Posts Tagged ‘Jim Taggart Jr.’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Monday, April 9th, 2018

March 31-April 6, 2018

As we barrel forward into the month of April, we are still waiting for signs of spring to show up in the weather in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Rest assured, however, the cold weather hasn’t had any negative effect on the early-season racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. If anything, the racing action is ripping along as if we were all basking in a heat wave in the middle of summer. That means lots of competition for this edition of the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: WALKS OF LIFE

First of all, any horse sort of named after an 80’s hit gets my immediate stamp of approval. But this eight-year-old gelding has brought the game to match up with the name. And his success started long before he arrived at Pocono for the beginning of the meet. Racing on the New Jersey circuit, Walks Of Life hit the board in every one of his first eight 2018 races while winning five of them. He didn’t waste any time at Pocono either, winning his first two races of the meet in gate-to-wire fashion.

After winning at the $12,500 and $15,000 claiming levels, he went back at it against the $15,000 claimers on Saturday night. This time around, he was working for a new barn, going for trainer Toni Freitas after the bulk of his 2018 success came with Vincent Fusco Jr. Even with the barn switch, the Pocono faithful believed in Walks Of Life, making him a 3-5 favorite as he left from post position #1 in a field of eight. When driver Jim Morrill Jr. asked him for a quick burst of speed on the front stretch, he moved to the lead, which is where he loves to operate.

From there, the favorite handled a first-over challenge from Mainland Key N, while the pocket tripping Annuity tried to stay close for a final rally. But the rest of the field turned out to be playing for second, as Walks Of Life glided away from the pursuit and ended up winning by 5 ½ convincing lengths in a season-best time of 1:51:2. Now with wins in seven of ten on the year, he also became the first horse to rack up three wins in the Pocono 2018 meet. And, with how great he’s been going, he’ll probably be tough to beat as he tries to be first to four.

Other top pacers this week include: Cowboy Terrier (Eric Carlson, Ron Burke), who scored a condition victory on Saturday night in a sizzling time of 1:50, fastest of both his career and of all pacers on the young 2018 racing season at Pocono; Kimberlee (Jim Marohn Jr., Ake Svanstedt), a filly whose victory on Sunday night in the first leg of the Bobby Weiss late closer series made her two-for-two at Pocono in the meet and came in a career-best 1:53:3; and Charmbro Curiosity (Marcus Miller, Dan Morrissey), who stepped up in claiming price to $10,000 on Saturday night and won his second straight at Pocono, this one coming in 1:53:4.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: TOUR DE LINDY

A year ago as a three-year-old, the most memorable win for Tour De Lindy came when trainer Lucas Wallin drove him to a victory at Pocono at some of the longest odds for any winner in the entirety of 2017 at the track. When he returned to Pocono racing on March 27, he came in much more highly-regarded. He had begun the year with back-to-back near-miss second-place finishes at The Meadowlands. With Wallin handing the driving chores off to Marcus Miller, the four-year-old gelding easily handled a tough non-winners of four grouping in 1:55, which marked a new career-best time.

On Sunday night, Tour De Lindy stepped up his game to face the non-winners of six group with a purse of $17,000. Leaving from a #6 post in a field of eight, he was made the 1-2 betting favorite in a field of eight. And Miller once again set about putting him out in front of the field with a move to the outside on the race’s first turn. With seemingly no sweat, Tour De Lindy stepped past Zagster and grabbed the lead, daring anyone to come and try to catch him.

Needless to say, nobody could, nor did anyone really threaten his supremacy in the race. After being rated well by Miller, Tour De Lindy powered home in the lane to win by 2 ¾ lengths over Ataboy Hanover and matched his career-best time of 1:55 from the week before in the process. That time was also the fastest of any trotter on the week at Pocono. Considering how well he’s been racing, it will likely be quite a stretch before this gelding is ever again deemed a long shot like he was a year ago.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Ameliosi (Marcus Miller, Jenny Melander), a mare whose victory in a condition group on Saturday night in 1:55:1 gave her four wins in five races on the year; Chas Hanover (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who picked up a win in a division of the Weiss series for male trotters on Sunday night in 1:56:2, the fastest time of the three Weiss divisions for that group; and Myrna Myrna (Mike Simons, Scott Betts), who posted the fastest winning time among three divisions of the Weiss for distaff trotters in the slop on Tuesday night with a 1:57:4 victory, a new career-best.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR

This mare rallied from way back in Tuesday night’s featured condition pace to win at 24-1 with Jim Taggart Jr. in the bike, paying off $51.80 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MIKE SIMONS

Mike looks well-stocked in the distaff trotting Weiss series after scoring victories in two of the three divisions of the first leg held on Tuesday night.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JENNY MELANDER

Melander had fun with the trotters at Pocono this week, scoring trotting victories with Ameliosi on Saturday night, Meadowbranch Ricky on Sunday, and Ms American Muscle 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.

