Posts Tagged ‘George Napolitano Jr.’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

April 8-14, 2017

Our first full racing week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with racing on four straight evenings, coincided with the best stretch of weather that we’ve enjoyed in the early part of the meet. As a result, we are practically inundated with possibilities and candidates for this edition of Weekly Awards. Tough choices had to be made, and here are the results.

PACER OF THE WEEK: NEXT SUCCESS

First horse to three wins on the meet? This four-year-old gelding from the Les Givens barn had a shot at it on Saturday night against a field of $25,000 claiming pacers. He came to Pocono fresh off a win at Rosecroft on March 19, then promptly surprised a condition pacing group at 19-1 in his first effort at MSPD. He followed that up with a $25,000 claiming victory on April 1.

The big thing working against him on Saturday night was his #9 post. To overcome that, driver Jim Morrill Jr. had Next Success, who went off as the 8-5 favorite, charging toward the lead right out of the gate. When he broke stride, it seemed like all hope was lost; even though he quickly caught stride, he still had to retreat to the back of the pack in order to heed the breaking rules. It looked like a lost cause when Morrill set him in motion on the back stretch to try and make up ground.

It helped Next Success that there was a logjam at the front of the field, with nobody able to pull out to a big lead. At the top of the stretch, a wall of horses lined up to chase leader Baggage Claim. Lo and behold, there was Next Success winding up with a five-wide move around the final turn, and he exploded past the field to prevail by a length in 1:53:3. With the last-to-first conquest, he now has three straight victories at Pocono and four in a row overall, and his name couldn’t be more apropos, because we can’t wait to see what his next success will be.

Other top pacers this week: Dash Of Danger (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), whose win at Pocono on Sunday night in 1:51:4, which matched his career best time, gave him three straight victories, two of them coming in Bobby Weiss series action; Mariner Seelster (George Napolitano Jr., Mark Ford), who rallied to win a condition pace on Saturday night in 1:51, which was a new career mark and his second straight win; and V I P Bayama (Eric Carlson, Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who moved up in class on Saturday night to pick up his second straight win, this one coming in a career-best 1:51:2.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: WHAT A PEACH

This five-year-old gelding has been razor sharp since arriving at Pocono at the start of the meet following a victory at Miami Valley in Ohio. He picked up a condition win on Opening Night and followed it up with a heartbreaking loss by a nose behind Charles VII. On April 2 in the $15,000 to $20,000 claiming handicap group, What A Peach hooked up in a stretch duel with the mare Dreamsteeler, who needed a break of stride to finish ahead at the line, meaning What A Peach inherited the win via disqualification.

What A Peach faced the same claiming handicap group on Sunday night, including his old friend Dreamsteeler, who lined up just inside of him in the #3 post in a seven-horse field. As the 3-5 betting favorite, What A Peach, making his first start in the Paul Fusco barn following a claim, grabbed the engine with George Napolitano in the bike. He had to deal with a first-over charge from Chipps Lake on the back stretch, meaning that he expended some extra energy before he would need it in the home stretch.

In the stretch, Dreamsteeler, who had worked out the excellent pocket trip, charged up the passing lane to make a play for the lead. What A Peach, undaunted, battled her stride for stride. In an odd instant replay, Dreamsteeler once again went off stride, only this time What A Peach was still able to get ahead at the line. The victory, in 1:55:1, made it four victories out of five for the gelding as he heads to a new barn following yet another claim.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Andy Ray (Marcus Miller, Jim Campbell), who picked up a condition win on Saturday night in a career-best 1:53:2, which was the fastest of any trotter on the grounds this past week; Sunrise Avenue (Eric Carlson, Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who won her second straight Bobby Weiss series race against distaff trotters on Tuesday night in 1:55:4; and Alexander Hanover (Anthony Napolitano, Mike Watson), who moved up in class to score a second consecutive condition win on Tuesday night, this one in 1:56.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK:  ONE TO DRAW TO

The very first race of the night on Saturday brought a huge upset, as this claiming pacer driven by Marcus Miller lit them up at 31-1 for a $65 payoff to win on a $2 ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANTHONY NAPOLITANO

A-Nap had his finest night of the young season on Sunday, scoring four wins, highlighted by a victory aboard 10-1 long shot Itty Bitty in the Bobby Weiss series.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: ANDREW HARRIS

Harris won the featured pace on Saturday night with Casimir Jitterbug and then followed it up with three training wins on Sunday night, including two in the Bobby Weiss series.

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 10th, 2017

April 1-7, 2017

We’re just a few weeks into the racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, but we’re already seeing some horses establishing themselves as ones to watch for the entire meet if they stick around. We’re also getting a good look at how the drivers and trainers’ standings might be shaking out this season. It’s just a small sample size, as they say in baseball, but the first few weeks definitely indicate we are in for one wild ride of a season at Pocono. Here are the Weekly Awards for the week gone by.

