Posts Tagged ‘Marcus Miller’

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.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

July 30-August 5, 2016

After several weeks of hot, dry weather, Mother Nature brought some rain to the party in Northeastern Pennsylvania this past week. That created sloppy tracks on two of the four racing nights at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, making for some fascinatingly unpredictable racing. In the midst of the on-and-off precipitation, several horses and horsemen handled the less-than-ideal conditions with aplomb, and they’re the ones receiving the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: PANCETTA

Whenever you see that a Standardbred has some sort of variation of the word “pan” in its name, it’s a good bet that the Peter Pan Stables of Ohio were involved in its development. While the names can be quite humorous, the horses with them often are outstanding competitors. Such has proven to be the case with Pancetta, a seven-year-old stallion bred by Peter Pan Stables who has been a handful since arriving at Pocono a few weeks back.

Trained by Matias Ruiz, Pancetta had been splitting time between Harrah’s at Philadelphia and Yonkers before coming to Pocono, with very little success. As a matter of fact, he didn’t even hit the board through his first seven races of the season. But he quickly proved that he loved the Pocono surface, ripping off a victory on July 23 in a $6,000 condition event in a career-best 1:52:1.

On Saturday he had to overcome the double whammy of moving up in class to the $12,500 level and dealing with the far outside #9 post position. Going off at 8-1, Pancetta was undaunted. Driver Anthony Napolitano hustled him to the lead on the front stretch and he held the advantage from that point. Even with the race favorite Rather Swell bearing down him late, the stallion held together for the victory by a length in 1:52:1 in the slop. That makes two straight victories, meaning that the name might be clever, but it’s Pancetta’s game that has really stood out of late.

Other top pacers this week include: Dancin Yankee (George Napolitano Jr., Josh Green), who overcame sloppy conditions on Saturday night to beat a condition field in 1:49:1, the fastest pacing time of the week at Pocono; Check’s Commodore (Anthony Napolitano, Rene Allard), who picked up his second straight win over the $15,000 claimers on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:52:2 in the slop; and Lindy’s Nightmare (Brett Miller, Frank Antonacci), a three-year-old filly who returned from Mohawk to win a condition on Tuesday night in 1:52:4, giving her five consecutive victories.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: STONEBRIDGE COMBAT

When humans fail at something, they’re often told to get back on the horse. When horses fail at something, what do they do? While you ponder that existential query, consider the case of Stonebridge Combat, a 3-year-old gelding trained and driven by Chris Ryder who hadn’t known a lot of defeat until a third-place finish on July 24 against the non-winners of five trotters at Pocono. Prior to that he had won three races in a row and five out of six for the year, which was his first in racing after sitting out his 2-year-old campaign.

In that loss in his previous race, Stonebridge Combat set the pace as he had in many of his previous wins, only to cough up the lead late. When he faced the non-winners of five again on Sunday night, Ryder decided to change up the strategy. He allowed Mr Lucky Luke to set the pace early while holding his horse back in the middle of the back. It was only on the back stretch that he set Stonebridge Combat in motion.

Even though he didn’t find any cover to help him toward the front of the pack, Stonebridge Combat pulled up alongside Mr Lucky Luke in the stretch, finally wearing him down to prevail by three-quarters of a length in 1:55:2. It was quite a nice bounce-back performance for the gelding, who has now won six of eight races in his young career.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Can’t I (John Campbell, Bob Stewart), a 2-year-old who now has two straight wins to start his career after a condition win in the slop on Monday night in a career-best 1:57:3; Three Crow Mo (Matt Kakaley, Tony Farina), who scored his second straight victory over the $7,500 claimers on Monday night, winning in 1:57:3 in the slop; and Croquet Rose (Andrew McCarthy, Anette Lorentzon), a mare who overcame an outside post to pick up her second consecutive condition win on Tuesday night, this one coming in a career-best 1:55:3.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: SAVANNAH SUNSET

In Sunday night’s final race, this trotting filly won a condition at 46-1 to pay off $95.40 to win and completed a $2,445 Late Daily Double where both winners were driven by Marcus Miller.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ERIC GOODELL

We’re seeing much more of Goodell at Pocono than we have in several years, and we’re seeing him win a lot of races as well, as he picked up driving doubles on Saturday and Sunday.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: GILBERTO GARCIA-HERRERA

Garcia-Herrera has been a steady performer all year long at Pocono, and he kept it up this week with three training wins including a double on Monday night.

