Posts Tagged ‘Marcus Miller’

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.

PACER OF THE WEEK: PRINCE PALANI

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.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: ABBIE’S CELTICLASS

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.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: EPIC RANGER

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.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MATT KAKALEY

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.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: RON BURKE

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 jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

May 6-12, 2017

It was a particularly busy week of racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Due to the doubleheader on Kentucky Derby day, we enjoyed five racing cards in a four-day stretch. That means that we have even more candidates for the Weekly Awards than usual. As it turns out, though, picking the top two horses of the week was an easy matter, as it came down to the winners of the week’s two biggest purses. Here now are the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: BARIMAH A

In Saturday night’s Van Rose Memorial pace, which carried a purse of $50,000, Barimah A, a seven-year-old gelding from the Scott DiDomenico barn, went off at 14-1. This was despite the fact that he won the previous week’s featured pace at Pocono in a career-best 1:50 and despite his drawing the inside post. The betting attention, understandably, went to some of the millionaires in the field, horses like Sunfire Blue Chip, Somewhere in L A and McWicked who were coming in from the rugged early-season races at Yonkers.

The sloppy track did not dissuade the superstars in the field from going for the engine with reckless abandon. Three different horses led in the first three-eighths of a mile, and the fractions created by the speed duel were ruthless: 25:4; 53:1, and 1:20:4. At the top of the stretch Somewhere in L A was on top, Mach It So was hounding him first-over, and favorite Sunfire Blue Chip overcame some tiring cover on the back stretch to rally again in the passing lane.

All of those horses were very close to the blistering pace for much of the mile. The difference for Barimah A was that driver Pat Berry kept him back early, only asking for some kick on the back stretch. As they rounded the final turn, Barimah A was firing on all cylinders, and he eventually outpaced Sunfire Blue Chip in the final strides to get up for the victory by a head. His winning time of 1:50 matched the career-mark he set in the win the previous week, although it was even more impressive this time around because of the sloppy conditions.

Other top pacers this week include: Brickman (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who switched barns and still scored his third straight victory over $25,000 claimers on Saturday night, winning in the slop in 1:53:1; Inspiration View (Jim Marohn Jr., Ron Burke), who moved up the ladder to win a second consecutive condition race on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:52:1 in the slop; and Tempus Seelster (Jim Marohn Jr., Tony Dinges), a mare who picked up her third straight victory, two of which have come at Pocono, with a condition victory on Tuesday night in a career-best 1:50:1.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: OOH RAH

On Tuesday night, the last of the Bobby Weiss late closer series finals was held. In this case, it was the three and four-year-old trotting colts, stallions and geldings going at it for the $30,000 purse. The preliminary legs had seen several horses step up with solid performances, but Ooh Rah, a four-year-old gelding trained by Kathleen La Montagne, stamped himself as the favorite by winning three of his four starts in the series.

In the final, Ooh Rah left from post position #3 in a field of nine as the 3-5 betting favorite. After sitting third early, driver George Napolitano Jr. decided he wanted to be in charge with the favorite. Ooh Rah swooped past Hilarious Hero on the front stretch to take over the lead. Although Uncle Leroy made a first-over brush, the leader never seemed to feel the pressure and was able to cut out the mile at a relatively leisurely pace.

That came into play late, when Hilarious Hero popped out of the pocket in the stretch ready for a fight. Ooh Rah had energy to spare, powering home to hold off Hilarious Hero by a length. The winning time of 1:55 was faster than any horse had been able to post in any of the previous Weiss legs in this group, and it also marked a career-best for Ooh Rah, a deserving and dominant champ of the division.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Tuonoblu Rex (Andy Miller, Julie Miller) who followed up a win at The Meadowlands in his U.S. debut with an easy victory in the slop on Sunday at Pocono over a tough condition field in 1:53:1, easily the fastest trotting time of the week; Andy Ray (Marcus Miller, Jim Campbell), who rallied on Saturday night for a condition win in the slop in 1:57, giving him victories in the last three starts he’s made at Pocono; and Meme Hanover (Charlie Norris trainer and driver), a colt who followed up his maiden victory with a condition win on Monday night in 1:56:1, matching his career-best time.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: OOH DEAR SAM

With Anthony Morgan in the bike, this veteran pacer surprised a field of claimers on Saturday night to the tune of 26-1, paying out $54.80 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: JIM MAROHN JR.

