Posts Tagged ‘Lou Pena’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

October 14-20, 2017

The weather finally got a little bit chilly in the middle of this past racing week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, but not so much that it had a profound effect on the racing conditions. It was still a fast and frenzied four nights of racing at Pocono. As is so often the case, there were many excellent candidates for the Weekly Awards, so read on and see who gets the honors.

PACER OF THE WEEK: DOREL

When a horse steps up its game and pulls off a performance that is much better than any other that it had previously managed, it’s easy to assume that said performance was a fluke. Dorel probably had some people thinking that about him as he prepared to take on a non-winners of five pacing group on Sunday night. In his previous race, the three-year-old gelding trained by Chris Ryder tore up a condition claiming group from a #8 post at 10-1, going gate-to-wire for a career-best win in 1:50:4.

The field was tougher on Sunday night, including an impressive sophomore shipper named Daiymir. That colt was the even-money favorite and assumed control of the early lead, but needed a blistering 25:4 opening quarter to get there. Dorel, who went off as a 9-2 third choice from post position #4 in a field of eight, settled for the pocket spot, which turned out to be the right place to be.

On the back stretch, Daiymir started to labor and driver Anthony Napolitano quickly guided Dorel around him and into the lead. For the last quarter mile, the gelding dug deep and had to endure a late-closing threat from Crossfirehurricane. He held tight to win by three parts of a length in 1:52:4. One great win could be a fluke, but two excellent performances in a row is starting to look like a trend for this rising star.

Other top pacers this week include: Regalanthropist (Matt Kakaley, Bruce Clarke), who switched barns and moved up in class but still managed a victory in a claiming handicap on Saturday night in 1:51:4; About The Benjamins (Matt Kakaley, Daniel Renaud), who captured his third consecutive win against the $7,500 claimers on Monday night, with this one coming in 1:55; and When Sharks Fly (Jim Marshall III, Donna Marshall), a mare who moved up the condition ladder on Tuesday night and scored her second straight win, this time in the distaff feature in 1:51:4.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SOUTHWIND WARSAW

Anytime a horse reaches double figures in the win totals in a calendar year, it’s an impressive accomplishment. Southwind Warsaw, an eight-year-old gelding trained by Lou Pena, stood on the precipice of that achievement when he faced off against a $10,000 to $12,500 claiming handicap field to start off the racing action on Monday afternoon.

In an eight-horse field, Southwind Warsaw left from post position #6 as a 1-9 favorite. The heavy betting attention was understandable, as the gelding was coming off a 3 ½ length win the previous week in the same class in front-trotting fashion. Once again driver Anthony Napolitano was aggressive with the favorite, sending him to the front end early in the mile. From that point it was just a matter of keeping the fractions under control while not allowing any pressure to rankle his horse.

Napolitano handled that task expertly, and Southwind Warsaw did the rest, lengthening the lead steadily until no one else was in the picture. He coasted home effortlessly 6 ½ lengths in front in 1:54:1. Not only was that his second straight victory, but it was put him at the ten-win marker for the season with a couple months to spare. Who knows? If he stays in this kind of groove and keeps after it into the winter months, he might threaten 15 wins for the year.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Skates N Plates (Anthony Napolitano, Andrew Harris), whose condition victory on Saturday night came in 1:53, the fastest trotting time posted this past week at Pocono; Checkmate Time (Donald Dupont, Marie Dupont), who followed up a win at Harrah’s win with a victory on Sunday night at Pocono in 1:56; and Up Front Billy (George Napolitano Jr., Mark Ford), who returned from Harrah’s for a condition victory on Saturday night in 1:54:2.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: DECISION DAY

This 2-year-old pacer’s maiden win on Sunday night is not one either he or his backers will forget, as he rallied with Eric Carlson in the bike to win at 60-1, paying off $124.40 to win on a $2 ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MATT KAKALEY

Kakaley amassed double figures in the win column this past week and, on both Monday and Tuesday, ripped off three wins in a row at one point on the program.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: ROB HARMON

Harmon wasted no time making an impact at Pocono on Sunday night, as he scored training victories in two of the evening’s first three races.

