Posts Tagged ‘Gilberto Garcia-Herrera’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

June 9-15, 2018

It was a great week for all of horse racing with the stupendous Triple Crown-winning performance by Justify in The Belmont Stakes. That kind of thing reminds everyone what special athletes these horses are, and we at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono are privileged to get to see them do their thing up close and personal four nights a week. We see great performances on the regular, and the best of those from this past week get the spotlight as we hand out the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: MAJOR TRICK

In many cases, the horses that take home the Weekly Awards are those who are in the midst of winning streaks. Yet in the case of Major Trick, his previous race to his start on Saturday night in a $30,000 to $40,000 claiming handicap pace was a loss by a half-length in third to Eastend Eddie. That loss snapped a string of three consecutive wins for the seven-year-old gelding. Major Trick, a popular claiming commodity even at the high price, rejoined the barn of trainer Hunter Oakes in his Saturday night attempt to atone for the loss.

Leaving from post position #4 in a field of nine as a 6-5 betting favorite, Major Trick sat third early in the mile. A speed duel materialized in front of him, and the fractions spiraled quickly out of control. Sensing that the leaders were tiring, driver George Napolitano Jr. sent Major Trick for a quick first-over move on the back stretch, and he was on the lead in just a matter of moments. But it also made him a target for the closers, especially considering how close he had been to the blistering pace.

In the stretch, both Our Dragon King and Our Regal Ideal were closing with a head of steam. But Major Trick showed himself to be none the worse for wear, closing strong to hold of Our Dragon King by a half-length. The proof of his excellence was in the winning time of 1:49.4, which established a new career mark. Major Trick has now won four of his last five races, and it seems like another prolonged winning streak could be starting right after the one that was just broken.

Other top pacers this week include: Unbeamlievable (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who followed up a win at Harrah’s with a victory in Monday night’s featured claiming handicap for mares in 1:53.4; Boston Red Rocks (Anthony Napolitano, Jake Leamon), whose condition win on Saturday night came in 1:48.4, fastest time of the 2018 meet to date; and Mach It So (George Napolitano Jr., Jeffrey Bamond Jr.), who came up victorious in the Great Northeast Open series on Saturday night as an 11-1 shot in 1:49.3.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: OSTRICH BLUE CHIP

For handicapping purposes, there were a couple of red flags that might have dissuaded you from putting your money on Ostrich Blue Chip on Saturday night. On the one hand, the four-year-old mare from the Rene Allard barn was coming off a sharp win on May 28 at Pocono in 1:54.3. But the negatives for her condition trot on Saturday night included the fact that she would be leaving from the difficult #9 post and would be jumping a few rungs on the condition ladder to face the $14,000 group.

But the mare was driven by Simon Allard as if she was the no-doubt favorite and not a 6-1 third choice, which was the reality of the situation. She quickly hustled to the front end from the outside post in a rapid :26.4 for the opening quarter. That made it seem like she would be vulnerable, and, indeed, the favorite TSM Photo Bugger came brushing up on the back stretch to challenge. But when he reached Ostrich Blue Chip, she accelerated again and left him hanging on the outside.

From there, it was just a matter of sealing the deal, and Ostrich Blue Chip was able to do that with aplomb. She withstood yet another charge from the game TSM Photo Bugger at the end of the mile, coming home three-quarters of a length in front. The winning time of 1:53.1 was a new career-best and also the fastest trotting time posted at Pocono this week. For all of those red flags, Ostrich Blue Chip was the one who took home the green, as in the winner’s share of the $14,000 purse.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: LMC Mass Gem (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who moved up in class to capture Sunday night’s featured condition trot, winning in 1:56.3 in the slop for his second straight victory; Skates N Plates (Anthony Napolitano, Andrew Harris), who stepped up the condition ladder to pick up his second straight win on Monday night, this one coming in 1:55.4; and Manchego, the three-year-old filly superstar who stayed perfect, two for two this year and 14 for 14 lifetime, with a Pennsylvania All-Stars victory on Tuesday night in 1:52.4, matching her career mark.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: HIGHLAND DYNAMITE

Dynamite, indeed: This trotting filly, with Simon Allard driving, pulled a stunner in Pennsylvania All-Stars action Tuesday night, winning at approximately 124-1 to pay off $250.80 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.

The milestones just keep on coming for Pocono’s 10-time driving champion, as his win on Monday night with Myidealson N was the 9,000th driving victory of his illustrious career.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JENNIFER LAPPE

Lappe sent out a pair of New Zealand-bred winners on Saturday night, each of whom managed a new career-best with their victory: Motown N in 1:50.1 and Seel The Deal N in 1:51.1.