Marohn seemed to enjoy the daylight hours on Saturday, winning four out of ten races on the matinee card before returning for another victory on Saturday night.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: TONY DINGES

The Dinges barn was all about efficiency on Tuesday night, sending out three starters and earning victories in every one of those 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

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

April 8-14, 2017

Our first full racing week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with racing on four straight evenings, coincided with the best stretch of weather that we’ve enjoyed in the early part of the meet. As a result, we are practically inundated with possibilities and candidates for this edition of Weekly Awards. Tough choices had to be made, and here are the results.

PACER OF THE WEEK: NEXT SUCCESS

First horse to three wins on the meet? This four-year-old gelding from the Les Givens barn had a shot at it on Saturday night against a field of $25,000 claiming pacers. He came to Pocono fresh off a win at Rosecroft on March 19, then promptly surprised a condition pacing group at 19-1 in his first effort at MSPD. He followed that up with a $25,000 claiming victory on April 1.

The big thing working against him on Saturday night was his #9 post. To overcome that, driver Jim Morrill Jr. had Next Success, who went off as the 8-5 favorite, charging toward the lead right out of the gate. When he broke stride, it seemed like all hope was lost; even though he quickly caught stride, he still had to retreat to the back of the pack in order to heed the breaking rules. It looked like a lost cause when Morrill set him in motion on the back stretch to try and make up ground.

It helped Next Success that there was a logjam at the front of the field, with nobody able to pull out to a big lead. At the top of the stretch, a wall of horses lined up to chase leader Baggage Claim. Lo and behold, there was Next Success winding up with a five-wide move around the final turn, and he exploded past the field to prevail by a length in 1:53:3. With the last-to-first conquest, he now has three straight victories at Pocono and four in a row overall, and his name couldn’t be more apropos, because we can’t wait to see what his next success will be.

Other top pacers this week: Dash Of Danger (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), whose win at Pocono on Sunday night in 1:51:4, which matched his career best time, gave him three straight victories, two of them coming in Bobby Weiss series action; Mariner Seelster (George Napolitano Jr., Mark Ford), who rallied to win a condition pace on Saturday night in 1:51, which was a new career mark and his second straight win; and V I P Bayama (Eric Carlson, Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who moved up in class on Saturday night to pick up his second straight win, this one coming in a career-best 1:51:2.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: WHAT A PEACH

This five-year-old gelding has been razor sharp since arriving at Pocono at the start of the meet following a victory at Miami Valley in Ohio. He picked up a condition win on Opening Night and followed it up with a heartbreaking loss by a nose behind Charles VII. On April 2 in the $15,000 to $20,000 claiming handicap group, What A Peach hooked up in a stretch duel with the mare Dreamsteeler, who needed a break of stride to finish ahead at the line, meaning What A Peach inherited the win via disqualification.

What A Peach faced the same claiming handicap group on Sunday night, including his old friend Dreamsteeler, who lined up just inside of him in the #3 post in a seven-horse field. As the 3-5 betting favorite, What A Peach, making his first start in the Paul Fusco barn following a claim, grabbed the engine with George Napolitano in the bike. He had to deal with a first-over charge from Chipps Lake on the back stretch, meaning that he expended some extra energy before he would need it in the home stretch.

