Posts Tagged ‘James M. Lynch Memorial Pace’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

July 1-7, 2017

It’s always nice when the hype is justified. We’ve been talking about Sun Stakes Saturday for a while now, and that conversation really ramped after some fascinating eliminations. What dominated those discussions was the fact that, unlike in past years, there were no horses that simply dwarfed the fields they were scheduled to face. The four stakes races featured on Saturday figured to be extremely competitive.

And that’s just how it turned out to be. Although the track was listed in fast condition, rain earlier in the afternoon made it a somewhat heavy surface, preventing the times from being too explosive. But the finishes were, for the most part, tight and a little surprising, with only one favorite out of four winning. Let’s take a look at how the action unfolded.

JAMES M. LYNCH MEMORIAL PACE for three-year-old fillies

The betting favorite was Tequila Monday, who had the fastest elimination victory and drew an inside post. But that filly simply never factored into the action, finishing a disappointing eighth. Idyllic Beach was the surprising pace setter from an outside post, but she, and everybody else in the field, had little chance to respond once Agent Q started rolling first-over. After finishing second in a pair of big-money stakes races earlier this season, the filly trained by Aaron Lambert was not going to be denied in this one. With David Miller in the bike, she zipped by the leaders and coasted home by three lengths in front of 99-1 shot Caviart Ally, tripping the line in 1:51, easily the most convincing winner in the four big stakes races on the night.

MAX C. HEMPT MEMORIAL PACE for three-year-old pacers

The Brian Brown barn is blessed with two special three-year-olds. One of them, Downbytheseaside, was the star of the Hempt eliminations with a stupendous effort for a win. Meanwhile the other, Fear The Dragon, suffered his first loss of the season in his previous start, casting some doubts about his supremacy in the division. In the Hempt final, Downbytheseaside went after the lead from a #8 post, and the early fractions he set to get the engine were cumbersome. Fear The Dragon, on the other hand, saved ground early, found cover on the back stretch, and was in full gear out wide as the field rounded the final turn. With David Miller in the bike, Fear The Dragon took over the late lead and held off a game charge by Funknwaffles to win by three quarters of a length in 1:49:3, reasserting his dominance in the process.

BEN FRNAKLIN PACE for free-for-all pacers

This was the night’s emotional high point. Although the field was stacked with eight superb aged pacers, the two on the inside garnered the attention. Keystone Velocity, trained by Pocono’s leading trainer Rene Allard and driven by Pocono regular Simon Allard, had the inside post and watched as the 3-5 favorite Mel Mara set the pace. Although the fractions were zippy, they weren’t the kind that would cause a horse like Mel Mara to falter. But Keystone Velocity remained locked in at the pocket, eventually utilizing the passing lane in the stretch. The stretch provided a classic battle. Mel Mara wasn’t giving an inch, but Keystone Velocity was full of firepower on his inside. When the dust cleared, Keystone Velocity added to the incredible season he’s been putting together by heading out Mel Mara in 1:48:4. The emotion came from Simon Allard returning the horse to the Winner’s Circle while standing in the sulky, aping a classic moment from the career of the late, great Herve Filion.

EARL BEAL JR. MEMORIAL for three-year-old trotters

All eyes were on the Ariana G, the first filly to ever compete against the boys in the Beal. She went off as the favorite and had to deal with a tough #8 post position. Unable to make the lead early, she took on pacesetting Long Tom, who, like Ariana G, hadn’t lost in his first three starts this season, with a first-over charge. It looked for all the world like the top two choices would decide it in a stretch duel. But Devious Man had other ideas. The three-year-old colt trained by Julie Miller suffered his first loss of the season in the eliminations in upset fashion, but he wasn’t scared off by the competition in the Beal final, having won a stakes race earlier this season at Vernon that carried a $252,000 purse. Driver Andy Miller settled Devious Man in behind the speed duel between Long Tom and Ariana G. When the field reached the top of the lane, Devious Man had the passing lane all to himself, and he scooted by to beat Long Tom by 1 ¼ lengths in 1:52:4 as a 15-1 bomber.

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 – Sun Stakes Saturday stars shine!

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

July 2-8, 2016

I’ve had the opportunity to call two Breeders Crowns during my time as track announcer at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, and yet I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a race as highly anticipated as the Ben Franklin pace that was contested last Saturday at Pocono as part of Sun Stakes Saturday. Three of the sport’s most talented horses at the absolute peak of their powers battled it out in a race that justified every bit of the hype. And although the result doesn’t technically prove anything but who was the best on that given night, the victory is a great feather in the cap of Always B Miki, who won the three-way dance. After all, the opportunity for he and Freaky Feet Pete and Wiggle It Jiggleit to converge on the same night at the same track in the same race might be a long time coming, if it ever happens again at all, so bragging rights might last a while.