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

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

April 4-10, 2015

Even though we’re still in just our first month of racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono and the weather conditions have been far less than ideal, the season feels like it’s starting to take shape. This week’s addition of Sundays, making it a four-night racing week, should speed up that process. In the meantime, here is a look at the best horses and horsemen from the past three racing nights as we hand out the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: IDEAL MATTERS

One of the characteristics of this whole season-taking-shape thing we talked out about in the intro paragraph is that certain horses begin to assert themselves as horses from whom we’ll be hearing all year long. And while it may be a bit presumptive to make a judgment based on the small sample size of a couple starts, it sure looks like Ideal Matters is in for a big 2015 at Pocono by the way he’s raced the last few weeks.

On March 21, the 8-year-old gelding from the barn of trainer Gilberto Garcia-Herrera scored his first win of the meet by handling a field of condition pacers in 1:51. On Saturday night, he faced off with essentially the same condition grouping of non-winners $16,500 in the last five races for a purse of $18,000. Leaving from post position #2 in a field of nine, Ideal Matters was quickly sent to the lead by driver George Napolitano Jr., who then watched as Mustang Art hustled by to take over around the first turn.

That’s when Napolitano decided that Ideal Matters was better off leading than in the pocket. The gelding retook the lead quickly on the front stretch, and then powered his way to a big lead. Gearing down in the final strides of the mile, he coasted to a two-length win in 1:50:1, the fastest time of the young season at Pocono. Two straight wins should have Ideal Matters moving up in class, but he’s already established himself as one of the horses to watch in 2015.

Other top pacers this week include: Always Wanna (Jim Morrill Jr., Matias Ruiz), who picked up his second straight win over the $12,500 claimers on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:52:4; Victory At Last (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who won his third straight Bobby Weiss series race against the three and four-year-old colts, stallions and geldings on Saturday night in a career-best 1:52:1; and Show Runner (George Napolitano Jr., Lou Pena), a mare who now has four straight wins to start the season, the last two at Pocono, following her condition victory on Wednesday night in 1:52:2.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: ZOOMING

We’ve talked in this column before how sometimes a horse simply needs a change of scenery to ignite a hot streak. In the case of Zooming, a talented veteran trotter, maybe it was a return to his old haunts that got him going this past week. Before coming to Pocono for Saturday night’s condition trot for non-winners of $17,500 in the last five races, the 7-year-old gelding from the barn of trainer Amber Buter was coming off back-to-back races where he went off-stride.

It was an unusual stretch for a horse pushing $600,000 in career earnings. A lot of those earnings were notched on the Pocono 5/8-mile oval, which is probably why the fans made him a 6-5 favorite in the race despite the recent struggles. As it turned out, he had to earn it in this one, forced as he was to make a tough first-over journey to get to the lead.

The trip didn’t matter, however, as driver George Napolitano Jr. urged Zooming on past the tiring leaders in the home stretch. With a winning time of 1:53:4 in the chilly temperatures, the gelding proved he was back on top of his game. The Pocono surroundings might have spurred the return to form, but Zooming deserves the credit for having that great form in the first place.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: GJ Photo Victory (Jim Morrill Jr., Marcus Marashian), who followed back-to-back wins at The Meadows with a claiming win at Pocono on Wednesday in 1:57:1; JL Cruze (John Campbell, Eric Ell), a gelding with eight wins in ten races at the Meadowlands this season who came to Pocono to coast to victory in a Bobby Weiss race on Tuesday night in 1:54:1; and Dress For Success (Matt Kakaley, Christopher Freck), the mare who rolled to her third straight win in the Bobby Weiss series against the distaff trotters, matching her career-best of 1:55:1 in the process.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: INCOGNITO

Incognito made a last to first rally in Saturday night’s final race with Ronnie Wrenn Jr. in the bike to win a condition pace at 18-1., paying off $39.40 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.

