Posts Tagged ‘Keystone Velocity’

Van Rose Memorial and Weiss Finals a Powerhouse of Stars

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

When The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono created the $50,000 Van Rose Memorial Invitational Pace, honoring the late local handicapper and writer, it was said that Rose’s reaction might be “They named a $50,000 race after ME?”

Well, Van, guess what – this year it’s the $100,000 Van Rose Memorial Invitational Pace that will be featured on the evening portion of a Kentucky Derby Day doubleheader this Saturday at The Downs, as 14 entrants resulted in the creation of two $50,000 divisions of the Van Rose Pace.

The credentials these horses are bringing to Pocono on Saturday are simply outstanding. Consider these collective achievements of the fourteen fast pacers:

–Combined lifetime earnings of $13,994,142, or an average of $999,581 per horse; with two $2 million+ winners (Mach It So and Christen Me N) and four additional $1 million winners (Boston Red Rocks, Wakizashi Hanover, Keystone Velocity, and Rockin Ron);

–An average speed mark of 1:48.3;

–Four of the finalists from 2018’s richest race to date, April 21’s $532,000 Levy Final at Yonkers, including the winner, Keystone Velocity, the richest horse of 2018 in North America, out of the barn of local trainer Rene Allard, a successful defender of his 2017 Levy championship, the 2017 Franklin champion at Pocono, and the Older Pacer of the Year last season;

–Four of the Levy Consolation starters, including the winner, Always At My Place, whose 1:47.2 mile here in 2015 still stands as the world record for four-year-old pacing geldings;

–Ten wins in the Levy preliminary legs from among the fields;

–The winner of the recent Whata Baron Series Final at The Meadowlands, Barimah A – who also just happens to be the defending Van Rose Memorial winner!

Here are the fields for the two Rose divisions; morning line and final drivers should be available tomorrow (Tuesday):

5th race — $50,000 Rose Pace division – 1. Boston Red Rocks; 2. Rodeo Romeo; 3. Long Live Rock; 4. Wakizashi Hanover; 5. Always At My Place; 6. Dr J Hanover; 7. Barimah A.

10th race — $50,000 Rose Pace division – 1. Keystone Velocity; 2. Rockin Ron; 3. Super Imposed N; 4. Mach It So; 5. Bettor Memories; 6. Christen Me N; 7. Rockeyed Optimist.

The Saturday evening card at Pocono will also feature the four $30,000 Championships of the Bobby Weiss Series, with the top pointwinners in the four preliminaries earning their way to their respective finals. Here’s a brief overview of those races:

6th race, trotting females: Weiss preliminaries won by entrants: 11; three-time winner and fastest winner, I M Fishin, 1:56; summary in a sentence: After a break in her first prelim, I M Fishin has rattled off three straight on the front end, and is the mare to beat.

8th race, trotting males: Weiss preliminaries, 11; three-time winner, Chas Hanover; fastest winner, Archibald, 1:55.1; summary in a sentence: Archibald has two wins and two breaks; if he can’t mind his manners, there’s a lot of talent waiting to pick up the pieces.

11th race, pacing males: Weiss preliminaries, 10; three-time winner, I Soar Him First; fastest winner, Riggle Wealth, 1:50.3; summary in a sentence: After bad luck in the first two legs, Riggle Wealth has been raced on the front end in his last two and won; may face more speedy pressure here.

12th race, pacing females: Weiss preliminaries: 9; three-time winners: Kimberlee and Sharen Hanover; fastest winner, Sharen Hanover, 1:52.2; summary in a sentence: Kimberlee skipped a week but won all of her Weiss starts; Sharen Hanover has won her last three, and in dominating fashion.

The features on the afternoon card will be $15,000 Weiss Consolations for both groups of trotters (the pacing events did not fill). These races will go as the Late Double on the 10-race card that is scheduled to start at 11 a.m.; after a break for the Derby, the nighttime equine fireworks will be beginning at 7:30 p.m.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono 2017 Season Review

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Well, here we are at the end of another campaign of racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The meet officially ends on Saturday, November 25, at which point we in racing all begin our hibernation periods. It’s hard to believe that it is the end of the racing season, perhaps because we were blessed in Northeastern Pennsylvania with such benign weather for most of September and October. When the weather really started to bite in November, we were already on the home stretch.

Reflecting back on the season that was, I, as I always tend to do at this point of the year, realize how difficult it is to sum everything up in just one article. Harness racing is comprised of mini-trends and spurts, but it’s very rare that you can point to something that has really taken hold for the duration of the season. But there are a few thoughts that do stand out and will likely separate 2017 from other seasons in my mind.

The first thing was a wager, which is ironic for me, because I don’t do any betting myself even though I essentially go through the process of handicapping the races as the morning line maker. But I must say that the Rainbow Pick 5, which we added about halfway through the 2017 campaign as a wager at Pocono, really took an already exciting sport up a few more notches. The strategy in the wager as well as the little bit of luck that went along with it really super-charged the last several races of each night’s card. I know that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and, by the response of the fans, I wasn’t the only one.