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 stars shine under the Sun in Sun Stakes Saturday eliminations

Monday, June 20th, 2016

What will be the greatest collection of harness racing talent assembled for one card so far in 2016 will gather at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono this Saturday night, June 25th, as the eliminations for the $2M+ Sun Stakes Saturday Championships will be held, seven days before the Championship events.

The Ben Franklin FFA Pace has attracted an overflow field of 22 entrants, including such superstars as Wiggle It Jiggleit, Always B Miki, Freaky Feet Pete, Rockin Ron, and $30,000 supplement Mel Mara, and will be raced in three eliminations, with the top three finishers from each elim coming back for the $500,000 Championship event.

The races for the three-year-olds – the Earl Beal 3C Trot, the Max C. Hempt 3C Pace, and the James Lynch 3F Pace, number their entrants in the teens, which means there will be two eliminations for all three sophomore events, with the top four finishers in each elim joining the faster of the fifth-placed finishers going into their rich Championships, the Beal and Hempt racing for $500,000, the Lynch for $300,000.

On an overall basis, how strong are these fields? Well, take the Franklin: it boasts the defending divisional champion in State Treasurer, PLUS it has the defending Horse of the Year and 3YO champion, Wiggle It Jiggleit, as he makes the stepup to the older ranks. Also, the only possible defending champion in the four stakes, Luck Be Withyou, is in the field.

And each of the events for three-year-olds sees its defending champion from two coming to Pocono: Southwind Frank (3TC), Boston Red Rocks (3PC), and Pure Country (3PC).

In addition: the Top Ten poll reflecting this past weekend’s results has not been completed by “post time” for this release, but six of the top ten horses from the last poll will be at Pocono: Wiggle It Jiggleit (1st), Southwind Frank (3rd), Freaky Feet Pete (4th), Rockin Ron (6th), Always B Miki (8th), and Mel Mara (10th).

Here’s a closer look at the fields for all four sets of eliminations, starting with the one that will likely draw the most attention, the Franklin FFA Pace:

BEN FRANKLIN FFAP (Championship purse $500,000; eliminations this Saturday slotted for races 10-11-12):

In addition to the accomplishments listed above, the 22 Franklin entrants have combined lifetime earnings over $20M (ten of the card’s fourteen millionaires are in the Franklin), and their average lifetime mark is 1:48.2.

The first elimination, race 10, finds returning Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit, who won the Hempt and the Battle of the Brandywine at Pocono last year, drawing post six in a field of eight for driver Montrell Teague, trainer Clyde Francis, and his ownership of George Teague Jr Inc. and Teague Racing Partnership LLC. The four-year-old altered son of Mr Wiggles has won 7 of 10 races so far this year and over $400,000, and has taken his last three outings, including a 1:48.1-26.4 runaway victory in a Graduate leg at Tioga despite broken equipment; the race before that, he set the all-time track record with a 1:47.3 at Philly.

State Treasurer, the reigning Older Male Pacer of the Year, has post five in “Wiggle”’s elimination, but is winless so far in 2016, while Luck Be With You, the defending Franklin champion, is saddled with the outside post eight  – but he won his Franklin elim last year from PP8, and then won the Championship from PP9.

The second elimination features Always B Miki, who has by many been considered the purely-fastest horse of the last two years, with his speed matched only by bad racing fortune, most notably an injury at the end of his three-year-old season. But the five-year-old Always A Virgin stallion has come back in 2016 with three wins and two seconds in five starts, including setting the all-time Canadian record of 1:47.1 in Mohawk’s Gold Cup this past Saturday. David Miller is slated for sulky duty as “Miki” starts from post five for trainer Jimmy Takter and owners Bluewood Stable, Roll The Dice Stable, and Christina Takter.

Always B Miki faces several tough foes here, but none that has been more a thorn in his side recently than Mel Mara, starting from post one for driver Corey Callahan. The horse was placed in the care of trainer Dylan Davis almost two months ago, and since then Mel Mara has passed “Miki” in the stretch, only to be outfought on the end by a neck, and then, in Mel Mara’s last race, he held off Always B Miki by two lengths in 1:47, only a tick off the all-time record for speed in a race – reason enough for his connections, Robert Cooper Stables LLC and J&T Silva Stables LLC, to pony up a $30,000 supplemental entry fee to get him in the race. Mel Mara qualified this past Saturday at The Meadowlands, winning in 1:49.2, with a last quarter of 25.4 …

… a last quarter, which, unbelievably, was bettered by third elim likely choice Freaky Feet Pete, as he flew to the wire in 25.3 in a 1:51.2 Hoosier morning session. Freaky Feet Pete, a son of Rockin Image, completes the “Indiana triumvirate” of dominant free-for-allers which includes “Wiggle” and “Miki,” and he may be able to add to his already-burnished credentials as he starts from post one for driver Trace Tetrick, trainer Larry Rhineheimer, and owners Mary Jo Rhineheimer and Marty Rhineheimer.