That will do it for this week at Pocono, 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, June 6th, 2018

June 2-8, 2018

Our Pacer and Trotter of the Week for this edition of the Weekly Awards have something in common. Both horses were struggling in the early part of the 2018 season coming off big campaigns a year ago. Both dropped down in class and picked up a win which seemed to ignite their confidence to move back up in class and beat even tougher horses the next time out. And both figure to be major factors going forward now that they’ve found their stride. Here is the lowdown on their exploits, as well as all of the other exciting action this past week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.

PACER OF THE WEEK: THE WAYFARING MAN

Last year as a five-year-old, this gelding from the Ron Burke barn put together a stellar season, earning over $110,000. He started this season off against the toughest pacers at Yonkers and Harrah’s but wasn’t able to do much damage. Then when he arrived at Pocono, he was saddled with back-to-back #9 posts, which he wasn’t able to convert into anything better than a seventh-place finish. On May 26 he dropped into the $11,000 condition group, and, even with another forbidding post (#8), The Wayfaring Man rolled to a sharp victory in 1:50.2.

On Saturday night, he moved back up the condition ladder to take on a $12,500 group, leaving from post position #6 as a 9-2 third choice. With Eric Goodell in the bike, The Wayfaring Man flashed with good early speed, then allowed race favorite YS Lotus to assume control of the lead. YS Lotus set nasty fractions, but The Wayfaring Man hung close in the pocket nonetheless. By the time they hit the stretch, YS Lotus was starting to feel the effects of the rapid pace.

The Wayfaring Man, on the other hand, came rushing up to take the lead once he had a clear look in the stretch. But his work wasn’t done, as Urban Renewal uncorked a late move and pulled up just about even at the finish line. When the dust settled, the photo showed The Wayfaring Man just out in front by a nose. His second straight victory came in a nifty winning time of 1:51.2, as he seems poised to hit the same heights that he reached a year ago.

Other top pacers this week include: Baby Kitty (Pat Berry, Eric Foster), who picked up a condition pacing win in Saturday night’s feature in 1:49.2, which was a new career-best and matched the fastest pacing time this week at Pocono; Tequila Monday (Brian Sears, Hunter Oakes), who followed up a win at Yonkers by scoring in the Great Northeast Open Series for mares on Sunday night in the slop at Pocono in 1:51; and Sidewalk Dancer (Brett Miller, Chris Oakes), who came in off a Sire Stakes win at Harrah’s and posted the fastest winning time of three divisions of the Pennsylvania All Stars for three-year-old fillies on Monday night with a 1:51.3.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: FRASER RIDGE

The move from three-year-old to four-year-old is often fraught with peril for Standardbreds. Horses go from facing primarily others of their own age to taking on experienced horses who are often much older than them. Fraser Ridge glided through his first two seasons of racing, earning six figures both years. But this year proved to be a bit confounding, at least to start things off, as the stallion trained by Chris Beaver found himself winless after three races.

Things started to cook for Fraser Ridge on May 26 at Pocono. Facing a $14,000 condition trotting group, he was cut loose on the front end and smoked the field to the tune of a sizzling mile of 1:52.1. He was back at it again on Sunday night, this time moving up to the $17,500 conditioners and facing an outside post in a field of seven. But the strategy was the same for driver George Napolitano Jr., as he sent Fraser Ridge to the front end with a swooping move around the first turn.

On a sloppy track, Fraser Ridge was able to open up a big lead and dare everyone to try to make their way through the muck and try to catch him. Nobody got even close. The winning time was a modest 1:55.4, but that was due to the sloppy conditions more than anything else. The proof of Fraser Ridge’s dominance came in his comfortable margin of victory over some high-class trotters. It looks like his four-year-old season might be as productive as his first two racing years after all.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: In Secret (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), an 18-1 long shot who stunned a field in the Great Northeast Open Series on Sunday night in the slop in 1:54.4; Homicide Hunter (George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes), who captured a division of the Great Northeast Open Series on Sunday night in just his second start of the year, winning in 1:55.1 in the slop; and Star Studded Cast (George Napolitano Jr., Gliberto Garcia-Herrera), who won his second straight claiming handicap and his third in his last four on Monday night, this one coming in 1:54.3.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: WILLIE B WORTHY

This trotting gelding started Sunday night off with a shocker in the first race, winning a condition with Marcus Miller in the bike at 37-1, paying off $77.20 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ERIC GOODELL

Goodell was a regular once upon a time at Pocono, and he still does damage in his sporadic appearances, such as on Saturday night when he rang up three victories.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JENNIFER SABOT

Sabot made the most of limited starters on Saturday night, sending out horses from her barn in three races and picking up wins in two of them, with pacers Some Playa and Drunken Terror.

