Posts Tagged ‘Joe Antonelli’

2015 – The 50th Anniversary Season in Review

Friday, November 20th, 2015

2015 Season Review

Here we are at the conclusion of the 2015 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. It’s been an extremely special season on a lot of levels, one that I’ve been thrilled to witness. I must admit that it feels a bit odd to be looking back, because, when you’re in the thick of an action-packed campaign like this one, it feels like it whooshes by before you know it.

The fact that this was the 50th racing season at Pocono lent everything an extra bit of specialness all year long. Each night of racing, the lights above the track lent their illumination, but they had a little help from the intangible glow cast upon the participants by the anniversary proceedings.

It even seemed like the weather cooperated for us this year more than I can ever remember. In one stretch, we went more than a month without seeing an off-track, and we even had unseasonably pleasant weather well into the month of November. As a result, it seemed like the crowds out on the patio and the apron were bigger than they’ve been in years.

What those patrons saw in 2015 was yet another season in which the racing product at Pocono was as fast and fantastic as anywhere else in the country. One peek at the track records page will show you just how dynamic the action was this past campaign. Five Pocono records were either set or matched in 2015, and four of those five also constituted world records.

Then again, electric talent tends to beget outstanding performances, so the assault on the record book was somewhat predictable in light of the caliber of horses that performed here throughout the season. We honored our horses of the year in this space last week, focusing mostly on those who were regulars or semi-regulars at Pocono this season. When you also consider some of the superstars of the sport who performed at Pocono in stakes races in 2015, horses like Wiggle It Jiggleit, Pinkman, and JL Cruze to name but a few, you get a true sense of the breadth of equine talent on display this past season.

Of course, those horses wouldn’t have been quite as special without the guidance and expertise of our drivers and trainers. We’ve talked in this column about the outstanding balance in the driving and training community this season, but a few men rose to the top of their respective fields.

On the driving side, it was a monster season for George Napolitano Jr., who easily won both the driving wins and driving percentage titles. George Nap broke his own single-season record for wins at Pocono and, at press time, was threatening the 400-win barrier on the season. Add to that the fact that he’s also leading the continent in wins for the season. What a year it’s been for Pocono’s most lauded driver.

Rene Allard once again dominated the training wins race, picking up his third straight title in that category. Allard had nearly twice as many victories as his nearest competitor, and at press time was on pace to put up the third most training wins in a season in Pocono history. Meanwhile Chris Oakes repeated as the top gun in the training percentage category, which means that nobody is more efficient at producing winners and in-the-money finishes than the Oakes barn.

I really don’t have enough space to list all of the drivers and trainers who gave outstanding efforts at the Pocono oval this past season. Nor can I recap all of the thrilling races and sizzling times and crazy long shots that characterized this past meet. (Although in that latter category, I do want to mention the performance this past Tuesday night of Lady Of The Lake, a mare who picked up her maiden victory for driver/trainer Joe Antonelli and paid off a stunning $398.60 on a $2 win ticket. That makes her Long Shot of the Year.)

And so it’s time to bid farewell to this racing season, one that fulfilled every one of the lofty expectations we placed on it based on it being such a momentous anniversary. I wrote extensively about the ramifications of the 50th anniversary throughout the season, but I’d like to mention once again how honored I am to have been a small part of it.

I feel like this was a special year for the Pocono patrons as well, many of whom followed us when the purses were miniscule compared to today and a mile under two minutes was a rare occurrence. This 50th year really belonged to you folks, so I hope you cherished it.

Before you know it we’ll be doing it all again though. So I’d like to wish everyone a great offseason and Happy Holidays. Stay warm. And then, come springtime, we’ll rev it up for season 51 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.

That will do it for this season, but we’ll see you at the track in 2016. Feel free to e-mail me at

50th Anniversary Week is here!

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

The 50th Anniversary festivities continue at Pocono Downs, with everyone looking forward to an exciting weekend of tremendous racing and events.

Friday, August 21, racing will kick off with a special Post Time of 5:30pm, and the “Legends Race” will start off the night.  The race will feature familiar names such as Bill Popfinger; Don Wiest; Jim Williard; Bill Mullin, Syl King Jr.; Eddie Nickle; and Joe Antonelli.  There  will also be a special Winner’s Circle trophy presention by Pocono’s first leading driver, J.D. Dennis, Sr., and Gene Daisey, who drove in 1965 as well.  Horsemen from the past to the present are all invited into the Circle for the presentation and a group photo.  After the 10th race, Wilkes Barre Mayor Thomas M. Leighton will present a proclamation honoring the track for their 50th anniversary and their contribution to the community.

