Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Gregory’

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week in Review

Monday, June 6th, 2016

May 28-June 4, 2016

It’s been a while since we’ve handed out the Weekly Awards in this column. We hit a stretch the past month or so at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono where it seemed like every week featured a different set of stakes races, which obviously needed to be highlighted. This week the stakes races took a breather, allowing our excellent condition and claiming pacers and trotters to take center stage. And, with warm temperatures hitting the track, plenty of candidates stepped up with outstanding performances. So let’s see who took the highest honors at Pocono in the week that was.


It’s been a bit of an up-and-down season for Scott Rocks, a 6-year-old stalwart of the Chris Oakes barn. The gelding was a tough customer early in the year at Pompano Park, but then he came up empty in the Levy series at Yonkers. In his two starts at Pocono in the meet leading up to Saturday night, he battled his way to a second and a third against the top condition pacers on the grounds.

On Saturday night, Scott Rocks lined up from post position #6 in a field of eight for an $18,000 condition purse. He went off as the 2-1 second choice, ceding the favorite’s mantle to Bettor’s Edge, earner of over $1.8 million in his career. But driver George Napolitano Jr. wasn’t about to take a back seat to anyone, sending Scott Rocks to the front end. The fractions he set were intense, so much so that it seemed only a matter of time before Bettor’s Edge or somebody else in the field overtook him.

But Scott Rocks kept right on rolling. He finished strong in the lane to hold off Bettor’s Edge by a length-and-a-half. The winning time was an eye-opener, as the gelding tripped the line in 1:48. Not only was that the fastest time of an excellent career to date for Scott Rocks, it was also the fastest of the 2016 season so far at Pocono. Look for this talented gelding to step up in class off that extremely impressive mile in the weeks to come.

Other top pacers this week include: Limelight Beach (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who rallied to capture Saturday night’s featured condition pace in 1:49:4; Mr D’s Dragon (Simon Allard, Staffan Lind), a 3-year-old who picked up his second straight condition win on Monday night, this one coming in 1:55 in the slop; and Check’s Commodore (Matt Kakaley, Tony Kavoleff), whose victory in a condition pace on Monday night in 1:54:4 in sloppy conditions gave three wins and a place in his last four races.


For the past few weeks at Pocono, the condition trot with the biggest purse has been scheduled on Sunday nights, giving some of the leading lights of the trotting game a chance to shine. Three weeks ago, Tag Up N Go put together an impressive win in the featured trot, followed the next week by Armor Hanover’s victory in the slop. In both of those races, Aggressive, a 5-year-old gelding trained by Gilberto Garcia-Herrera, had been best of the rest with second-place finishes at nice prices.

On Sunday night in the $18,000 featured condition trot of the week, it appeared as though Aggressive might have to once again take a back seat to a conquering invader. B Yoyo arrived from The Meadowlands with an impressive string of swift times and solid performances and, with the inside post, went off as a 1-2 favorite. When B Yoyo had the lead on the back stretch, it appeared for all the world like he would fulfill his promise.

But Aggressive, perhaps weary of playing second fiddle, had other ideas. With one quick brush he moved from third right past the stunned leader. He then built a big lead that he would pretty much carry all the way home. With George Napolitano Jr. in the bike, the gelding steamed home 3 ¼ lengths ahead of his nearest foe, tripping the line in a career-best time of 1:52:4, which also matched the fastest trotting time of the week. Now that he has a taste for winning, you might see Aggressive doing it a lot more often.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Mr Lover (Anthony Napolitano, Jenny Melander), who moved up in class and captured his second straight condition win on Monday night, this one coming in the slop in 1:56:2; Celebrity Bugatti (Anthony Napolitano, Chris Oakes), who picked up a condition victory in a career-best 1:52:4, which matched the fastest trotting time of the week; and Spicedbourbongirl (Jeff Gregory driver and trainer), a filly who picked up a condition win on Sunday night in a career-best 1:53:4, giving her three victories in her last four races.


This filly with Jim Taggart Jr. in the bike left well in a condition trot on Tuesday night, inherited the lead from a breaking horse, and trotted away late to win at 20-1, paying off $42.80 on a $2 win ticket.


George Nap, who currently is the only driver with over 100 wins in the Pocono meet, had another big week with four wins on Saturday night and three nights out of four with multiple victories.


Czernyson sent out a pair of maiden trotters on Sunday night and by the end of the evening they were maidens no more, as both Sand Grenade and Pick Up The Tab scored their first lifetime victories.

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


Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Northeast Pennsylvania will undoubtedly be the Center of World Harness Racing this Saturday night, as Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs offers a spectacular card, with the $500,000 Earl Beal Memorial Trot Final for 3YO colts – whose eliminations last week spun off the two fastest trotting miles in global harness racing 2012 – joining up with elimination races for the following Saturday’s Ben Franklin Pace Final (FFA horses), Max Hempt Memorial Pace Final (3YO colts), and Jim Lynch Memorial Pace Final (3YO fillies). 