That will do it for this week at Pocono, 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 Week In Review

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

August 12-18, 2017

This past week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono featured either Pennsylvania Sire Stakes or Stallion Series competition every racing night. It’s always a lot of fun to see these two and three-year-olds going at it for big purses as they try to establish themselves among the stars of their age groups. It’s also a reminder that Labor Day brings the two-year-old Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championships to Pocono. In the meantime, here are the finest performances of the past week via the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: HOLD IT HANOVER

In general, Stallion Series races are reserved for two and three-year-olds that are a notch below Sire Stakes level; that’s reflected in the lower, but still substantial, purses for the Stallion Series races. But, in some cases, the Stallion Series serves as a great location for horses that may have started a bit later in their career than others but are suddenly demonstrating immense talent. That certainly seems to be the case for Hold It Hanover.

This filly didn’t race at age two, and made her debut in Canada this season as a sophomore, picking up one win in eight starts. But things started to transform when she arrived in Pennsylvania in July and joined the barn of trainer Michael Hall. After finishing fourth in her first start at Harrah’s at Philadelphia, Hold It Hanover promptly ripped off three straight victories against non-winners of three fillies and mares. She then came to Pocono on August 8 and beat that same class from an outside post in a career-best 1:51:2.

On Sunday night, she took on the Stallion Series for three-year-old pacing fillies for the first time and the domination continued. As the 2-5 favorite from an outside post in a field of seven, she overwhelmed the field on the front end by 5 ¾ lengths with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike. The winning time of 1:51 was easily the fastest Stallion series time of the night and was comparable to the times of Saturday night’s Sire Stakes winners in the same division. With five wins in a row under her belt, the best way to classify Hold It Hanover is as tough to beat.

Other top pacers this week include: Maxdaddy Blue Chip (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who moved up in class and grinded out a first-over mile for his second straight condition victory on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:50:1; Scotty Lauxmont (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who scored his second consecutive condition win on Sunday night, moving up in class to win in a career-best 1:52:3; and First Class Horse (George Napolitano Jr. Tracy Brainard), whose condition win on Saturday night in 1:50 marked a career-best and the fastest pacing time of the week at Pocono.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: RIDGEWAY SPRINGS

One can never tell when the light is going to come on for a struggling horse. In the case of Ridgeway Springs, it looked like he might dwell in darkness all year long. When he arrived at Pocono from The Meadowlands for a non-winners of $6,000 in the last five event on August 6, he was winless this season in 19 races. But the change of scenery must have helped, as the four-year-old gelding, who had just joined the Owen Eiler Jr. barn, made a three-wide back stretch move on his way to a win in a career-best 1:55:2 at 11-1.

On Sunday night, Ridgeway Springs took on a different challenge, battling the non-winners of five for a purse of $16,000. Those are much bigger stakes than what he’s used to seeking, so it was somewhat understandable that he was let go at 13-1 despite the win in his last start. Driver Anthony Napolitano had the gelding ready to roll, however, pushing him to the front early and then settling into the pocket after race favorite Rosesareexplosive grabbed the lead on the front stretch.

Some first-over pressure from Centurion Hanover softened up Rosesareexplosive, all while Ridgeway Springs relaxed in the pocket. In the stretch, Ridgeway Springs uncorked his best move and slid past Rosesareexplosive to win by three-parts of a length. In doing so, he matched his career-best 1:55:2 time from the previous week. After two straight victories at double-digit odds, hope springs anew for this suddenly red-hot trotter.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Up Front Billy (Anthony Napolitano, Mark Ford), who scored a condition win on Saturday night in a brisk 1:53:1; Windsongmusclelady (George Napolitano Jr., Hunter Oakes), a mare who followed up a win at Harrah’s with a victory in Monday night’s featured claiming handicap trot in 1:52:3, a new career-best and the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono; and Frac (Anthony Napolitano, Jim Ray), who stepped up the condition ladder to win his second straight on Tuesday night in 1:55.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: CAN I SAY

With Anthony Morgan in the bike, this trotting mare beat a field of boys to win a condition event at 29-1 on Saturday night, paying off $60 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.