Before we talk about exactly how the Franklin played out, there is the not-so-small matter of the three other huge stakes races that took place on Sun Stakes Saturday. In each of those races, the prohibitive favorite silenced any doubters that he or she might have faced coming into the race with a definitive performance. These performances may have removed some of the suspense from the proceedings, but they also solidified the greatness of the horses that delivered them.

In the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial pace for 3-year-old fillies, Pure Country came in looking to recapture the mantle of invincibility she possessed as a 2-year-old when she went unbeaten in ten races. She had won half of her six starts in 2016 coming into the Lynch, losing twice to Darlinonthebeach, who was in the Lynch field as well. But Pure Country, trained by Jimmy Takter, dusted that one by brushing by her in the front stretch, then held off a game Blue Moon Stride in the stretch by a half-length in a career-best 1:49:2.

Driver Brett Miller was aboard for Pure Country, and he continued his big night by piloting Racing Hill, who rolled to victory in the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial pace for 3-year-olds. Racing Hill is the lone Sun Stakes champion who can’t really claim divisional supremacy, considering that Betting Line swept through him and several other Hempt competitors in the North American Cup in Canada and didn’t make his way to Pennsylvania for this race. But Racing Hill, trained by Tony Alagna, still earns credit for handling the Hempt field with such ease on the front end, winning by a comfortable 2 ½ lengths in a career-best time of 1:49.

The $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial Trot for 3-year-olds seemed to be a perfect place for Southwind Frank to continue his dominance of the sophomore trotting division, at least until he was upset at 1-9 in the elimination by Bar Hopping. A #7 post in the final seemed like an invitation to more problems. But Yannick Gingras never sweated the trip, guiding Southwind Frank to the lead on the front stretch, rating him expertly, and then coasting home for a two-length victory in 1:52:4. Suddenly the loss in the elimination seems like a blip, and the career record of 14 wins in 16 races looms large as Southwind Frank heads toward the Hambletonian hype.

Back to the Franklin, which carried a purse of $500,000. For those who might have forgotten, the three main competitors were Wiggle It JiggleIt, defending horse of the year and one of the most popular stars the sport has seen in years; Freaky Feet Pete, a four-year-old counterpart of Wiggle It JiggleIt with a record almost as gaudy despite coming from humble origins in the Midwest; and Always B Miki, whose world record-matching victory in the Franklin eliminations was the latest in a series of jaw-dropping victories for the 5-year-old stallion.

As if so often the case, these big races never go exactly according to plan. Most people expected several horses to be winging it toward the front end and a sturdy outer flow to develop. Certainly that’s what driver David Miller expected when he sent Always B Miki to the outside on the first turn. But instead he cruised to the front of the pack and past Freaky Feet Pete for the lead at the 3/8-mile marker.

It was by no means easy after that, as Wiggle it Jiggleit came hard at him first-over on the back stretch. Once that charge was repelled, Always B Miki, trained by Jimmy Takter, had to summon more energy to hold off Freaky Feet Pete in the pocket. But after a trip in the eliminations in which he was parked for two turns, Saturday night must have seemed like a breeze for Always B Miki. He fended off Freaky Feet Pete by a length, once again pacing the mile in 1:47 to match his world-record time from the previous week.

The enthusiasm and excitement generated by both the Franklin and all of the big races on Sun Stakes Saturday demonstrate just how much the fans of this sport care for it. They want to see greatness, and they had that chance on Saturday night. Let’s hope that fate provides even more opportunities for the harness racing stars to align in such a manner in the very near future.

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.

Top horses in North America battle on Super Stakes Saturday

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

The two top-rated horses in 2015 North American harness racing, the three-year-old geldings Pinkman and Wiggle It Jiggleit, will continue their battle for #1 status in the sport this Saturday night during the $2,435,000 Super Stakes Saturday card at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, going in consecutive races – first Pinkman in the $500,000 Colonial Trot, and then Wiggle It Jiggleit in the $500,000 Battle of the Brandywine Pace.

The three three-year-old races, which include the $350,000 Valley Forge Pace for fillies, are filled according to 2015 moneywinnings –the nine having the highest seasonal bankrolls are gathered in the “main event” races, with the next nine in order in Consolation I, and the nine after that in Consolation II.

Another high-profile event Saturday is the $100,000 Sebastian K S Invitational Trot, a race which will double as a retirement ceremony for the trans-Atlantic champion who will be honored in special on-track ceremonies before he heads to stallion duties. Ironically, the likely favorite is the Sebastian K S is JL Cruze – the #3-ranked horse in North America, and the one who defeated “Sebastian” by a nose in his only 2015 outing before his retirement.