PACER OF THE WEEK: CRAFTY MASTER

It’s not very often that we see a horse make the jump from the claiming ranks onto the highest rungs of the condition ladder and have success. Then again, the way things have been going in the first few weeks of the meet for trainer Rene Allard and driver Simon Allard, everything is on the table. So when Crafty Master stepped up to face the featured $15,500 condition pacers on Saturday night, the 6-year-old stallion received respect from the windows and went off as a 9-5 second betting choice.

Crafty Master was coming off back-to-back wins, one in Canada and then on March 25 at Pocono in his first start for the Allard barn against a claiming group. On Saturday night, the stallion sat in the middle of the pack behind a blistering pace set by Lean On You. Simon Allard set him motion first over in the back stretch, but he was unable to corral the lead quickly, meaning that he was parked on the outside all the way around the final turn.

It looked like Ontario Success, the 6-5 favorite who had the excellent pocket trip going behind Lean On You, might be the horse to watch in the stretch. But Crafty Master kept after it despite the extra effort around that last turn. He eventually poked ahead and kept on right on striving until he was 1 ½ lengths ahead of Ontario Success. The winning time for Crafty Master of 1:50:2 was the fastest of the season to date at Pocono and a new career mark, proving that he belongs in the upper echelons of Pocono racing in the early going.

Other top pacers this week include: Next Success (Jim Morrill Jr., Les Givens), who now has three straight wins, the last two at Pocono, after handling a $25,000 claiming field Saturday night in 1:53:1; Dash Of Danger (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), whose victory in the first division of the Bobby Weiss series for pacing colts, stallions and geldings on Sunday night was his second straight at Pocono and came in a new career-best mark of 1:51:4; and Cheap N Easy (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), a mare who moved up the ladder to score her second consecutive win on Tuesday night, this one in 1:53:4.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SWISHNFLICK

It was that kind of week for the Allards; Simon and Rene were in charge of both horses of the week, and those two winners were really just the tip of the iceberg concerning their hot streak at Pocono. Swishnflick, a seven-year-old mare, arrived from Yonkers on March 25, having faced rugged condition competition throughout the early part of the season in New York. She immediately reminded the Pocono faithful of her talent with a front-trotting win in 1:54:1 against a $14,000 condition group.

The mare was back at it on Saturday night, only this time she went up against the $15,500 conditioners and was the only distaff trotter in the field. Leaving from post position #4 in a field of eight as a 5-2 second choice, she immediately settled in behind pacesetting Skates N Plates. The leader was able to get away with relatively soft fractions for the first three-quarters of a mile, meaning that, even from the pocket spot, Swishnflick might have issues rallying.

In the stretch, it was essentially a match race between Skates N Plates and Swishnflick. Simon Allard guided the mare to the inside passing lane, where she found her best stride and powered up past a game Skates N Plates. The mare came across the line a half-length in front in 1:55:4. That gives Swishnflick two straight wins and some serious momentum in the early part of the 2017 campaign.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: ABC Muscles Boy (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), whose condition victory on Saturday night came in 1:54:1, fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono; What A Peach (Simon Allard, Frank Kamine), who, with a claiming handicap win on Sunday night, now has three victories in his last four races; and Hot Mess Hanover (Andrew McCarthy, Joe Pavia Jr.), whose Bobby Weiss series win in the distaff trotters class came in 1:56:3, a new career mark and the fastest split of the group on Tuesday night.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: THREEUPTHREEDOWN

Sunday night got off to a wild start, as this gelding driven by Matt Kakaley overcame the #9 post and rallied furiously for a Race 1 condition trotting victory at 55-1, paying off $119.20 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: VICTOR KIRBY

Kirby made the most of his Sunday night appearance, scoring a pair of victories in the Bobby Weiss series with Highalator and Rewind Again, his only two drives of the evening.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: RENE ALLARD

Allard has really asserted his dominance in the early part of the meet, following up a big first week by scoring a combined eight training victories on Saturday and 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

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

March 25-31, 2017

After some weather-related delays, we finally enjoyed our first semi-full week of racing for the 2017 season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. This means we’re finally ready to hand out our first edition of the Weekly Awards. And it’s only fitting that our first horses of the week are the ones that made it to multiple wins on the meet before anybody else. Here are the best of the best for the week that was.

PACER OF THE WEEK: MAJO JUST DO IT

If you had to pick a horse beforehand that you thought would be our first Pacer of the Week, it probably wouldn’t have been this 11-year-old gelding. In 36 tries a year ago, Majo Just Do It won just four races and earned only a little over $16,000 for those efforts. He had shown some life in recent starts at Monticello, however, picking up a win and a show before coming to Pocono for Opening Night.