In the stretch, Dreamsteeler, who had worked out the excellent pocket trip, charged up the passing lane to make a play for the lead. What A Peach, undaunted, battled her stride for stride. In an odd instant replay, Dreamsteeler once again went off stride, only this time What A Peach was still able to get ahead at the line. The victory, in 1:55:1, made it four victories out of five for the gelding as he heads to a new barn following yet another claim.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Andy Ray (Marcus Miller, Jim Campbell), who picked up a condition win on Saturday night in a career-best 1:53:2, which was the fastest of any trotter on the grounds this past week; Sunrise Avenue (Eric Carlson, Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who won her second straight Bobby Weiss series race against distaff trotters on Tuesday night in 1:55:4; and Alexander Hanover (Anthony Napolitano, Mike Watson), who moved up in class to score a second consecutive condition win on Tuesday night, this one in 1:56.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK:  ONE TO DRAW TO

The very first race of the night on Saturday brought a huge upset, as this claiming pacer driven by Marcus Miller lit them up at 31-1 for a $65 payoff to win on a $2 ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANTHONY NAPOLITANO

A-Nap had his finest night of the young season on Sunday, scoring four wins, highlighted by a victory aboard 10-1 long shot Itty Bitty in the Bobby Weiss series.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: ANDREW HARRIS

Harris won the featured pace on Saturday night with Casimir Jitterbug and then followed it up with three training wins on Sunday night, including two in the Bobby Weiss series.

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 Season Preview

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

Welcome back, everyone, to live harness racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The 2017 season is upon us, although it took a little bit longer for it to get here than we originally expected.

The campaign was supposed to open on Saturday, March 18, but Stella, the winter storm of the century in the Northeastern Pennsylvania area, had other ideas. Even though the snow fell a full five days before the scheduled opening night, the pure amount of precipitation meant that there was just no way for even our crack track maintenance staff to have the racing surface ready for the Standardbreds.

The best-laid plans, as they say. And so we begin instead on Tuesday night, March 21, embarking on another outstanding season or racing. Let’s hope the warmer weather arrives sooner rather than later, but fans of Pocono know that the racing action always heats things up even if the temperature stays stubbornly on the low side.

So what can you expect from the new meet? If it’s anything like our recent seasons, some of the finest racing action in North American is certain to occur. The recipe: Take one of the fastest, best-kept racing surfaces anywhere, add in top-notch purses to draw in the best horsemen and horses in the world, and then sit back and watch the excitement.

You can also expect stakes races that bring in the sport’s superstars, a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes schedule that allows the Pocono faithful to see harness racing’s best rising talent, and overnight races that lead to great rivalries from week to week. Each racing night, pacers and trotters take to the 5/8-mile oval at Pocono in search of glory, and the fans are the ultimate beneficiaries of all of this talented horse flesh coming together in intense competition.

The horses are fantastic, but they’re also guided by the one of finest collection of drivers and trainers in the country. There are many questions to be answered among the Pocono horsemen this year. Will George Napolitano Jr. continue his amazing run of dominance on the driving side? Can young drivers like Anthony Napolitano, Matt Kakaley, Jim Marohn Jr., Andrew McCarthy, Marcus Miller and others continue to make inroads in the drivers’ standings? Is there a new face we haven’t yet seen ready to make a mark at Pocono?

On the training side, will the three-way battle for honors between Rene Allard, Chris Oakes and Ron Burke continue to rage until the closing nights of the season as it did a year ago? Or will there be some progress made by some of the trainers who were in the middle of the pack and are looking to move up the standings?

All will be answered in time. The racing schedule, with the exception of a few weeks at the start and end of the season, will be as follows until September: Saturday, Monday and Tuesday nights at 6:30 PM ET, Sunday at 7:30. In September, our Monday cards begin in the afternoon at 4:30 PM ET. I, for one, can’t wait to get it started and see what happens.

I’ll be writing these articles all season long, talking about the exploits of our horses and horsemen, handing out weekly awards to the top performers. I’m looking forward to once again seeing our regular fans, who make The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono such a special place. Every year, when I come back to work in March, it’s like getting together with old friends once again.

And, as always, the sincere hope of everyone at Pocono is that we get a chance to make the acquaintances of some new friends as well. Those of you who might be checking this article out in the program may be new to harness racing. If you are, I encourage you to settle in and get ready an evening of fun and excitement.

