Posts Tagged ‘Harrah’s’

Winning Fillies return for Bobby Weiss Series

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Both South Side Hanover and Stirling Debutant are now two-time winners in as many preliminary legs of the Bobby Weiss Series for trotting females after Tuesday, April 12th, at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, but Stirling Debutant was more impressive to the eye as she easily trotted over her field after a fast pace to win in a lifetime best of 1:55.4.

Anthony Napolitano placed the Credit Winner mare third behind a streaking Real Caviar, also a winner last week, as the latter posted scalding fractions of 27.2, 56.4, and 1:25.4. Napolitano was able to back out behind the cover over first-over Hot Curry on the far turn, then tipped wide and easily trotted to the fore, winning by a length and a quarter. After going 1 for 25 at ages two and three, Stirling Debutant is now 2-for-2 in 2016 for trainer Christie Collins and owners J M F Racing LLC.

Although trainer/driver Todd Schadel’s Real Caviar tired after that hot pacesetting, his other winner from the first Weiss leg, South Side Hanover, did make a return trip to Victory Lane, tonight winning in 1:57.1. Schadel sent the Cantab Hall filly uncovered at the half, and she trotted a 27.4 third panel to clear to the lead en route posting a length victory. Schadel also co-owns South Side Hanover with Roger Hammer, the pairing behind 2005 Hambletonian winner Vivid Photo.

In the third $15,000 division of Tuesday’s second round action, the Kadabra filly Ready Any Time was ready this evening, also using first-over tactics en route to a 1:59.4 triumph by 1½ lengths. Matt Kakaley was in the filly’s sulky for trainer Nifty Norman and the partnership of Melvin Hartman, Herb Liverman, David Mc Duffee, and Little E LLC.

Rene Allard is still four winners away from becoming the first trainer to achieve 3000 conditioning victories before the age of 30, dividing six starts between The Downs and Yonkers on Tuesday, and doing very well with three seconds and two thirds, but no winners circle appearances. Allard, 29, sends out one horse April 13th, Wednesday, at Harrah’s, and then his magic moment seems likely to arrive over the weekend: he has seven in at Yonkers Thursday April 14th  and nine Friday,April 15th, and then has entrants in every one of the 14 races at Pocono on Saturday in addition to four at Yonkers; if those horses don’t get him to 3000, he’ll have eight more chances at Pocono on Sunday.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week in Review

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

May 9-15, 2015

Next week, the action at Pocono really kicks into another gear with our first Sire Stakes action of the season and our first Open pacing and trotting events for the meet. This past week was no slouch though, thanks to Pennsylvania All Stars action and some thrilling overnight racing. Let’s take a look at which horses and horsemen stood above all in the past four racing nights by handing out the Weekly Awards.


It’s good sometimes to have a long memory when you’re trying to handicap a race. Take the case of Dynamic Youth in Saturday night’s condition pace for non-winners of $15,000 in the last five starts. The 6-year-old gelding from the Aaron Lambert barn had won his previous start against lower company in a solid effort in 1:51:1.

Saturday night represented a step up the condition ladder though, and considering he had finished ninth in a lower group at The Meadowlands, the morning line oddsmaker, who shall remain nameless (although his name rhymes with Schmim Schmeviglia), decided to tag him with odds of 6-1. The betting public, however, who likely remembered how many classic miles this one has put together in the past at Pocono, bet him down to a 4-5 favorite.

The fans were right. With George Napolitano Jr. in the bike, Dynamic Youth took charge early and powered through the second half of the mile, keeping his competition at bay for a victory in 1:50:1. Maybe he just needed to be back at his old haunts, or maybe he just needed the backing of the faithful. Whatever the case, Dynamic Youth is back on top of his game with two straight victories, so underestimate him at your own peril.

Other top pacers this week include: Rose Run Quest (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who, even after a barn switch, picked up his third straight condition pacing win on Tuesday night in 1:52:3, which was a new career mark for him; A J Corbelli (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who rolled to his second straight condition win on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:50:3; and Caviart Shelley (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who moved up in class and still won her third straight condition pace on Wednesday night, matching her career mark of 1:51:4 in the process.


This 5-year-old gelding loves to race at Pocono. Coming into his start on Wednesday night in a $12,500 to $15,000 claiming handicap, he had won four races in a row when he was at the Pocono oval. Sprinkled in that stretch were a pair of struggling performances at Harrah’s at Philadelphia, so maybe the right thing to do would be to keep this one here until somebody knocks him off.

