Posts Tagged ‘George Napolitano Jr.’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

April 14-20, 2018

Well, the good news is we had our first really beautiful night weather-wise for harness racing on the 2018 season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs this past Saturday. The bad news is that it was followed by three more nights of winter-like conditions. Nonetheless, the stubbornly-clinging cold did not dampen the enthusiasm at the track, not when there were so many outstanding performances that we witnessed, the best of which we now honor with the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: HIGHALATOR

A year ago as a sophomore pacer, Highalator did much of the damage during an 11-win season at Pocono, including dominance of the Bobby Weiss late closer series for male pacers. His 4-year-old season began with him racing in Delaware, and he did well in his first taste of veteran competition, hitting the board in four of seven races with one victory. But his season immediately jumped a notch when he came to Pocono, as he picked up a victory in a $14,000 condition pace on April 7 in 1:51:3.

On Saturday night, the 4-year-old stallion trained by Jenny Bier decided to step up in class to face the featured $17,500 condition pacers. Leaving from position #3 in a field of eight, he was a 7-2 fourth choice, while Bettor’s Edge, earner of over $2 million in his career, went off as the 8-5 favorite in a rugged field. Highalator sat 4th early as Americanprimetime cut out the mile from an inside post. Driver Tyler Buter decided to take a first-over shot with Highalator just prior to the clubhouse turn.

Highalator immediately pulled up alongside Americanprimetime but couldn’t slip past right away. Instead the two stayed locked up around the second turn as well. But instead of fading, Highalator kept after it and eventually wheeled on by to beat the game American Primetime by a head. Not only did he set a career-best with a winning time of 1:49:4, the stallion also became the first to horse to snap the 1:50 barrier at Pocono in 2018.

Other top pacers this week include: Catherinesdiamond (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who overcame a #9 post on Saturday night to win his second straight $10,000 claimer in 1:53:3; Drinkin Again (Jim Morrill Jr, Philip Jasper), who moved up in class to win Sunday night’s featured condition pace in 1:53:2, giving him two straight victories and three in his last four; and Fox Valley Cadet (George Napolitano Jr., Rob Harmon), who picked up his second straight claiming victory on Tuesday night, this one coming in 1:56:1.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: ARCHBALD

This four-year-old gelding from the Fern Paquet Jr. barn had wins early in the year at both Saratoga and Pompano before stopping into Pocono for the Bobby Weiss late closer series for male trotters. In his first try in that group, he made a costly break of stride and finished fourth. On April 8, however, Archbald steered clear of any breaks and overpowered the field to win a spilt in 1:55:3, which was a career-best and the fastest time in that grouping of the Weiss up to that point.

Archbald was back at it on Sunday night in the third leg of the Weiss as a 7-5 favorite leaving from post position #4 in a field of seven. The field included Chas Hanover, who had won the first two legs of the Weiss, but he wasn’t a factor in the race, eventually finishing fourth. Instead the race became a duel between Law Of Attraction, who set the pace, and Archbald, who, with Paquet doing the driving as well, made a first-over move from third on the back stretch.

The two leaders were practically inseparable throughout the back stretch and the final turn. But in the final strides, Archbald finally wore down Law Of Attraction to take over late. He ended up winning by a length in 1:55:1. That winning time reset his career mark and also reset the standard for the male trotters in the Weiss. It’s looking like Archbald might just be the one to beat in that Weiss classification as we get closer to the Finals.

Honorable mention on the trotting side this week goes to: Lightningpedia (Chuck Connor Jr., Janice Connor), who won his second straight condition trot at Pocono to start his career, this one coming on Monday night in 1:59:2 in the slop; Body Slam (Anthony Napolitano, Tom Wine II), who compiled a two-race winning streak over five months at Pocono, with his maiden win last November, and then a condition win on Tuesday night in his first start of 2018 in 1:59:4; and Karets (Marcus Miller, James Cosenza), who moved up in class to capture his second straight condition victory on Tuesday night, this one in 1:56:1.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: CITY HALL

This veteran pacer worked out a pocket trip in a condition pace on Sunday night with Andrew McCarthy in the bike and rallied for a win at 38-1, paying off $79.80 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ERIC CARLSON

Carlson has been a steady performer at Pocono for several seasons now, so it was fitting that he picked up his 3,000th career victory on Monday night at the track with Call Me Richard.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JOSE GODINEZ