Hopefully, you’ll be back again, and you’ll follow along with us through the 2017 season. It has the makings of another great campaign, and I’m extremely lucky to once again have the best view in the announcer’s booth. I hope you stop up to say hello. Good luck on your wagers. Here’s to the season ahead.

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, November 2nd, 2016

October 29-November 4, 2016

We are approaching the end of the racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Horses around the country are also nearing the end of their respective campaigns, especially in the East where many horsemen choose to let their horses sit out the winter months and wait for the warm weather to return.

It’s why the Breeders Crown championships are held in October, since that’s as good a time as any to culminate the harness racing season. We at Pocono have been lucky enough to hold this prestigious event twice, and it was an enduring thrill to be a part of it. This year’s Breeders Crown was hosted by our good friends at The Meadowlands, and what these races proved once again is that the road to a championship often goes through Pocono.

Of the twelve horses who captured titles last Friday and Saturday night at The Big M, seven raced at least once at Pocono this season. Many captured big stakes victories on our oval; others hadn’t quite peaked while they were at MSPD but saved the best for last in their racing seasons. I thought it would be fun, as we start to wrap up our own season, to look back at the exploits of the Breeders Crown champs who made their way to Pocono this past meet.

Some of the names are obvious. Few will forget Always B Miki’s first face-off with Wiggle It Jiggleit and Freaky Feet Pete in the Ben Franklin pace in July at Pocono. The standout aged pacer came home a winner that night, with those other two superstars chasing him home, in a world-record matching time of 1:47. On Friday night at The Meadowlands, he put an explanation point on his season by defeating Wiggle It Jiggleit again (Freaky Feet Pete sat out due to injury) for the Breeders Crown title.

Racing Hill, who captured the 3-year-old pacing crown on Saturday night at The Big M, made a couple of big-stakes appearances at Pocono this season. In the Max Hempt pace in July, he handled the field in 1:49. He then came up short behind his rival Betting Line (who also sat out the BC) in the Battle Of The Brandywine in August. Broadway Donna, who also dominated her division (three-year-old trotting fillies) on her way to a Breeders Crown title as a heavy favorite, actually began her year at Pocono in June, winning a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes in 1:54:1.

The Breeders Crown two-year-old trotting male pacing champion Huntsville actually made his first two career starts at Pocono. He lost his debut in a Pennsylvania All Stars race to Filibuster Hanover in June, only to bounce back a week later with a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes victory in 1:51:4. That would spur him on to the state championship and, eventually, the BC title as well.

A couple Breeders Crown winners actually didn’t have much luck at MSPD. Bar Hopping, who rolled to the three-year-old male trotting championship on Saturday night, lost both of his big stakes races at Pocono to Southwind Frank; his BC title over Southwind Frank must have been sweet revenge. Meanwhile Call Me Queen Be raced here six times throughout the meet, winning only once in a consolation for the James Lynch in July. The three-year-old pacing filly was repeatedly stymied at Pocono by Pure Country and Darlinonthebeach, but she beat them both on Saturday night when it counted most as a 12-1 long shot with semi-regular Pocono driver Scott Zeron in the bike.

And, speaking of Pocono drivers, Marcus Miller, a regular here the past few seasons who is enjoying his finest meet in 2016, made his own Breeders Crown history with a win aboard Someomensomewhere in the two-year-old distaff pacing division at 17-1. Someomensomehwere, trained by Erv Miller, had a win and a place in a couple starts at Pocono to begin her career early in the summer. The win Saturday night, the first for Marcus Miller as a driver, came at the expense of several horses who had bested her throughout the season in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes circuit.

Many other horses that made appearance at Pocono throughout not just this season, but also in recent years, were factors in their respective races on Friday and Saturday night as well. It’s been a remarkable season at Pocono, and that’s evident by the impact the track’s equine and human denizens made on harness racing’s biggest event.

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.