One other occurrence, or I guess it would be accurate to say that it was the lack of an occurrence, was the fact that there were no track records set at Pocono in 2017. Now that in no way is a commentary on the caliber of racing; I actually the think that this might have been our most rugged year of competition ever. On the contrary, I think it was a more a reflection of times in general becoming more moderate around the harness racing world. Some wetter summer weather also had a hand in it as well. What I think you’ll see is a huge reversal of that trend next year, especially with the Breeders Crown coming to town. More on that later.

As for the driving and training communities, George Napolitano Jr. and Rene Allard continued to dominate, which shouldn’t be taken for granted. There is as deep a colony of quality drivers and trainers at Pocono as anywhere in the country, so the way that George and Rene have kind of planted themselves at the top daring everyone else to knock them off is truly impressive.

As usual, many of the top names in the sport passed through Pocono in 2017. Superstars like Keystone Velocity, Manchego, Ariana G and many others made appearances and wowed the faithful. On a nightly basis, the overnight races provided excellent proving grounds for a wide variety of claimers and condition horses, many of whom put together impressive winning streaks and eye-opening times. Again, there were far too many to possibly note them all in a short article like this one, but all of their exploits definitely deserve honor and appreciation.

The 2017 season basically stands as a continuation of the excellence that the racing product has displayed for about the past decade at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. It may not have been a round number anniversary year like the 50th a year ago and it may not culminate in the Breeders Crown like 2018 will, but it was a season of racing featuring outstanding performances, constant surprises, and excitement pretty much from the opening race on Opening night all the way through these waning moments of the season. And that’s nothing to sneeze at.

In the meantime, we’re all looking forward to the return of The Breeders Crown a year from now. It will be the third time we’ve hosted the event at Pocono, and there’s nothing quite like having all of those champions of every age, gait, and gender on the same track. It will be bittersweet calling the races without Sam McKee, who was with me for the previous two Crowns at Pocono, but I’m certain he’ll be with us in spirit.

Until next season, just let me say thanks to all of my co-workers at the track who do such an amazing job putting on our racing product night in and night out. And thanks as well to the Pocono faithful, the best fans in the racing business without a doubt. I hope everyone has a wonderful winter, and I look forward to seeing you all again and communicating with you via this column again next season.

That will do it for this season, 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 – End of Season Awards

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

November 4-10, 2017

For the past seven months plus in this column, we’ve been chronicling the exploits of some of the finest horses each week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Now it’s time to go a little further and highlight the 2017 Horses of the Year.

This is never an easy task, simply because there are so many excellent horses who pass through Pocono, many of whom put up outstanding records along the way. Narrowing down all of those choices from an eight-month season into just four winners means leaving out a lot of worthy competitors. But these choices are what I consider to be the best of the best this season. Let’s take a look.

PACER OF THE YEAR: MAXDADDY BLUE CHIP

After dominating racing at Pompano Park early in the season, this five-year-old gelding made his first appearance at Pocono in August not long after joining the Rene Allard barn. He immediately made his presence felt by ripping off back-to-back wins in tough condition races. And that pretty much set the tone for what we could expect from him in 2017. He raced at Pocono nine times, often in Saturday night features, and won five of those races. He only missed the board in two of those races, and many of his wins broke the 1:50 barrier. If that kind of performance sounds familiar, you might remember that Keystone Velocity, another Rene Allard trainee, put up similar stats in winning Pacer of the Year at Pocono, and now he is one of the top aged pacers in the country. Who knows? Maybe Maxdaddy Blue Chip will follow in his footsteps.

TROTTER OF THE YEAR: UP FRONT BILLY

This seven-year-old gelding trained by Mark Ford has bounced around this year, but whenever he journeys to Pocono, good things to happen. He started out the meet inauspiciously, finishing no better than fourth in his first three races, before picking up a $14,000 condition win on May 6. After about a month in New York, he returned to Pocono and really got cooking, picking up wins in four out of nine races, including a couple for $16,500 purses. Then it was off again, this time to Harrah’s for a couple months. But when he returned for a condition start on October 14, he picked up right where he left off with another solid condition victory. When you combine the amount of time that he has performed here this season, his excellent overall performance with six victories in the meet, and the caliber of the competition he faced, Up Front Billy makes sense as our Trotter of the Year.

CLAIMER OF THE YEAR: POUNCE HANOVER

Sometimes a horse can make such an impact with just one hot streak that it overpowers the deeds of those horses who have been around much longer and put up consistent performances throughout the season. That’s the case with this six-year-old gelding, who made his mark this season at Pocono with a six-race winning streak. That stretch ran from June 5 to July 31, during which time Pounce Hanover had three different trainers and three different drivers. He also raised his claiming price during that time from $10,000 to $20,000. Many of his wins came from far outside posts, which raised the degree of difficulty level considerably. Overall this gelding won seven of his twelve races this season at Pocono, but that unforgettable two-month streak is the reason he stands as the 2017 Pocono Claimer of the Year.