On Sunday night’s card, which featured some top drivers shipping in for the Stallion Series races, Pocono’s top driver asserted his dominance by winning eight of the 14 races on the program.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: NIFTY NORMAN

Among Norman’s four training victories at Pocono this week were back-to-back Stallion Series wins on Sunday night with sophomore filly pacers Bridge To Tomorrow and Perplexed.

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, May 17th, 2017

May 13-19, 2017

The good news is that the weather finally seems to be taking a turn for the warmer in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The bad news is that it took a while to get here, meaning that the racing cards on Saturday and Sunday were contested in chilly, rainy, sloppy conditions. But it wasn’t all bad news, at least for the long shots and mid-priced horses who took advantage of the weather situation to upend favorites at a high rate on those two nights. Let’s take a look back at it all by handing out the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: PRINCE PALANI

Sometimes it’s just a matter of a horse finding the right spot before it can succeed. Prince Palani had success early this season with five victories in the first three months of the year. But the Pennsylvania circuit proved rough for him in the month of April, as he raced four times in claimers at Pocono and Harrah’s at Philadelphia without finishing any better than fourth.

Trainer Ty Pena dropped him into a $15,000 claiming group on May 6 and everything changed. With Marcus Miller in the bike that night, he dominated to the tune of a 3 ½ length victory as the favorite in 1:53:2. Since that win was in the slop and since he was once again facing the $15,000 claimers on Saturday night, the six-year-old gelding understandably was bet down to a 6-5 favorite.

Saturday night’s sloppy track was, for the most part, extremely harsh on horses who tried to grab the engine. But Miller went after it with Prince Palani, securing the early lead and daring everyone to play catch-up. Nobody even got close. Prince Palani rolled to another comfortable victory, winning by 2 ¾ lengths over Just Bettor in 1:53. He was claimed from that race and could be moving back up in class next time around, but his confidence will be brimming if he does.

Other top pacers include: All Bets Off (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), the standout veteran who handled the featured condition pacers on Saturday night in 1:51:1 in the slop; Anwar Hanover (Jim Marohn Jr., Frank Kamine), who handled a rugged condition group on Saturday night in 1:54 in the sloppy going; and Melanie’s Sharkette (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), a mare who won Tuesday night’s featured distaff condition pace at 12-1 in a career-best 1:51:2.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: ABBIE’S CELTICLASS

The big test for this mare on Sunday night was to prove that her last victory was no fluke. That previous win for the four-year-old trained by Kenneth Hess Jr. came in the $30,000 finals of the Bobby Weiss series on May 2 as a 47-1 long shot. Driven by Matt Kakaley for the first time that evening, Abbie’s Celticlass came from the clouds to win it in a stunner in a career-best 1:55:2.

On Sunday, she was back at it facing the non-winners of five fillies and mares, and this time around she was made the 8-5 favorite. Once again Kakaley let the mile unfold in front of him with Abbie’s Celticlass, settling fifth in the early going as One Too Many set the pace. Kakaley set her in motion on the front stretch to advance toward the front, but, unlike in the Weiss, she was unable to find any cover to help her out on her journey.

The sloppy track on Sunday night helped her out though, as it was beneficial to those on an outside trip. Abbie’s Celticlass eventually corralled One Too Many with the first over trip at the top of the stretch. She then had to deal with the closers who had much better trips than her, but the mare held off Connie Jean in the final strides to score in 1:57 in the slop. That means the Weiss was no fluke, and it means that this mare has a winning streak going that might be difficult for her foes to break.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Rose Run Parker (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who shipped in from The Meadowlands to capture Sunday evening’s featured condition trot in 1:53:2 in the slop; Spicedbourbongirl (Jeff Gregory trainer and driver), a mare who overcame an outside post and a sloppy track to win a non-winners of seven condition on Sunday night in 1:54:4; and Can I Say (Matt Kakaley, Douglas Berkeley), who followed up a victory at Monticello with a condition win in the slop on Saturday night at Pocono in 1:55:2.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: EPIC RANGER

This trotter sent the faithful home shaking their heads on Tuesday night, winning a condition race at 47-1 with Eric Goodell in the bike to pay off $97.20 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MATT KAKALEY

The rain certainly didn’t bother Kakaley at all, as he led the driving community on both Saturday and Sunday nights with four wins each evening.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: RON BURKE

If Matt Kakaley is racking up driving wins, it usually means that Burke is doing the same on the training side, and sure enough he led all conditioners this week with five 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.