George Nap has already carved out space at the top of the driving standings, and he solidified that standing with a five-win night on Tuesday, the first Pocono driver to reach that plateau in 2015.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: RON BURKE

The leader in training wins to this point at Pocono, Burke has been cleaning up in the Bobby Weiss series, scoring three of his four winners this week in those late closer races.

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.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

2014 Season Review

Turkeys wearing camouflage. Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel 24 hours a day. My light cool sweatpants replaced by my warm heavy sweatpants.

All these signs, including the bitingly cold weather, make it clear the winter is just about upon us. And that means that another racing season at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs is just about to wrap up. Luckily for all those who follow Pocono racing, it has been a marvelous season, one that witnessed is share of superstar performances, incredible finishes, and shocking long shots. About the only constants from night to night were the uniformly competitive and exciting races.

In 2014, we were graced, as usual, by the presence of some of the finest drivers and trainers in the country. Some familiar faces to Pocono fans took home the highest honors for the season. On the training side, Rene Allard and Chris Oakes repeated as the leaders in training wins and training percentage, respectively. And George Napolitano Jr. continued his incredible run atop the leaderboard among the drivers, sweeping the titles for driving wins and percentage with plenty of room to spare in both categories.

Yet those three men were really only just a part of the story in terms of the driving and training community. Four other drivers (Simon Allard, Matt Kakaley, Andrew McCarthy, and Anthony Napolitano) besides George Nap managed 100 wins in the Pocono meet, while a dozen picked up at least fifty. On the training side, five men (Allard, Oakes, Ron Burke, Lou Pena, Gilberto Garcia-Herrera) churned out at least 50 victories. Balance was the name of the game with the trainers and drivers, as more and more of the top horsemen in North America made Pocono a regular part of their racing schedule.

Of course, what really makes Pocono racing such a special entity is the quality of the horses who come to race. Last week in this space we honored our horses of the year, but there were so many wonderful equine performers who made their way to MSPD that it was impossible to honor them all, even with over thirty sets of Weekly Award and honorable mentions given out by yours truly in 2014.

One easy way to check the impact of a particular season is to look at the track records page in the beginning of the program. You’ll notice that a big portion of the dates on that page indicate that those records were set here this year. In all, there were twelve records either set or matched at Pocono this season, with the vast majority of those going for world records on a 5/8-mile oval. And who can forget that in 2014, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs hosted the fastest pace ever on a 5/8-mile oval (a scorching 1:47 by Sweet Lou) and the fastest trot at any track size anywhere (an incredible 1:49 by Sebastian K.)

As I said above, there are really too many memorable moments to squeeze into this humble little retrospective. One of the neat things about harness racing is that every single night, it seems like something happens that you’ve never seen before. And you never know when that unpredictable bolt out of the blue will happen. It might happen in the feature race with the finest horses on the grounds, but it can also happen with maiden trotters. As the caliber of racing has continued its steady uphill climb at Pocono, these special moments seem to take place more and more often.

We’ve spent this time looking back, but before we call it a season, we should think about what’s to come in 2015. It will be an extremely special campaign at Pocono, as it marks the 50th season of racing at the track. In addition to the usual schedule of thrilling stakes races and competitive overnight races, 2015 is going to feel like one big celebration.

For the fans who have been with us for many of those 50 years, next season will probably feel pretty special, a milestone at the track. As someone who has worked at Pocono for 17 years, I feel really honored to be playing a small part of it. Even as we put another incredible season to bed, it’s hard to feel anything but anticipation for what’s to come.

As always, I’d like to thank everyone who checked out my articles this past year or tuned in to my race calls, and thanks to all of my wonderful co-workers in the racing department who do such amazing work night in and night out.

I hope everyone has a wonderful winter and Happy Holidays. We’ll see you at the track in 2015.

If you have any questions or concerns over the break, feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com.

