not easy to jump even a little bit in class in the harness racing wars at Pocono and have any bit of success. To make a big jump and see immediate results is a rare accomplishment indeed because of the extremely competitiveness of the scene. Yet Mattador D took a pretty daunting leap up the claiming ladder on Saturday night and handled it impressively.

It certainly helped that the 5-year-old gelding came into the race on a hot streak. He beat a group of $10,000 claimers on July 20 in 1:52:1, then followed it up the next week with a victory over the $12,500 claimers in 1:51:4. Still, those winning times didn’t figure to hack it on Saturday night against the $20,000 claimers. In his first start for trainer Lou Pena, Mattador D would have to step his game.

The gelding answered that challenge in sterling fashion. With George Napolitano Jr. in the bike, he hustled to the front end early and had to face severe pressure throughout the mile. Yet he sustained and came out on top in a career-best 1:50:2. It should be fun to watch Mattador D keep climbing that ladder and see how high he can get before someone slows his rapid ascent.

Other top pacers this week include: B N Bad (George Napolitano Jr., Peter Pellegrino), who powered to a condition pacing win on Saturday night in a career-best 1:49:2, which was the fastest time posted all week long at Pocono; Allamerican Daddy (Eric Carlson, Eddie Nickle), who staged a furious rally to win his second straight $10,000 claimer on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:51:4; and Audreys Dream (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who won Saturday night’s featured condition pace in 1:50.  

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: LIGHTNING STORM

While Mattador D provided a good example of a horse hot enough to move up in class, our Trotter of the Week this week is one who needed to drop down to find the groove. There’s no shame in such a move, since it doesn’t make any sense for an owner to keep sending a horse over and over into a class that he can’t handle. It’s better for the horse to find a group in which he can do damage.

Lightning Storm, a 4-year-old stallion from the Lou Pena barn, had success early in the meet in some rugged condition trots and then moved up into the Preferred trots in the month of June, taking on the best trotters on the grounds. He seemed overmatched with that class, finishing way up the track from the winners in three straight races.

It was only when he dropped back into the non-winners of $16,000 condition trots on July 19 that he found his stride again, winning that night in a career-best 1:53:2. On Friday night he was back at in the same class, and he once again controlled the action, winning in 1:54:3 this time around with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike. Now that he’s built up his confidence again, this might be the right time for Lightning Storm to try it again with some heavier hitters.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: CDs Eldorado (Joe Pavia Jr., Jason Robinson), whose victory over the $10,000 claimers in a career-best 1:55:2 on Tuesday night gave him wins in three straight and four of his last five; Biltmore (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), whose romping victory in a condition trot on Wednesday night in 1:55:1 was his third win in his last four races; and In Your Room (Mike Simons, Gail Wrubel), who rolled to a condition win on Wednesday night in 1:53, the fastest trotting time of the week at MSPD.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: HYANNIS HANOVER

This 2-year-old trotter had quite the memorable debut on Wednesday night, rallying from way back for driver Bret Brittingham to score at 90-1, paying off $182.60 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.

It took a little while, but George has ascended to his usual position atop the drivers’ standings at Pocono. He was especially lethal last weekend, picking up seven combined wins on Friday and Saturday.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: DOUGLAS BERKELEY

Berkeley has been a force at Pocono for the past few seasons, and he made his presence felt this week with a pair of training 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.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Friday, August 24th, 2012

August 17-23, 2012

Each week I hand out the Weekly Awards for the racing at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, and each week it gets harder and harder to narrow it down to just a few select horses and horsemen. That’s a testament to how competitive the racing has been this season. This week was typically tough to make my selections, but I gave it a shot anyway, knowing that some worthy horses, drivers, and trainers are going to be left out.

PACER OF THE WEEK: TOUCH THE ROCK

One of the most difficult feats for a horse to accomplish in the sport of harness racing is to come back strong after a peak performance. Such was the daunting task before Touch The Rock, a five-year-old gelding from the barn of James Eaton. The gelding was coming off a condition win on August 4 in 1:49:2, a sizzling time that was a new career-best.

To make things even tougher, Touch The Rock moved up into a tougher condition group on Saturday night and had to deal with the #7 post position, not exactly prime real estate. In the past, the gelding has had difficulty stringing together good races, but he was ready to turn the page this week.

Driver Tyler Buter kept him away from a sizzling early pace before setting him in motion on the outside on the back stretch. Spinning wide off cover to go four-wide in the stretch, Touch The Rock grooved right past the leaders in the lane to get the win in 1:49:4, becoming that rare horse at Pocono to win back-to-back races in sub-1:50 times.

Other top pacers this week include: Grandstand Hitter (Ron Pierce, Douglas Berkeley), who continued his amazing climb up the claiming ladder with a victory on Saturday night, his fourth straight, in 1:51:1; Townslight Hanover (Andrew McCarthy, Aaron Lambert), who came flying late to win Saturday night’s feature pace in 1:48:4, a new career-best, fastest time of the week, and just one-fifth of a second off a track record for 4-year-old geldings; and Mcsocks (George Napolitano Jr., Jason Robinson), who ripped off his third straight gate-to-wire win over the $25,000 claimers on Saturday night, this one in 1:51:1.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: OPENING NIGHT

It’s always interesting to see how a horse that was decorated as an underclassman does when it moves up to face older horses exclusively. Opening Night had a marvelous 3-year-old season, earning in excess of $540,000, much of it coming in stakes competition against his own age. His 4-year-old campaign hasn’t been quite as lucrative, but he has been rounding into form of late.

The stallion showed his mettle earlier in the season with back-to-back wins at Pocono and Harrah’s, and he was trying to pick up his second straight victory at MSPD on Sunday night after a nice condition win on August 12. This time around though, Opening Night, trained by Jim Campbell, had to face off with the toughest trotters on the grounds in the week’s featured trot for $25,000.

Going for big stakes is nothing new for this trotter, so Opening Night was more than ready for this tough assignment. Benefitting from an excellent trip in the pocket, the stallion waited until driver Matt Kakaley urged him by his foes in the stretch for the victory in 1:53:3. It seems like this trotter is adjusting to life as an upperclassman quite nicely.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Emily Do (Tyler Buter, Bill MacKenzie), a mare who jumped up in class and scored her second straight claiming win on Sunday night in 1:56:1; Zooming (Jason Bartlett, Erv Miller), who dominated a condition group on Sunday night for a victory in 1:53, the fastest trotting time of the week; and Idadazzle (Joe Pavia Jr., Gareth Dowse), whose claiming victory on Tuesday night in 1:57 was his second straight and 14th win of the season.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: TATTLE TELL TEEN

In one of our biggest shockers this season, Tattle Tell Teen, with Howard Parker in the pike, rallied from way back for a condition pacing win on Friday night at 95-1 for a $193.20 payout on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ERIC CARLSON

Carlson has really found his groove in his first season at Pocono, and he showed his comfort level by ripping off a combined seven wins on Friday and Saturday night.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: NEAL EHRHART

Ehrhart has been a factor at Pocono for several seasons now; his training double on Friday night highlighted a week that included three wins overall.

That will do it for this week. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com.