After wins the past two weeks for trainer Rene Allard, Ali De Vie was claimed and joined the barn of Jenny Melander for his start on Wednesday night. Leaving from post position #2 in a field of nine, the gelding sat in fourth early on as Browner Shuttle set the pace. Driver Jim Morrill Jr. waited for an opening and then sent Ali De Vie on a first-over journey on the back stretch.

Although he found no cover to help him out, Ali De Vie corralled Browner Shuttle at the top of the stretch. Once he had the lead, he had to deal with Fall Creek Bandit, who had an excellent trip in the pocket and was coming up the passing lane. But Morrill and Ali De Vie had just enough to hold him off and win it in 1:55:3. That makes three wins in a row overall and five for his last five at Pocono. This horse truly loves this course.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: P L Eureka (George Napolitano Jr., John Barchi), whose claiming handicap victory on Wednesday night in 1:54:2 was his fourth in his last five; Sentry (Larry Stalbaum, Jenny Melander), who snuck up the inside late on Saturday night for an upset win in the week’s top condition trot in 1:54, which matched a career-best; and Picture This (Charlie Norris driver and trainer), who rolled to a condition victory on Tuesday night in 1:53:3, the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono.


Driver Joe Pavia Jr. worked out a pocket trip for this pacer on Saturday night and he rallied to win a claiming handicap at 45-1, paying out $92.40 on a $2 win ticket.


Pavia only recently returned to driving duties, but he made his presence felt on Saturday night with ba pair of victories, including the huge long shot Cane Ridge.


Talk about efficiency: Kesmodel sent out three starters at Pocono al week, two on Saturday and one on Wednesday, and every one of the three came back to the barn a winner.

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

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Friday, August 1st, 2014

July 25-July 31, 2014

As the month of August dawns, the racing action at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs has reached a fever pitch. Five nights a week, outstanding trotters and pacers, often at the peak of their powers, are tested by some of the fastest action in the country. Drivers, trainers, and owners are also involved in these daily battles, their fires stoked by both their competitive natures and by the lure of the big purses. All of this combines to make the action at this time of year particularly exhilarating. It also makes choosing the Weekly Awards a difficult task, but here we go.


Winning streaks are difficult enough to sustain at a single track. Compiling several victories in a row while shipping from track to track is an even tougher task. After all, each track has its own bias that favors a certain style of pacing or trotting, meaning that a horse has to be versatile enough to handle that kind of variety. Giant Sculpture has proven just that kind of versatility in recent weeks.

The 6-year-old gelding picked up the first victory in his recent hot streak at Pocono on July 12, beating a field of $20,000 claimers in a career-best 1:49 with a strong first-over effort. He was claimed from that race and joined the barn of Christie Collins, who brought him to Harrah’s at Chester to knock off a condition field with a late rally in 1:51:3.

On Saturday night, he was back at Pocono facing a $20,000 to $25,000 claiming handicap group. Despite being saddled with the outside post in a field of eight, Giant Sculpture found some cover on the outside to help him advance through the field. In the stretch, he blew by the tiring leaders with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike to win in 1:50:3. Not only has he achieved this three-race streak on two different tracks, he has managed to do it in three different classes. Versatile, varied, and, most importantly, victorious: That’s how Giant Sculpture has been rolling of late.

Other top pacers this week include: Fitz’s Z Tam (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who overcame an outside post to defeat a claiming handicap field on Sunday in 1:51:2, giving him two in a row; Gold Deuce (Joe Pavia Jr., Lou Pena), who won his second straight claimer on Friday night and did so in a career-best 1:51: and Clint Westwood (Anthony Napolitano, Ron Burke), whose condition victory on Saturday night in 1:49:4 gave him four wins in his last five.


This 4-year-old stallion from the Erv Miller barn has been steadily improving throughout the 2014 season, but he has really peaked lately. A conquest of the non-winners of four at Pocono on July 8 gave him his first win of the season. He quickly followed that up with a rallying condition win at Harrah’s in 1:54:1. He then moved up the ladder to face the non-winners of $12,500 the last five starts at Pocono on July 22, putting in a good effort to finish third.

On Tuesday night, he stayed in the same class but didn’t have to face either of the two horses who finished in front of him in the previous start. He did have to face off with Canadian Wildcat, who set the early pace and dug in when Team Six tried to get by on the outside. For two of the three turns, Team Six was parked on the outside, a predicament which usually spells doom for a horse’s chances.