  

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

August 15-21, 2014

This week’s racing was filled with the thrilling action we’ve come to expect of Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. And, to spice things up even further, the Pocono faithful witnessed the matching of a track and world record this week. That record-setting performance kicks off our attempt to sum up all of the action at Pocono this week by handing out the Weekly Awards.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: FRAU BLUCHER

This four-year-old mare named after Cloris Leachman’s character in Young Frankenstein had scared up a lot of success in the first two years, earning over $900,000 combined in her two and three-year-old seasons. Yet this standout from the Chris Oakes barn went winless in her first five starts this year, including a second against the non-winners of over $10,000 in the last five starts condition at Pocono on August 12 when she was heavily favored.

On Tuesday night, she went up against that same condition group, once again as a solid favorite at 4-5. Only this time around, the mare was ready to show her class and then some. Driver George Napolitano Jr. sent her to the lead with a brush on the front stretch. From there, Frau Blucher kept extending her lead until the rest of the field was a distant memory. She was 8 ¼ lengths in front at the line, with the only suspense at that point being how fast she actually went in the victory.

The timer showed a ridiculous 1:51:2, which matched the world record on a 5/8-mile oval for four-year-old trotting mares. The horse who set that record back in May at Pocono, Classic Martine, is also trained by Chris Oakes. So that proves that the Oakes barn has a whole lot of talent. But it also proves that Frau Blucher is back on top of her game, so elite trotters all over the country best take heed.

Other top trotters this week include: Mistery Woman (Ron Pierce, Jonas Czernyson), a Meadowlands shipper who captured Saturday night’s featured condition pace in a career-best 1:52; DC’s Piggy Bank (Matt Kakaley, Peter Pellegrino), who picked up his second straight claiming win on Sunday night in 1:56:2; and Inside Broadway (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who powered his way to his second straight claiming victory on Wednesday night, this one in a career-best 1:54:2.

PACER OF THE WEEK: LYONS JOHNNY

While there were no track records coming from this 6-year-old gelding, he certainly has impressed since August dawned. Considering that he had slumped to back-to-back seventh-place finishes in his last two starts of July, such rejuvenation seemed extremely unlikely at the time. It took a drop down the condition ladder and a barn change to get him in gear again.

On August 3, his first start in the Amber Buter barn, Lyons Johnny dominated that lower condition group by 4 ¼ lengths in a career-best 1:50:1. Buoyed by that fine effort, he moved back up in class to face the non-winners of $7,000 in the last five races on Tuesday night. Faced with the prospect of an outside post and a tougher field with several horses sporting solid back class, it seemed like a tough test.

With George Napolitano Jr. in the bike, Lyons Johnny aggressively took over the lead with a front stretch move. Although the fractions were quick, he stayed strong up front and sped clear of some late pressure for his second straight win, this one coming in 1:50:3. Another move up in class could be in the near future for this suddenly red-hot pacer.

Honorable mention on the pacing side goes to: Victorydazewillwin (Simon Allard, Daniel Munson), who notched his second straight win over the $15,000 claimers on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:50:4; It’s That Time (Anthony Napolitano, Kevin Lare), whose victory in a claiming handicap on Saturday night came in 1:49:2, a new career-best and the fastest pacing time of the week at MSPD; and All Fired Up (George Napolitano Jr., Lou Pena), who sprung from the pocket for his second straight claiming handicap victory on Wednesday night, doing it in a career-best time of 1:51:3.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: GUANTANAMO BAY

2-year-olds are some of the most unpredictable horses, as this freshman pacer with Kevin Wallis in the bike showed on Sunday, winning at 30-1 for a $62.80 payout on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: KEVIN WALLIS

The veteran driver has been finding his rhythm of late at Pocono, as evidenced by four wins this week, two of which came with horses at odds of longer than 15-1.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: TONY ALAGNA

Alagna has won a high percentage of his races this season at Pocono, and Sunday night he picked up wins with two of the three horses he sent to the gate.