Godinez hasn’t sent out a ton of starters at Pocono but is hitting a high average with the ones who have raced, including a training 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.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Monday, April 9th, 2018

March 31-April 6, 2018

As we barrel forward into the month of April, we are still waiting for signs of spring to show up in the weather in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Rest assured, however, the cold weather hasn’t had any negative effect on the early-season racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. If anything, the racing action is ripping along as if we were all basking in a heat wave in the middle of summer. That means lots of competition for this edition of the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: WALKS OF LIFE

First of all, any horse sort of named after an 80’s hit gets my immediate stamp of approval. But this eight-year-old gelding has brought the game to match up with the name. And his success started long before he arrived at Pocono for the beginning of the meet. Racing on the New Jersey circuit, Walks Of Life hit the board in every one of his first eight 2018 races while winning five of them. He didn’t waste any time at Pocono either, winning his first two races of the meet in gate-to-wire fashion.

After winning at the $12,500 and $15,000 claiming levels, he went back at it against the $15,000 claimers on Saturday night. This time around, he was working for a new barn, going for trainer Toni Freitas after the bulk of his 2018 success came with Vincent Fusco Jr. Even with the barn switch, the Pocono faithful believed in Walks Of Life, making him a 3-5 favorite as he left from post position #1 in a field of eight. When driver Jim Morrill Jr. asked him for a quick burst of speed on the front stretch, he moved to the lead, which is where he loves to operate.

From there, the favorite handled a first-over challenge from Mainland Key N, while the pocket tripping Annuity tried to stay close for a final rally. But the rest of the field turned out to be playing for second, as Walks Of Life glided away from the pursuit and ended up winning by 5 ½ convincing lengths in a season-best time of 1:51:2. Now with wins in seven of ten on the year, he also became the first horse to rack up three wins in the Pocono 2018 meet. And, with how great he’s been going, he’ll probably be tough to beat as he tries to be first to four.

Other top pacers this week include: Cowboy Terrier (Eric Carlson, Ron Burke), who scored a condition victory on Saturday night in a sizzling time of 1:50, fastest of both his career and of all pacers on the young 2018 racing season at Pocono; Kimberlee (Jim Marohn Jr., Ake Svanstedt), a filly whose victory on Sunday night in the first leg of the Bobby Weiss late closer series made her two-for-two at Pocono in the meet and came in a career-best 1:53:3; and Charmbro Curiosity (Marcus Miller, Dan Morrissey), who stepped up in claiming price to $10,000 on Saturday night and won his second straight at Pocono, this one coming in 1:53:4.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: TOUR DE LINDY

A year ago as a three-year-old, the most memorable win for Tour De Lindy came when trainer Lucas Wallin drove him to a victory at Pocono at some of the longest odds for any winner in the entirety of 2017 at the track. When he returned to Pocono racing on March 27, he came in much more highly-regarded. He had begun the year with back-to-back near-miss second-place finishes at The Meadowlands. With Wallin handing the driving chores off to Marcus Miller, the four-year-old gelding easily handled a tough non-winners of four grouping in 1:55, which marked a new career-best time.

On Sunday night, Tour De Lindy stepped up his game to face the non-winners of six group with a purse of $17,000. Leaving from a #6 post in a field of eight, he was made the 1-2 betting favorite in a field of eight. And Miller once again set about putting him out in front of the field with a move to the outside on the race’s first turn. With seemingly no sweat, Tour De Lindy stepped past Zagster and grabbed the lead, daring anyone to come and try to catch him.

Needless to say, nobody could, nor did anyone really threaten his supremacy in the race. After being rated well by Miller, Tour De Lindy powered home in the lane to win by 2 ¾ lengths over Ataboy Hanover and matched his career-best time of 1:55 from the week before in the process. That time was also the fastest of any trotter on the week at Pocono. Considering how well he’s been racing, it will likely be quite a stretch before this gelding is ever again deemed a long shot like he was a year ago.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Ameliosi (Marcus Miller, Jenny Melander), a mare whose victory in a condition group on Saturday night in 1:55:1 gave her four wins in five races on the year; Chas Hanover (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who picked up a win in a division of the Weiss series for male trotters on Sunday night in 1:56:2, the fastest time of the three Weiss divisions for that group; and Myrna Myrna (Mike Simons, Scott Betts), who posted the fastest winning time among three divisions of the Weiss for distaff trotters in the slop on Tuesday night with a 1:57:4 victory, a new career-best.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR

This mare rallied from way back in Tuesday night’s featured condition pace to win at 24-1 with Jim Taggart Jr. in the bike, paying off $51.80 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MIKE SIMONS

Mike looks well-stocked in the distaff trotting Weiss series after scoring victories in two of the three divisions of the first leg held on Tuesday night.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JENNY MELANDER

Melander had fun with the trotters at Pocono this week, scoring trotting victories with Ameliosi on Saturday night, Meadowbranch Ricky on Sunday, and Ms American Muscle 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

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

March 24-30, 2018

Since we’re up to three nights per racing week (soon to be four) at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, we have enough material for our first Weekly Awards of the season. For those who might not have followed us in the past, every week I’ll parse through all of the excellent performances by the horses and horsemen and women competing at Pocono and write up the best of those in this little column. Always tough choices, but we’re certainly off to a great start with this week’s honorees.

PACER OF THE WEEK: GOOD LIVING

This 5-year-old stallion from the Tom Cancelliere barn started his racing year off on March 3 at The Meadowlands. It was only a fifth-place finish, but, considering Good Living went off from a #10 post and was more than 100-1 at the windows, it was certainly encouraging. When he came to Pocono on Opening Night, he was made the 3-5 favorite in a non-winners of six pacing group, and he delivered on that promise by scoring gate-to-wire in a career-best 1:50:3.

On Saturday night, Good Living faced a group of more experienced pacers in the $17,000 condition feature. Coming off the outstanding performance the week before, he was made the 6-5 favorite leaving from post position #3. Once again, he went after the early lead, but he faced a fight for it from Somewhere Fancy. Unwilling to settle for a covered-up trip, driver Anthony Napolitano asked Good Living for a burst of speed to retake the lead on the front stretch.

Such a move often leaves a horse vulnerable later in the race to tiring. And Good Living also had to deal with first-over pressure from Ideal Cowboy, meaning that it was no easy lead. Yet he still looked sharp in the stretch, holding of Somewhere Fancy’s second move to win it by three parts of a length. It was another solid winning time of 1:50:4, proving that this stallion could be ready for the finest season of his career in 2018.

Other top pacers this week include: Feeling Cam Lucky (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who tore it up in a condition pace on Saturday night for a victory in 1:50:2, a new career-best and the fastest time of the young season to date at Pocono; Dancingwithdelight (Anthony Napolitano, Ron Burke), who went to two-for-two on the meet by moving up in class to beat the $10,000 claimers on Saturday in 1:54:2; and Walks Of Life (Pat Berry, Vincent Fusco Jr.), whose victory in a claiming handicap on Saturday in 1:53:3 gave him two straight at Pocono and seven wins in ten races so far this year.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: TRUSTWORTHY KID

One of the most difficult things about handicapping is knowing how much to believe in results accomplished at tracks different from the one at which it is currently competing. A horse might perform completely different when dealing with separate surfaces, drivers, track sizes, and levels of competition as opposed to when it ships in. This little preface is my way of making an excuse (probably a poor one) for listing Trustworthy Kid, a nine-year-old gelding trained by Lisa Dunn, at 10-1 morning line odds in a $14,000 condition trot on Saturday night.

He was coming off a front-trotting victory in 1:54:1 at Northfield, a half-mile oval in Ohio where the times tend to be significantly slower than at Pocono. Yet I was skeptical about the caliber of horses that he had faced compared to what he would be going against at Pocono on Saturday night. The Pocono faithful were much more assured of his bona fides, however, making him an even-money favorite. Leaving from post position #2, Trustworthy Kid strode confidently to the lead with the confidence of a favorite.

Even though he wasn’t able to completely separate from his pursuit, Trustworthy Kid, under the guidance of driver Marcus Miller, held strong on the lead and fought off a late charge by Panamanian Hanover to win by a half-length. His winning time of 1:54:1 matched what he did at Northfield and also matched the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono. I, for one, will trust this Trustworthy Kid the next time he lines up at the gate.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Home’N Dry (Jim Morrill Jr., Ron Burke), whose victory in a $17,000 condition trot on Saturday night in 1:54:1 matched the week’s fastest trotting time at Pocono; Queen’s Lonely Earl (Marcus Miller, Bruce Clarke), a top performer at Pocono a year ago who returned on Sunday night for a claiming handicap win in 1:55:2; and Danish Design (Anthony Napolitano, Tom Shay), who followed a streak of four wins in five races at Northfield with a Pocono condition victory on Tuesday night in 1:57:1 on an off-track.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS

Sporting a great name for a long shot, this trotter driver by Jim Taggart Jr. surprised a condition field on Sunday night for his maiden win at 22-1, paying off $47 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANTHONY NAPOLITANO

A-Nap has grabbed possession of the driving victories lead early in the season by following up a great first week with more of the same on Saturday night, chalking up five victories.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: RON BURKE

The Burke barn figures to be a major player all year long at Pocono, even into the Breeders Crown, and it got off to a stellar start with a hot first week and four wins on Saturday night.

That will do it for this week, but I’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono 2017 Season Review

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Well, here we are at the end of another campaign of racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The meet officially ends on Saturday, November 25, at which point we in racing all begin our hibernation periods. It’s hard to believe that it is the end of the racing season, perhaps because we were blessed in Northeastern Pennsylvania with such benign weather for most of September and October. When the weather really started to bite in November, we were already on the home stretch.

Reflecting back on the season that was, I, as I always tend to do at this point of the year, realize how difficult it is to sum everything up in just one article. Harness racing is comprised of mini-trends and spurts, but it’s very rare that you can point to something that has really taken hold for the duration of the season. But there are a few thoughts that do stand out and will likely separate 2017 from other seasons in my mind.

The first thing was a wager, which is ironic for me, because I don’t do any betting myself even though I essentially go through the process of handicapping the races as the morning line maker. But I must say that the Rainbow Pick 5, which we added about halfway through the 2017 campaign as a wager at Pocono, really took an already exciting sport up a few more notches. The strategy in the wager as well as the little bit of luck that went along with it really super-charged the last several races of each night’s card. I know that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and, by the response of the fans, I wasn’t the only one.

One other occurrence, or I guess it would be accurate to say that it was the lack of an occurrence, was the fact that there were no track records set at Pocono in 2017. Now that in no way is a commentary on the caliber of racing; I actually the think that this might have been our most rugged year of competition ever. On the contrary, I think it was a more a reflection of times in general becoming more moderate around the harness racing world. Some wetter summer weather also had a hand in it as well. What I think you’ll see is a huge reversal of that trend next year, especially with the Breeders Crown coming to town. More on that later.

As for the driving and training communities, George Napolitano Jr. and Rene Allard continued to dominate, which shouldn’t be taken for granted. There is as deep a colony of quality drivers and trainers at Pocono as anywhere in the country, so the way that George and Rene have kind of planted themselves at the top daring everyone else to knock them off is truly impressive.

As usual, many of the top names in the sport passed through Pocono in 2017. Superstars like Keystone Velocity, Manchego, Ariana G and many others made appearances and wowed the faithful. On a nightly basis, the overnight races provided excellent proving grounds for a wide variety of claimers and condition horses, many of whom put together impressive winning streaks and eye-opening times. Again, there were far too many to possibly note them all in a short article like this one, but all of their exploits definitely deserve honor and appreciation.

The 2017 season basically stands as a continuation of the excellence that the racing product has displayed for about the past decade at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. It may not have been a round number anniversary year like the 50th a year ago and it may not culminate in the Breeders Crown like 2018 will, but it was a season of racing featuring outstanding performances, constant surprises, and excitement pretty much from the opening race on Opening night all the way through these waning moments of the season. And that’s nothing to sneeze at.

In the meantime, we’re all looking forward to the return of The Breeders Crown a year from now. It will be the third time we’ve hosted the event at Pocono, and there’s nothing quite like having all of those champions of every age, gait, and gender on the same track. It will be bittersweet calling the races without Sam McKee, who was with me for the previous two Crowns at Pocono, but I’m certain he’ll be with us in spirit.

Until next season, just let me say thanks to all of my co-workers at the track who do such an amazing job putting on our racing product night in and night out. And thanks as well to the Pocono faithful, the best fans in the racing business without a doubt. I hope everyone has a wonderful winter, and I look forward to seeing you all again and communicating with you via this column again next season.

That will do it for this season, 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

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

October 21-27, 2017

We are only about a month away from concluding the 2017 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. As a result, there will only be a few more editions of the Weekly Awards before we use the space in this column to wrap up the meet. The racing was quite spicy the past week, as the action shows no sign of letting up as we get nearer to Closing Night. Let’s see who takes the honors for the week that was at Pocono.