MARE OF THE YEAR – CELEBRITY EVENTSY

Making the transition from three-year-old to four-year-old can be tough for a distaff trotter, because you often go from facing just your own age and gender to battling older, male horses. This four-year-old mare trained by Staffan Lind made that transition this season with aplomb, especially when he was at Pocono. In seven races this year at Pocono, all condition trots and none with a purse lower than $14,000, she put up three wins and three places. In most of those miles, she faced off against more experienced trotters with gaudier career records. Much of her damage was done in May and June, but Celebrity Eventsy returned for one command performance in September, beating the $25,000 winners over trotters. Along the way she also posted a career-best of 1:52:2 on the Pocono oval. Her performance was such that you could also make a case for her as Trotter of the Year, but Mare of the Year will do just fine.

Congratulations to these well-deserving winners. Next week we will wrap up the 2017 season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun in this column.

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, 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.

Sun Stakes Saturday Eliminations a preview of the July 1st stellar card

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

June 24-30, 2017

The preliminaries are out of the way. This Saturday, July 1, the faithful at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono will get to witness the main event. Or events, as the case may be, as Sun Stakes Saturday will feature four races with huge stakes attached to them, pushing the night’s purses well over $2 million total.

This past Saturday, the eliminations were held, and it was an interesting set of races. Drivers on the top horses had to decide how much effort they asked from their charges. On the one hand, a tired horse in the final is no good to anyone. On the other, a horse that’s held back and then doesn’t make the final is a disappointment.

Here is how the eliminations played out, followed by a primer on what to expect on Saturday night. The outcomes may be unknowable until the races are run, but we can say for sure that it will be an exceptional night of racing.

BEN FRANKLIN PACE for aged pacers

The only favorite to win out of the three eliminations was Mel Mara, who paced the fastest time of the night on the front end in 1:48:4. There were surprises in the other two divisions. While Freaky Feet Pete faded from the lead in his first start of the year and race favorite McWicked was boxed in, Keystone Velocity, trained by Rene Allard and driven by Simon Allard, both Pocono regulars, rallied for the victory. Dealt A Winner was a convincing winner in the remaining elimination, beating heavy favorite Boston Red Rocks by 3 ½ lengths. At least Boston Red Rocks is headed to the final; big names like Freaky Feet Pete, Luck Be Withyou, and McWicked all failed to qualify.

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

The big news here is that Ariana G, the only filly competing against the male trotters, easily won her split as a 1-9 favorite. Meadowlands invader Long Tom also won as the favorite in his split, meaning that he and Ariana G will compete in the final as 2017 unbeatens, both three-for-three this year. Although Driver Yannick Gingras will likely stick with Ariana G in the final, he also pulled off a surprise in the remaining division with Perfect Spirit, who staged a furious rally on the inside to upend favorite Devious Man at 23-1.

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

Fear The Dragon received all the betting attention in his elimination, which was understandable considering he hadn’t lost in six races this year and was coming off a win in the North American Cup at Mohawk. But Miso Fast, with Matt Kakaley in the bike for Ron Burke, had other ideas and blitzed Fear The Dragon with a first-over move to win at 11-1. Although Fear The Dragon reaches the final, he goes in knowing that his archrival Downbytheseaside put in perhaps the most impressive performance of the evening. Despite being parked around two turns, the colt trained by Brian Brown battled his way to a victory in a sizzling 1:49:2 with Brain Sears in the bike. The remaining division belonged to the longshots, with 21-1 Santafe’s Coach, driven by Pocono regular Anthony Napolitano, picking up a late-kicking win over 29-1 Ozone Blue Chip in second.

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

This was the one set of races where form held, as favorites won all three splits, all on the front end. Tequila Monday, trained by Chris Oakes, bounced back from a disappointing loss in the Fan Hanover Stakes at Mohawk by delivering on the front end in 1:50:4, the fastest of the three winning times from the Lynch eliminations. Meanwhile Bettor’s Up, who had pulled off the upset win in the Fan Hanover, settled for second on Saturday night behind Agent Q, the filly she nosed out for the win in Canada. Brazuca, driven by Corey Callahan for trainer Tom Cancelliere, stayed unbeaten in three starts this year with a rock-solid win in her split.

What to look for in the finals:

BEN FRANKLIN: Mel Mara might be the one to beat but will need a good post for his front-pacing style. He’ll have some powerful competition, especially from Keystone Velocity, who is once again showing the form that made him the Levy champion at Yonkers this year.

EARL BEAL: Ariana G is far and away the best trotting filly in the land, so she’s seeking out the boys for a true challenge. She’ll get just that from Long Tom.

MAX HEMPT: Will Downbytheseaside be in less than top form after his huge effort on Saturday? Can Fear The Dragon shake off his first loss? Is Miso Fast for real and at the same level as the other two?

JAMES LYNCH: Tequila Monday was favored in the Fan Hanover and will have the chance to exact revenge on Bettor’s Up and Agent Q, the two fillies who beat her in that race. Meanwhile Brazuca looks for her fourth consecutive win against the toughest competition she’s yet faced.

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.