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.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Friday, August 15th, 2014

August 8-14, 2014

It’s always difficult to pick the best horses in a particular week at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs due to the extreme competitiveness of the harness racing action. This week has proved more of a pickle than most because there are a lot of horses on hot streaks who deserve consideration. On Saturday night, for example, six of the thirteen winners picked up at least their second win in a row. I’m not sure if there’s a specific reason for this glut of winning streaks, but I am sure that this is a fine edition of the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: SANDBETWEENURTOES

In Saturday night’s Pennsylvania Sire Stakes action for three-year-old pacing fillies, all eyes were on this powerhouse from the barn of trainer Larry Remmen. It’s been an incredible sophomore season for this filly, especially considering she raced just once as a 2-year-old and finished out of the money. Instead of taking time to get her racing feet wet, she’s come out of the box with seven wins in seven races this year, including a couple Sire Stakes wins and a victory in the $212,500 Mistletoe Shalee at The Meadowlands.

While the field on Saturday was solid, many were fillies who had already come up short behind Sandbetweenurtoes in races this season. Included among those was Allstar Rating, who finished behind the unbeaten filly three times this year. But in her last start, Allstar Rating dominated in the Adioo Volo at The Meadows, giving her the confidence that things might be different this time around when she faced her arch rival.

Sure enough, Allstar Rating made the lead while Sandbetweenurtoes fell much further behind the pace than is her custom. Once she started making her move for her regular driver Brett Miller though, there was no chance of stopping her. She hustled past Allstar Rating to win by a half-length in 1:50, making her eight-for-eight and also solidifying her status as the dominant force in the age group.

Honorable mention on the pacing side goes to: Gold Deuce (George Napolitano Jr., Lou Pena), who continues to dominate the lower claiming ranks, winning his fourth straight on Sunday night in 1:52; Speed Again (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who burned up the track in a condition win on Saturday in 1:48:2, fastest time of the week at Pocono; and Crimson Cruiser (Jim Morrill Jr., Douglas Hamilton), who overcame an outside post on Friday night and picked up a claiming win in 1:52:1, his third victory in a row.

TROTTER AND LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: WESTERN CREDIT

It’s rare that our categories overlap and one horse can claim two Weekly Awards in one shot. Yet Western Credit’s recent run has been as unlikely as it has been impressive, more than meriting the embarrassment of riches. This gelding came into his race on August 3 without a win in 21 races in 2014, yet trainer Eric Mollor, who also did the driving that night, had the six-year-old rolling late for an upset win in 1:55:4 at 14-1.

On Tuesday night, Western Credit was at it again, this time with Brett Miller in the bike and stepping up the condition ladder to face the non-winners of $10,000 in the last five races. The fans gave him even less of a chance this time around, putting him at 37-1. Miller sent him first-over early in the mile, which seemed like a tough journey for any horse, let along one with such long odds.

It turned out to be strategic brilliance on Miller’s part, since the sloppy track that night seemed to favor on trip on the outside. Western Credit did the rest, working hard to pick off everyone in front of him before holding off JC’s Jake in the lane to win it in 1:55:1. At those towering odds of 37-1, the gelding paid off $77.80 on a $2 win ticket. Suddenly, that 0-for-21 to start the year is a distant memory. Western Credit is two for his last two and ready to take on all comers.

Other top trotters this week include: Whata Donato (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), a mare whose winning time in a condition on Tuesday night of 1:53:3 was the fastest trot of the week at Pocono despite sloppy conditions; Well Built (Tim Tetrick, Chris Ryder), a 3-year-old who knocked off mostly older horses in a condition victory on Tuesday night in a career-best 1:54:1 in the slop; and Gematria (Tom Jackson, Fred Grant), who picked up her second consecutive win, this one in Stallion Series action on Wednesday night in 1:58:3.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: DAVID MILLER

Miller always steps up his game for stakes or series action and Tuesday night he was at his best, winning three times, including a pair of victories in the Stallion Series.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: MARK FORD

Ford always seems to manage great efficiency with however many horses he enters at Pocono, as he showed on Friday night by picking up a pair of training victories.