PACER OF THE WEEK: JJ FLYNN

Moving up the condition ladder is never an easy task. In the case of this four-year-old gelding trained by Josh Green, it seemed like it would be a monumental undertaking on Saturday night. Not only was JJ Flynn stepping up to face a $16,500 condition group after winning a notch below that in his previous race on October 14 in a career-best 1:50:1, he was also entering a field especially full of classy pacers, with Luck Be Withyou and his over $1.4 million in career earnings looming particularly large.

JJ Flynn left from post position #6 in a field of nine as the 9-2 second choice on the board. He sat mid-pack early on, while Luck Be Withyou, the 1-2 favorite, unsurprisingly set the pace. Had the favorite been able to get away with an uncontested journey, JJ Flynn might have been doomed. But a first-over challenge by Nimble And Quick kept Luck Be Withyou honest. JJ Flynn followed the cover of Nimble And Quick to get into striking position.

On the home stretch, JJ Flynn stepped wide of Nimble And Quick and zipped past him, but still had to get past Luck Be Withyou. Just a few yards before the finish line, it still seemed like the favorite would get home. But that’s when JJ Flynn, with Anthony Napolitano in the bike, surged and sped past to win it by a neck. His second straight victory was made even more memorable by the fact that he did it in 1:50, resetting his career mark.

Other top pacers this week include: Motor City Marco (John Kakaley, Travis Alexander) who once again won in the condition claiming ranks on Sunday, this time in 1:54:4 to give him four in a row; Montana Pablo A (George Napolitano Jr., Mark Kesmodel), who picked up his second straight claiming handicap win on Saturday night in 1:51:2; and Big N Bad (Jim Marohn Jr., Rob Harmon), whose victory on Monday night in a condition came in 1:49:2, the fastest time of both his career and the week at Pocono.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: CLASSICALITY

In order to beat the enemy, you have to properly identify it first. Classicality, a seven-year-old gelding trained by Lisa Dunn, has been making a lot of enemies himself lately. His last three starts: a win at The Meadows in 1:53:4 on September 7; a win at Pocono on September 24 in 1:53:2; and another win at The Meadows in 1:53:1 on October 11. And he wasn’t facing chopped liver either, going for $20,000 purses in each race, which is also the purse for which he competed on Sunday.

Classicality was the 5-2 second choice, however, as Centurion ATM, a stallion who had faced stakes competition for his past several starts, was made the favorite at even money. Centurion ATM also benefitted from a much better post position in the #3 hole, while Classicality was on the outside in the field of eight. Simeon set the pace, but Centurion ATM came stalking on the outside on the back stretch. Classicality, with Marcus Miller in the bike, knew whom he had to follow and quickly latched on to the favorite second-over.

Having identified his main enemy, Classicality was set to take him on. Centurion ATM took over the lead from Simeon, but it was short-lived. Classicality possessed more trot in the stretch and came up a winner by a neck in 1:53:2. That makes it four in a row for the gelding, which, considering the caliber of the competition he’s been facing, is quite an impressive streak.

Honorable mention on the trotting side this week goes to: Catch A Mission (Marcus Miller, Erv Miller), a mare who stayed perfect on the year with her third straight win, the last two of which have come at Pocono after a condition victory on Sunday night in 1:54:4; Silvermass Volo (Simon Allard, Michael Holcman), who churned his way to his second straight condition win on Sunday night and did so in a new career-best time of 1:54; and CR Blazin Beauty (Anthony Napolitano, Al Annunziata), a filly who has followed up an extended winning streak at smaller tracks in the Midwest with back-to-back victories at Pocono, the latest coming on Monday night in a condition trot in a career-best 1:55.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: WILD BILL M

In Saturday night’s final race, this condition pacer with Simon Allard in the bike overcame an outside post to pull off an upset at 60-1, paying off $131.40 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: TOM JACKSON

The steady veteran driver had an effective week at Pocono, putting up a driving double on Sunday and then scoring on Monday with 55-1 shot Sinspirational.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: DOUG HAMILTON

Hamilton enjoyed a race in honor of his retirement on Tuesday night, but first he made sure he put up one more win in the ledger when Pilgrims Tide scored a win on Sunday.

That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com.