As a 7-2 shot that night, the gelding came from way back in the pack to score a win in 1:56. Trained by Jennifer Sansone, Majo Just Do It had George Napolitano Jr. in the bike for his race Sunday night against a field of $7,500 claimers. As the 2-1 second choice, he was shuffled to the end of the line once again. He was still last at the half-mile marker when he began steadily improving as part of the outer flow.

At the top of the lane he was still fifth, but Napolitano found a clear lane for him for the stretch drive. He once again found his best stride in the lane, blowing by the horses in front of him and prevailing by a half-length in 1:54:1. Suddenly Majo Just Do It has three-quarters as many wins as he did a year ago and things are looking up, especially if he can keep uncorking that lethal late kick on his unsuspecting foes.

Other top pacers this week include: City Hall (George Napolitano Jr., Amber Buter), who captured the Saturday night featured pace in 1:52:1, giving him wins in three of his last four races after a recent hot streak at The Meadowlands; Ronny Bugatti (Austin Siegelman, Nicholas Devita), who picked up a condition win in 1:51 on Tuesday night, the fastest time of the week at Pocono despite sloppy conditions; and Arielle Lynn (Eric Goodell, Kevin McDermott), who captured Tuesday night’s featured condition pace for mares in the slop in 1:53:4.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: MISTER PHOTOGENIC

Like Majo Just Do It, Mister Photogenic wasn’t exactly a name on everyone’s lips coming into the season. But hot streaks can arrive out of anywhere, and this 3-year-old gelding trained by Jim McGettigan definitely is on one right now. It began on opening night, when he surprised a field of maiden condition trotters with a come-from behind win at 7-1 in 1:58:3.

He was back at it again facing the same class on Sunday night. Because he had a win under his belt, he was forced to draw for an outside post, which left him in the tough #8 post position in field of nine. Driver Jim Morrill Jr. was able to guide Mister Photogenic to the lead with a steady move, taking over on the front stretch. The gelding received a lot of pressure, however, and as they rounded the final turn there were horses close behind and all around the 8-5 favorite.

It turns out that the gelding was playing a little possum, because once Morrill asked him for a little bit of speed, he left the pursuit far behind. Mister Photogenic ended up winning by a comfortable 5 ¼ lengths, a margin that seemed unlikely at the top of the stretch. His winning time of 1:58 reset his career best, although, if he continues to progress like he has early in the meet, it’s likely that mark will fall again very soon.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Muscle Diamond (John Campbell, Brett Bittle), a Meadowlands invader who scored a win in Sunday night’s featured trot in 1:53:3; DW’s NY Yank (Eric Goodell, Ron Burke), who overcame an outside post to deliver a condition victory on Saturday night in 1:53:3, matching Muscle Diamond for the fastest of the week at Pocono; and Swishnflick (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who handled a tough condition group on Saturday night in 1:54:3.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: NEXT SUCCESS

Even off a win in his last start at Rosecroft, this condition pacer driven by Jim Morrill Jr. went off at 19-1 on Sunday night and scored a victory to pay off $41.20 on a $2 ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: SIMON ALLARD

All signs point to a big season for Simon, as he followed up three wins on Opening night with three more victories in Saturday night’s action.

TRAINER OF THR WEEK: MARK FORD

One of the top trainers for many seasons now at Pocono, Ford picked up a win on Saturday night and then backed it up with a training double 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.

Opening Night Take 2 for the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

The Standardbred trotters and pacers will begin their 52nd season of pari-mutuel harness racing in northeast Pennsylvania this Tuesday evening, March 21, as The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono will present the first of 135 cards of the sulky sport scheduled for 2017, with Tuesday’s first race marked for 6:30 p.m.

The racing was set to begin on Saturday night the 18th, but two feet of snow at the mountain oval this past Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by high winds that caused considerable drifting in places, put paid to that idea, as for the safety of the horses and horsemen it was imperative to do a thorough job of track preparation, and thus the opener was pushed back until Tuesday.

The highlight of the 2017 Pocono season will come on Saturday, July 1, with the $2 million+ Sun Stakes Saturday card, which annually draws the sport’s best horses over several of the major categories. It was recently announced that Wiggle It Jiggleit, 2015 Harness Horse of the Year at age three and the fierce seasonlong rival of 2016 Harness Horse of the Year Always B Miki, will make his debut for the year in the Franklin Pace elimination races, to be held on Saturday, June 24.

And speaking of Wiggle It Jiggleit – the very first race of the 2017 racing season at Pocono, a $14,000 pace for “non-winners of three races or $30,000 lifetime,” is likely to have as its chalk, starting from post three, a stablemate to “Wiggle,” from the Bergstein/Proximity Award-winning Team Teague of owner George, driver Montrell, and trainer Clyde Francis. This three-year-old Delmarvalous gelding – who is 3 for 4 in his brief career – is named Nine Ways (nine is of course three times three), and his fastest win is in 1:53. (That’s a lot of coincidental numerology.)