The Beal Final is marqueed by Googoo Gaagaa, a son of Cam’s Rocket who set a divisional world record of 1:51.3 in his elim while winning by seven lengths, and Stormin Normand, the Broadway Hall colt and defending PA Sire Stakes champion whose 1:51.4 triumph last week would have been a world record had it come 40 minutes earlier (that is, before Googoo Gaagaa hit the track). In Saturday’s rematch, which is race 12 on the 16-race card, Stormin Normand got a bit of an edge in the positional draw for Hall of Fame driver Dave Palone (who won last year’s inaugural Beal with Dejarmbro after the famous private plane ride), trainer Jim Campbell, and breeder/owner Jules Siegel, shaking post four, while Googoo Gaagaa will have to overcome post six (which he did last week, by the way) for driver Corey Callahan and owner/trainer Richard Hans. 

Not to be dismissed is Uncle Peter, the 2011 Breeders Crown winner (ironically, driven by Palone in that race), who thunderbolted home last week to just miss a half-length to Stormin Normand. This Cantab Hall colt, owned by the Fieldings, Christine Takter, and Falkbolagen AB, will begin from post seven for driver Ron Pierce as part of a three-horse entry trained by Jimmy Takter, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame eight days after the Beal, along with stablemates Nothing But Class (post two, Takter up) and Little Brown Fox (post eight, Yannick Gingras). 

The first four finishers and the fastest fifth-place finisher from last week made the Beal final, and the same rules will be used in the Lynch Memorial and Franklin, which also have two elims. The Hempt Final, requiring three elims, will find the top three from each of Saturday’s contests advancing. 

The combined Franklin eliminations may gather the richest collection of pacers ever assembled for one race, with the 17 entrants sporting a total bankroll of $21,962,000 lifetime, including nine millionaires. 

The 9th race second Franklin elim looks to be the tougher of the two, headed as it is by the #1 horse in the North American Top Ten, Foiled Again. The ironsided altered son of Dragon Again, owned by trainer Ron Burke in partnership with Weaver Bruscemi and the JJK Stables, has hit the board in all ten starts this year, and the horse who knows no reverse gear will be guided from post four by Yannick Gingras. (Think we’re kidding about a tough field? Foiled Again, with a lifetime assemblage of $3,843,305, isn’t even the richest horse in the field – heck, he’s not even the richest Burke trainee in the field, with Won The West [$3,939,136] starting from post eight for David Miller.) 

This group also includes We Will See (post three, Hall of Famer Ron Pierce), whose all-age record 1:48 at Pocono last September ties for the fastest mile ever on a 5/8-mile track and who also is the defending Franklin champion, and Golden Receiver (post nine, Brian Sears), who has led the Top Ten polls for most of the campaign. 

In the 7th race Franklin elim cut, much of the attention will focus on two horses who were in the photo for win in the Bettor’s Delight Pace at Tioga Downs on June 10 – Clear Vision (post four, yet another Burkian, driven by PcD regular Matt Kakaley), who nosed out (yes, stablemate) Foiled Again, and Bettor Sweet (post seven, Hall of Famer John Campbell), who set a scorching pace and succumbed only by a neck to the two outside-flow horses.

 A good deal of the industry will have an eye on the 11th race Lynch elimination, a field of seven, topped by the Top Ten’s #2, American Jewel (post four, driver Tim Tetrick, trainer Jim Takter, and owner Brittany Farms), who had established herself as last year’s top distaff pacing freshman before suffering a season-ending injury. But she has roared back in 2012, last week winning the $629,160 Fan Hanover Final at Mohawk in 1:48.2, a divisional world record – enough to encourage her connections to put up $15,000 to supplement her to the Lynch. 

Her archrival, last year’s divisional champion Economy Terror, had a hard trip in the Fan Hanover and finished fifth, but tonight’s post change from nine outside Toronto to one at the track where she won her state’s Sire Stakes Championship last year should position her for a big outing for driver Brian Sears, local trainer Chris Oakes, and the ownership triumvirate of Pompey, Taylor, and Gold. 

The other Lynch elim, race 3, may hinge on which Sarandon Blue Chip shows up at Pocono – the one who was super-impressive winning at The Meadowlands three weeks ago, or the one who was rough-gaited and missed out on the Fan Hanover Final. Sarandon will try to bounce back from post five for driver David Miller, with the major danger looking to come from Major Look (post two, Jeff Gregory) who won in 1:50.1 at Tioga in her last start. 

For the Hempt, the first elim is race 5, where I Fought Dalaw, like Sarandon Blue Chip, will look to bounce back from a subpar Mohawk performance after strong Meadowlands form. David Miller will guide I Fought Dalaw from post two. 

Also trying to shake off bad Mohawk luck will be Hurrikane Kingcole, starting from post three for Tim Tetrick in the 10th race second elimination. The “King” (no relation to George Anthony) miscued at the start of his North America Cup elim, but was officially timed in a mind-blowing 1:18.3 for his final three-quarters after repairing his error. 

The third Hempt group, in race 13, pulls together many horses with great credentials: Bolt The Duer (post two, Mark MacDonald), who has all the potential in the world; A Rocknroll Dance (post four, Yannick Gingras), who was the top-rated colt coming into this season; and Allstar Legend (post seven, Brian Sears), who smoked the last 1320 feet of Philadelphia in 26.2 in posting a 1:48.2 triumph last out. 

FINISHING LINE – That 1:48.2 of Allstar Legend was just 1/5 of a second off the divisional world record of Custard The Dragon – who just happens to be the defending Hempt champion – and who just happens to be in the race which will kick off the card at 6:30, a $25,000 winners-over pace.