Driver Marcus Miller never panicked though, keeping Team Six right alongside the leader without taxing him too much. In the stretch, Canadian Wildcat finally wore down a bit and Team Six kicked on past for the victory in 1:53:2. That winning time was a career-best despite the tough trip and extra distance, meaning that this stallion should be primed for even better stuff when the racing breaks do even out and go his way down the road.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Political Desire (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), whose victory in a condition trot on Saturday night came in a career-best 1:52:4, which was also the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono; Whata Donato (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who notched a career-best mile of 1:53:1 in a condition victory on Tuesday; and Overandovervictory (Marcus Miller, Douglas Hamilton), who shipped in from Tioga for a condition victory on Sunday night in a career-best 1:53:4.


He broke stride in his debut, but this 2-year-old trotter driven and trained by Tom Jackson atoned for it his second time out Friday night and won at 28-1, paying off $59.60 to win.


The veteran of the Pocono racing wars had an interesting week, picking up four victories, all of which came aboard horses scoring their maiden victories.


It was a monster week for the meet’s leading trainer, as he had two nights of four wins or more and had more victories than all but one driver for the week.

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

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

July 20-26, 2012

The racing action at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs has reached a fever pitch. This 2012 season had produced the fastest times and some of the best performances in track history. As a result, it’s getting harder and harder to pick out the very best of the best each week. We’ll give it a shot anyway with this edition of the Weekly Awards.


Winning streaks in the sport of harness racing are hard to come by. Not only does a horse have to be on top of its game, but it also has to avoid difficult trips that make winning a tough proposition. It’s even tougher to sustain a winning streak when a horse in moving up in class along the way. That’s why Splendid Kisser’s recent streak needs to be honored.

Splendid Kisser, an 8-year-old gelding from the barn of Chris Oakes, has been outstanding all season long, but he really got rolling with a win against the $10,000 claimers on June 30. He followed that up in rapid succession with wins in the $12,500 and $20,000 claiming classes, each time as a heavy favorite, each time in dominant front-running style.

On Saturday night, the gelding faced the $20,000 claimers but this time had to do it from the dreaded #9 post, which is usually bad news for horses with early speed.  For Splendid Kisser, it was no sweat. He once again rolled to the front, and, with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike, held off the challenge of the pocket horse to win by a length in a speedy 1:50:2. That’s four wins in four weeks in three different classes for Splendid Kisser, a claimer whom you just don’t want to face right about now.

Other top pacers this week include: Bettors Glass (Andrew McCarthy, Scott Di Domenico), who followed up a win at Harrah’s with a monster mile in a victory at Pocono at Saturday night in 1:48:4, the fastest pacing time of the week; Pair A Dice (Tyler Buter, Paul Holzman), who won his second straight on Saturday night at the top of our claiming ladder and matched a career-best in the process with a mile of 1:50:1; and Breakheart Pass (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who won her second straight on Tuesday night against the toughest distaff condition pacers on the grounds, this time in 1:50:3.


It looked for all the world like this award would belong to Sevruga, a powerful 4-year-old who had been beating everyone in his path in the past few months at Pocono. One of those horses who had come up short against him was Anders Bluestone, finishing second to Sevruga in his last two tries.

Yet Anders Bluestone’s record coming into Sunday night’s featured trot for winners of over $25,000 lifetime was no joke, with 8 wins in 16 tries and $139,800 in the bank this year alone. Driver George Napolitano Jr. decided try a different tactic and send the 6-year-old stallion from the barn of Eric Ell to the front and make Sevruga do the coming from behind for a change.

The strategy worked like charm. Thanks to an expert rate job by Napolitano, Anders Bluestone was still extremely sharp in the latter part of the mile, finishing strong to win by a half-length in 1:52:4. Sevruga will likely have his chance to win this award, but Anders Bluestone won this battle in what is shaping up as a tremendous trotting rivalry at Pocono.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Zooming (Andy Miller, Julie Miller), who arrived from The Meadowlands and smoked a condition trotting group on Sunday night in 1:52:3, a new career-mark and the fastest trotting time of the week; Mr Mcrail (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who won two straight at The Meadows and then added to the streak with a claiming handicap win at Pocono on Sunday night in 1:54; and Idadazzle (Matt Kakaley, David Duspiva), whose claiming win in 1:56:3 on Tuesday night was his third straight and 11th victory this year.