The fifth race companion “nw 3” trotting event to the opener finds the sophomore filly Gin’s Tonic drawing the rail as she makes her first start of the year for local trainer Neal Ehrhart. The daughter of Muscle Massive had only one victory at two, but she picked a fine spot to notch it – in a division of the Keystone Classic at The Meadows, where she earned a mark of 1:56.3.

Older campaigners will be spotlighted in a pair of $12,500 events. The ninth race trot finds veterans ABC Muscles Boy and My Love Bi, who both took their 2016 marks of 1:53.3 at Pocono, coming into this race off promising early-season form, while the tenth race mares pace sports no fewer than six distaffs who have won since February 1, all of them in 1:54.1 or better in all kinds of wintry conditions.

Pocono’s all-time driving champion George Napolitano Jr. will be on the scene from opening night, coming up from Florida, where he already has shown himself in “midseason form” with a 27% win rate; his brother Anthony, second in the standings last year, will also have a full driving schedule from the word “go.”

The basic racing schedule at Pocono follows a Saturday through Tuesday basis, with first post at 6:30 except on Sundays, when the action starts an hour later. After Tuesday the 21st, Pocono is scheduled to race on Saturday-Sunday-Tuesday of the “following racing week” (March 25-28), with Mondays joining the mix on April 10.

A press conference/luncheon will be held at the track at 12 noon on Monday, with Pocono officials and horsemen on hand to take part in a preview of what should be a quality season of racing at The Downs. Pocono’s person of contact for media is Jennifer Starr, 570.831.2195.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Season Preview

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

Welcome back, everyone, to live harness racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The 2017 season is upon us, although it took a little bit longer for it to get here than we originally expected.

The campaign was supposed to open on Saturday, March 18, but Stella, the winter storm of the century in the Northeastern Pennsylvania area, had other ideas. Even though the snow fell a full five days before the scheduled opening night, the pure amount of precipitation meant that there was just no way for even our crack track maintenance staff to have the racing surface ready for the Standardbreds.

The best-laid plans, as they say. And so we begin instead on Tuesday night, March 21, embarking on another outstanding season or racing. Let’s hope the warmer weather arrives sooner rather than later, but fans of Pocono know that the racing action always heats things up even if the temperature stays stubbornly on the low side.

So what can you expect from the new meet? If it’s anything like our recent seasons, some of the finest racing action in North American is certain to occur. The recipe: Take one of the fastest, best-kept racing surfaces anywhere, add in top-notch purses to draw in the best horsemen and horses in the world, and then sit back and watch the excitement.

You can also expect stakes races that bring in the sport’s superstars, a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes schedule that allows the Pocono faithful to see harness racing’s best rising talent, and overnight races that lead to great rivalries from week to week. Each racing night, pacers and trotters take to the 5/8-mile oval at Pocono in search of glory, and the fans are the ultimate beneficiaries of all of this talented horse flesh coming together in intense competition.

The horses are fantastic, but they’re also guided by the one of finest collection of drivers and trainers in the country. There are many questions to be answered among the Pocono horsemen this year. Will George Napolitano Jr. continue his amazing run of dominance on the driving side? Can young drivers like Anthony Napolitano, Matt Kakaley, Jim Marohn Jr., Andrew McCarthy, Marcus Miller and others continue to make inroads in the drivers’ standings? Is there a new face we haven’t yet seen ready to make a mark at Pocono?

On the training side, will the three-way battle for honors between Rene Allard, Chris Oakes and Ron Burke continue to rage until the closing nights of the season as it did a year ago? Or will there be some progress made by some of the trainers who were in the middle of the pack and are looking to move up the standings?

All will be answered in time. The racing schedule, with the exception of a few weeks at the start and end of the season, will be as follows until September: Saturday, Monday and Tuesday nights at 6:30 PM ET, Sunday at 7:30. In September, our Monday cards begin in the afternoon at 4:30 PM ET. I, for one, can’t wait to get it started and see what happens.

I’ll be writing these articles all season long, talking about the exploits of our horses and horsemen, handing out weekly awards to the top performers. I’m looking forward to once again seeing our regular fans, who make The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono such a special place. Every year, when I come back to work in March, it’s like getting together with old friends once again.

And, as always, the sincere hope of everyone at Pocono is that we get a chance to make the acquaintances of some new friends as well. Those of you who might be checking this article out in the program may be new to harness racing. If you are, I encourage you to settle in and get ready an evening of fun and excitement.

Hopefully, you’ll be back again, and you’ll follow along with us through the 2017 season. It has the makings of another great campaign, and I’m extremely lucky to once again have the best view in the announcer’s booth. I hope you stop up to say hello. Good luck on your wagers. Here’s to the season ahead.

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