Here are profiles of the Big Three three-year-old events, followed by a look at the Sebastian K S Trot and other powerful races on the Saturday card:

COLONIAL TROT — $500,000 main event race 11; $200,000 Consolation I race 7; $100,000 Consolation II race 3. Stakes record: 1:52.1, Googoo Gaagaa.

Pinkman, fresh off his two-heat, world recordsetting victory in The Hambletonian, was aided by the draw with post two in the field of nine. Yannick Gingras is listed to drive Pinkman, a son of Explosive Matter who has eight wins and one second in nine seasonal starts, with his mark the 1:51 world record for 3TG in the second heat of the Hambletonian, and his $1,170,965 in 2015 earnings raising his career total to $1,737,625. (By the way, his chief foe in the Hambletonian, the filly Mission Brief, will be racing in Pennsylvania some 27 hours earlier, heading the $174,000 Moni Maker Trot at The Meadows Friday night.)

Pinkman will be find some familiar faces on the track beside him Saturday, as five of the nine Colonial entrants are, like he, part of the trotting superstable of Jimmy Takter. The “other” quartet – Uncle Lasse (PP3, driver David Miller), The Bank (PP6, Takter listing himself), Canepa Hanover (PP8, John Campbell back in the sulky), and French Laundry (PP9, Brett Miller) – are not just “makeweight” entrants either, with combined seasonal earnings of $900,000 among them.

Crazy Wow (PP1, trainer Ron Burke, driver Tim Tetrick) and Wicker Hanover (post five, Noel Daley, Corey Callahan) seem to have the best chance to upset the Takter applecart. Crazy Wow was third in the Beal Final here in June, behind Pinkman and Uncle Lasse, while Wicker Hanover handed Pinkman his only defeat of the year, in the Beal eliminations.

BATTLE OF THE BRANDYWINE — $500,000 main event race 12; $200,000 Consolation I race 8; $100,000 Consolation II race 4. Stakes record: 1:47.4, Sunshine Beach.

Wiggle It Jiggleit, an altered son of Mr Wiggins, has achieved slightly-higher earnings than Pinkman so far – $1,189,144, while winning 15 of 17 starts and showing speed, maneuverability, and courage. The winner of the Hempt Final here at Pocono early this season, Wiggle It Jiggleit will have driver Montrell Teague alert early, as he will be starting from the rail, and Teague’s job will be to get him to the front at some point without a terrific usage of resources, the fate which befell him in the recent Cane Pace, where he was involved in fractions of 25.4, 52,1, and 1:20.4 before tiring to fourth in the stretch.

The four horses who have finished ahead of Wiggle It Jiggleit in his lifetime (he raced only once at two, winning here) are all in the big Battle. Wazikashi Hanover (PP7, trainer Joanne Looney-King, driver Tim Tetrick, #7 in the North American polls) caught “Wiggle” in the stretch drive of the North America Cup at Mohawk, while the 1-2-3 Cane finishers are also here – in order of that race’s finish, Dealt A Winner (PP9, Mark Silva, David Miller), Artspeak (PP8, Tony Alagna, Scott Zeron), and Dude’s The Man (PP2, Jessica Okusko, Corey Callahan). The “Dude” also won the last big-money race for this division in Pennsylvania, the Adios at The Meadows on August 1.

VALLEY FORGE PACE — $350,000 main event race 10; $150,000 Consolation I race 7; $75.000

Consolation II race 3. Stakes record: 1:48.4, I Luv The Nitelife.

A division desperately looking for a leader after a series of different winners in most of this year’s major events to date may find one emerge from the Valley Forge Pace.

The biggest 2015 bankroll in the collection of nine misses belongs to Bettor Be Steppin, a daughter of Bettor’s Delight who will begin from post four for trainer Joe Holloway and driver Corey Callahan. Over half of the seasonal winnings of Bettor Be Steppin came right at Pocono, when she won a multi-horse close finish to capture the $300,000 Lynch Final, taking her mark of 1:50.4.

In finding other ways to measure this evenly-matched group, the biggest career bankroll belongs to Sassa Hanover ($634,440, PP7, trainer Ron Burke, driver Yannick Gingras), while the fastest speed mark is held by Moonlit Dance (1:49 winning the recent Mistletoe Shalee Final, PP6, trainer Tony OSullivan, driver David Miller). Both of those fillies show solid credentials in their achievements and their connections, and are likely to contribute to this fairly-wide-open affair.