Coming in from The Meadows, this trotter came up flying late with Mike Simons in the bike to upset a field of $10,000 claimers on Tuesday night at 32-1, paying off $67.60 on a $2 win ticket.


A longtime fan favorite at Pocono, Matt picked up his 2,500 career victory in memorable fashion Saturday night, staging a furious rally aboard Amillionpennies, a horse he also trains.


Adams has been a major player in the training wars all season long at Pocono. He scored a double on Saturday night to continue his excellent year.

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


Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Friday, June 29th, 2012

June 22-28, 2012

Normally, I use this space each week to detail the exploits of several of the racing stars at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. This week is an exception, because one performance was so outstanding that it outshone all others, even in a week that witnessed several track records falling by the wayside in the eliminations for the Ben Franklin, James M. Lynch, and Max C. Hempt stakes races.

The performance in question was put in by a horse with an odd name and an even odder story. Googoo Gaagaa is that unique colt, proof that absolutely anything can happen in the sport of harness racing. In the past two weeks, he has done things at Pocono that no trotter has ever done, a fact made even more amazing when you consider the origins of this one-of-a-kind performer.

Richard Hans is an owner and trainer of horses on the Maryland circuit, and he attempted a few years back to breed a trotting mare he had purchased named Kora’s Trotter to another trotter, but no offspring resulted. Wanting to get something for his money, he matched Kora’s Trotter with a pacer that he owned named Cam’s Rocket. The result was Googoo Gaagaa.

Googoo Gaagaa began racing in Maryland last season as a 2-year-old, and the results were astounding. He won every one of his six trots, capping the season with a ridiculous 41-length win in the finals of the Maryland Sire Stakes at Ocean Downs. Hans resisted overtures from big racing syndicates to purchase the horse in the offseason, even as skeptics doubted the colt’s ability to face off against tougher trotters he would inevitably meet outside of his home state.

Those skeptics seemed prophetic when Googoo Gaagaa’s first start in 2012 and his first out of his Maryland ended with a break of stride at Harrah’s. Two weeks later, he bounced back with a sizzling win on the same track, and he followed that up with a win in the Simpson at The Meadowlands and a victory over older condition trotters at Harrah’s.

Hans handed the reins over to Corey Callahan for those races, and driver and horse got along extremely well. Next up was the elimination for the $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial trot at Pocono on June 16. This seemed like it would be the colt’s toughest test yet, and yet Callahan never lifted a finger as Googoo Gaagaa romped to win in 1:51:3, which set a new world record for 3-year-old colts on the trot, almost a full second faster than the previous mark.

All of that led up to Saturday night’s final. As a sports fan, I can think of so many occasions where the storyline was so perfect up until the ending, only to have something unexpected happen to ruin the ideal finish. As I prepared to call the Beal final, the cynic in me wondered if the Cinderella story of Googoo Gaagaa had run its course and fate would intervene in the final.

Instead, Googoo Gaagaa put on a performance for the ages. He took over the lead on the front stretch from Stormin Normand, a superstar colt in his own right who, in any other year, would have won this race in record-setting fashion. In the stretch, Stormin Normand came hard at the leader, and Callahan asked for more from his horse for the first time.

To say that the colt responded would be an understatement of epic proportions. Even though he had set nasty fractions throughout the mile, Googoo Gaagaa found another gear late and burned his way home to the win in 1:50:4.

That’s right: 1:50:4. I called the race a few years when Arch Madness trotted a mile of 1:51, which set the world record for all age groups at a 5/8-mile oval. It was so ridiculously fast that I never thought anyone would approach it again. Googoo Gaagaa not only approached it; he bested it, becoming the fastest trotter ever at a track size used by many of the top tracks in the country.

After the race, our television personnel, Kelly Connors and George Anthony, interviewed a jubilant Callahan and a reluctant Hans. The trainer couldn’t wait to get off the stage, while Callahan chuckled at Hans’ one-word answers to the questions.

They made quite the odd couple, but, then again, Googoo Gaagaa is one odd horse, although what’s truly odd about him really isn’t his name or his pedigree or his connections or anything else in his unlikely rise to the top of the trotting world. He’s odd in terms of the fact that he can trot faster than just about any horse on the planet right now. That’s the kind of odd any horsemen would want.

That’s it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at