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, November 2nd, 2017

October 28-November 3, 2017

As we closed in on the month of November, Northeastern Pennsylvania finally settled into autumn-like weather after an extended benign stretch. It presented interesting challenges to the competitors at The Downs at Mohegan Sun this past racing week, including a steady downpour throughout Sunday night and biting winds on Monday afternoon and evening. Yet even with the adverse conditions, our horses and horsemen and women shined, as evidenced by these outstanding performers who earned Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: ANDREIOS KARDIA

Saturday night’s $20,000 featured condition pace attracted a lot of excellent competitors, as that featured pace usually does. Andreios Kardia was one of the big names, a six-year-old gelding from the Tony Dinges barn who made his bones with excellent work throughout the summer with the toughest pacers at Tioga Downs. He wasted no time at Pocono, winning his first start after the ship on September 30 in 1:50:4. The gelding was sixth in his next race against a brutally rugged field on October 21.

On Saturday night he left from post position #7 in a field of eight at odds of 5-1. Andreios Kardia is not a pacer who likes to fire early, preferring instead to stay back and let others set the pace. This was a race that was made for him, as Parnu Hanover set the pace and was determined to hold it to such an extent that it creating grueling fractions. Andreois Kardia sat well off the pace, and even when he started moving third-over on the back stretch, he seemed like a non-factor, five lengths back at the three-quarter pole.

But Andreios Kardia was hitting his best stride just when everybody else was beginning to falter. Even with driver Jim Marohn Jr. forced to guide him five-wide so he could have racing room in the stretch, the gelding overpowered the pacers in front of him, finally picking off a game Parnu Hanover by a neck in 1:50:1. That makes two wins out of three against competition that would make lesser horses wilt.

Other top pacers this week include: Sneaky Girl (Matt Kakaley, Agostino Abatiello), a three-year-old filly who has now won two straight at Pocono after shipping in from the Midwest, scoring on Monday night in 1:55:4; Pramatic Life (Jim Taggart Jr., Robin DiBenedetto), who picked up his second straight claiming win on Monday with a victory in 1:54:2; and Stirling Escort (Matt Kakaley, Douglas Hamilton), who captured the annual Grey Ghost & Poltergeist Pace for Halloween on Tuesday night in 1:52:3.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: PANANA REPUBLIC

It’s easy at times in the harness racing world to get caught up in the exploits of younger horses and overlook the performances of veterans. That could be why this six-year-old mare was let go as a 2-1 third choice on Sunday night despite coming off a standout win in 1:53:4 and having the post position edge on his top two competitors. Panana Republic, trained by Jennifer Sabot, possessed the #2 post in a non-winners of seven trot with a purse of $18,000.

Her toughest foes figured to be Evelyn, a three-year-old filly from the Ake Svanstedt barn with buckets of class and the fastest win in the field this season, and Catch A Mission, a four-year-old mare trained by Erv Miller without a loss in three tries in 2017. Those two horses were on the far outside to start and watched as Panana Republic muscled her way to the front early. When Catch A Misssion tried to get past on the second turn, Panana Republic, with Simon Allard in the bike, held her position and forced the other mare to go on a speed break.

Evelyn, on the other hand, made a furious charge at the leader late in the mile. But, again, Panana Republic was up to the challenge. She held together and held off Evelyn by a half-length, making it two in a row. Her win came in 1:55:2 in the sloppy, cold conditions that prevailed on Sunday night. This is a mare who is deserving of respect no matter the age or caliber of her foes.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Smalltownthrowdown (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who moved up in class and rallied for a condition victory on Saturday night, his third straight, in a career-best 1:53:4; Weslynn Dancer (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), a three-year-old filly who picked up her second straight condition victory and fourth in her last five when she won on Sunday night in the slop in 1:55:2; and Crosbys Clam Bake (Pat Berry, Randy Bendis), whose condition victory on Saturday night came in 1:53:3, the week’s fastest trotting time at Pocono.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: EL PESCADORO

In the sloppy mess on Sunday night, this gelding glided between the raindrops for a condition trotting victory with Austin Siegelman in the bike at 65-1, paying off $132.20 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: JIM MAROHN JR.

Marohn’s consistency in such a tough driving colony continues to be impressive, and he displayed it again this past week with four straight racing nights of multiple driving wins.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JENNY MELANDER

In a week with a lot of balance among the training community, Melander gets the nod for the convincing victory by her trotter Golden Son in Sunday night’s feature.

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, 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.

PACER OF THE WEEK: SCOTT ROCKS

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.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: AGGRESSIVE

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.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: BELLA’S PUNKETT

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.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.

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.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JONAS CZERNYSON

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 jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com.