OTHER BIG RACES SATURDAY

The $100,000 Sebastian K S Trot (race 5) marks the return to the races after a five-week break of the Cinderella story JL Cruze, who started to build a following while winning the Weiss Series here in the spring, and has gone on to win 16 of 18 starts and over $600,000 for trainer Eric Ell, with John Campbell returning from a recent minor injury to guide “JL” from the middle of the nine-horse field. Along the way, JL Cruze has become the third-fastest trotter of all-time, behind only Sebastian K S and Enough Talk (1:49.3 at Colonial) when he won the Graduate Series Final in 1:49.4.

The card kicks off with a bang, as national stars Cinamony, Krispy Apple, Ooh Bad Shark, and Yagonnakissmeornot collide in the $50,000 Hanover Shoe Farms Pace for mares.

The $50,000 U.S. Trotting Association Pace for free-for-allers may turn out to be the national coming-out party for the unheralded Always At My Place (PP2, trainer Ron Burke, driver Matt Kalaley), who goes for his sixth win in a row after missing the world record for 4PG by a tick here last Saturday, stopping the timer in 1:48.1 while pacing his own back half uncovered in 53.1 and winning under a hold.

Post Time for this stellar card is 5:30pm.

$2.2M in purses and a night of events for Sun Stakes Saturday

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Saturday, July 4th, the best of the best will land in Northeast PA for the $2,268,000 Sun Stakes Saturday supercard, featuring the $500,000 Championships for the Ben Franklin FFA pace, the Earl Beal Jr. three-year-old colt trot, and the Max C. Hempt three-year-old colt pace, and the $300,000 James Lynch Championship for three-year-old filly pacers.   All four of these events have consolation events, and there are three other Invitationals/Opens on the monster card.

The day begins with a special Meet and Greet with former Buffalo Bills QB Jim Kelly on the Sky Bridge from 4:00-6:00pm.  This is a wristband-only event, with wristbands being distributed at 1:00pm.  Only authorized photos will be signed, and will be available at the signing.

Racing fans can pick up their souvenir Earl Beal Jr. Memorial hat at 8:00pm in the lower Grandstand bar, with a coupon from the live racing program.  Programs are available starting at 5:00pm in the racing lobby.

Breyer Horses will be on hand for the official launch party of the release of the Foiled Again model, which will be for sale during the evening.  A generous portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Standardbred Retirement Foundation, who will also be on hand with a table of information and other items for sale.

Representatives of the US Trotting Association and the Harness Racing Fan Zone will be available to meet up with fans during the evening.

Racing fans are encouraged to bring their appetites because there will be outstanding selections from food trucks What The Fork; Big Belly’s BBQ; Wandering Chef; Doc Popcorn; and Johnny Rockets.

Post Time for this tremendous night of racing gets underway at 6:30pm.

Sun Stakes Saturday the fastest card ever!

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

The great card of racing this past Saturday at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, primarily populated by elimination races for this Saturday’s $2.2M Sun Stakes Saturday, flirted with the divisional world record table on more than one occasion without any new names being set down, but the card as a whole did produce one record – according to the USTA’s Trotting and Pacing Guide, it was the fastest card ever in harness history, with an average win time of 1:49.2 for the 16 races. 

T&P Guide history notes two occasions when a race card’s average win time was 1:49.3 – on Saturday, July 16, 2005 at The Meadowlands, a 13-race card (p. 297, 2013 T&P Guide), and 52 weeks ago to the day at the same track (Saturday, June 22, 2013), when the Sun Stakes Saturday elim card produced the same 1:49.3 average over 14 races (p. 288, 2014 T&P Guide).

 This past Saturday’s 1:49.2 average included two trotting miles – a 1:52.2 by Nuncio and a 1:52.4 by Father Patrick in the two Earl Beal Trot elims. In all, of the 16 races, 11 miles went 1:50 or better; 8 went 1:49 or better; and 3 went in 1:48 or better – and those three came consecutively: Domethatagain upsetting his Ben Franklin Pace elim in 1:48, McWicked taking the fastest of the Max C. Hempt Pace elims in the same time, and then Sweet Lou taking the other Franklin elim in 1:47.4. 

This Saturday’s Sun Stakes Saturday card will include the finals of the Franklin (FFAP), Hempt (3PC), and Beal (3TC), all worth $500,000, plus the $300,000 James Lynch Final (3PF), the $100,000 Sun Invitational trot (which, according to some reports, may actually help the 1:50 count, if you can believe that) and the $100,000 USTA Invitational pace, plus consolation races for the four major races as they fill, plus a strong undercard (this past Saturday’s non-elim races averaged 1:49.3 themselves).

Post time for Saturday’s Sun Stakes Saturday card at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs is set for 6:30 p.m.   If you can’t make it to the races, wager via www.ibetmohegan.com; or stop by any of the 3 OTW locations; East Stroudsburg; Lehigh Valley, or Carbondale.