Immediately following the races on Friday night, there will be a free concert on the apron with a Tribute to Motown featuring The Fellas; and a Tribute to the Supremes, featuring Encorz.  The time for the concert will be approximately 9:30pm.  A $1 Coors Light draft drink special will be at the track apron bars only for the concert fans.  After the concert, fans with the coupon from the live racing program can grab their “Decades of the Downs” 1965  t-shirts on the apron, while supplies last.

Saturday afternoon, August 22, former manager and Major League baseball player Pete Rose drops in for pictures and autographs in the racing lobby from 4:00pm to 6:00pm. This is a wristband-only event, and wristbands are available starting at 1:00pm in the lobby.  Authorized photos will be signed, and are available at the event.

Then the action shifts to the famous 5/8 mile oval with the $2.3 million Super Stakes Saturday.  Representative Eddie Day Pashinski of the 121st Legislative District in Luzerne County will perform the National Anthem to kick off this tremendous night of racing,  featuring the Battle of the Brandywine; the Colonial Trot; and the Valley Forge Pace, plus two consolations of each.  Also featured on this prestigious night of racing is the Sebastian K Invitational Trot, named after the fastest trotter of all time.  The famed trotter will also be honored with a special retirement ceremony after the 4th race on the card, featuring owner Michael Knuttson; driver/trainer, Ake Svanstedt and Bernie Noren; along with James Simpson from Hanover Shoe Farms.  Special collectible Sebastian K color photos will be available for fans after the ceremony.  A special 50th Anniversary souvenir beer mug will be given away to fans with the coupon from the live racing program starting at 9:00pm at the Trackside Concession area on the apron.  Programs are on sale starting at 5:00pm.

The Hanover Shoe Farms Mares Invitational Pace and the USTA Invitational Pace have also been added to this stellar card of racing, with a purse of $50,000 to each.

Immediately following the races, at approximately 10:30pm,  will be a spectacular fireworks display featuring music of all five decades from 1960’s to the present.  Fans are encouraged to arrive early for a good spot on the apron.

Plenty of food will be available on the apron both Friday and Saturday with food trucks Dominic’s; Big Belly BBQ; Johnny Rockets; and Doc Popcorn ready to go with something for everyone’s appetite.  The Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame will be on hand with items for sale as well.

In the racing lobby both Friday and Saturday will be a special display of memorabilia from the past 50 years for fans to enjoy.  Included are old photos; trophies; programs, and more.

As always, parking and admission are free at the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, and valet parking is also free.

The stable gates open for the 2012 season at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

After one of the mildest winters on record, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs is preparing for their 2012 racing season by opening the stable gates Thursday,  March 1, for the arrival of horsemen and horses.  Racing kicks off Tuesday, April 3rd.   

Luann Reynolds, Stall Superintendent, will be on hand as more than 50 horses begin arriving shortly after the gates open at 8 a.m.  Among the early arrivals include horses from the stables of Mickey Peterson, Mike Mourad, Jodi Bendick, Earl “Bucky” Angle, Kevin Reynolds, Clarence Martin, and Joe Antonelli.   

According to Ms. Reynolds, the horses would continue to arrive over the next several weeks, as the backside population swells into the hundreds and the horses hit the track to warm up for the qualifying days.  “The stable area will be filled to capacity this season,” she said.  “Everyone is looking forward to the return of the racing season!  The track is in amazing condition, thanks to our phenomenal track maintenance department, and that will make for some great racing this year.  Best wishes to our horsemen and fans!” 

Two days have been set aside for qualifying prior to opening day:  Tuesday, March 27 and Friday, March 30.

 Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs will be offering live harness racing during the 2012 meet, their 47th season, on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday with a post of 6:30 p.m.  On Kentucky Derby Day, May 5, an 11 a.m. card will start off the day’s festivities, with the night racing card starting immediately after Derby 138.  In July and August, Sunday night racing will be added to the lineup.  The meet will include 135 racing days and will conclude November 17.