$30,000 RACE 10 ELIMINATION (PP, horse, listed driver, trainer): 1, Dude’s The Man, Corey Callahan, Jessica Okusko; 2, Always At My Place, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 3, Take It Back Terry, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 4, Ideal Cowboy, Tim Tetrick, Jeff Bamond Jr.; 5, State Treasurer, Tim Tetrick also listed, Dr. Ian Moore; 6, Wiggle It Jiggleit, Montrell Teague, Clyde Francis; 7, Shamballa, Scott Zeron, Rick Zeron; 8, Luck Be Withyou, George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes.

$30,000 RACE 11 ELIMINATION: 1, Mel Mara*, Corey Callahan, Dylan Davis; 2, Melmerby Beach, Marcus Miller, Ettore Annunziata; 3, Mach It So, Tim Tetrick, Jeff Bamond Jr.; 4, Alexa’s Jackpot, George Napolitano Jr., Marty Fine; 5, Always B Miki, David Miller, Jimmy Takter; 6, All Bets Off, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 7, Rockin Ron, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke. (*- $30,000 supplemental nomination.)

$30,000 RACE 12 ELIMINATION: 1, Freaky Feet Pete, Trace Tetrick, Larry Rhineheimer; 2, Limelight Beach, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 3, Cooperstown, George Napolitano Jr., Daniel Renaud; 4, Rock N’ Roll World, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 5, Bushwacker, Eric Carlson, Chris Ryder; 6, Sunfire Blue Chip, Mark MacDonald, Jimmy Takter; 7, In The Arsenal, Brett Miller, Kelvin Harrison.

EARL BEAL 3CT (Championship purse $500,000, Saturday eliminations races 7 and 9):

Most of the attention for the Beal will be drawn by Southwind Frank, last year’s divisional champion and a Breeders Crown winner, and 13-for-14 in his career for trainer Ron Burke and owners Southwind Frank Partners. “Frank” will have two challenges going into Saturday’s race 9 elimination: he hasn’t started since winning the New Jersey Sire Stakes Championship on June 4, and he’ll leave from post eight in the field of nine for driver Yannick Gingras (who does have an early “double call” in the race with Lagerfeld). Speaking of Lagerfeld, he and Love Matters, both two-time winners in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes program this season, look to be “Frank”’s main opposition.

Decorum will be the watchword in the seventh race elim, as three of the potentially-fastest of the nine entrants come into the Beal elim off of breaks in their last star: Dayson, Milligan’s School, and Jack Vernon. All have shown the speed that puts them near the top of their class if they are errorless, and a good time to begin their improved behavior would be right here.

$25,000 7TH RACE ELIMINATION: 1, Brooklyn Hill, David Miller, Jonas Czernyson; 2, Dayson, Jim Morrill Jr., Ron Burke; 3, Milligan’s School, Andy Miller, Julie Miller; 4, Jimmy William, Brett Miller, Jimmy Takter; 5, Jack Vernon, Tim Tetrick, Randy Beeckman; 6, Dupree, Åke Svanstedt, Åke Svanstedt; 7, Reigning Moni, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 8, Truemass Volo, Eric Goodell, Doug Hamilton; 9, Hollywood Highway, John Campbell, Staffan Lind.

$25,000 9TH RACE ELIMINATION: 1, Dice Man, Åke Svanstedt, Åke Svanstedt; 2, Love Matters, Brett Miller, Jimmy Takter; 3, Trolley, Marcus Miller, Erv Miller; 4, Lagerfeld, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 5, Iron Mine Bucky, George Dennis, Greg Haverstick; 6, Bar Hopping, Tim Tetrick, Jimmy Takter; 7, Promise Delivered, Andrew McCarthy, Staffan Lind; 8, Southwind Frank, Gingras also listed, Ron Burke; 9, Leggs Matter, David Miller, Robert W. Clark.

MAX C. HEMPT 3CP (Championship purse $500,000, Saturday eliminations races 3 and 5):

Betting Line, the winner of last Saturday’s $1M North America Cup at Mohawk, was not eligible to the Hempt, but the horse that finished 2-3 in the Cup, Racing Hill and Control The Moment, will be going at Pocono on Saturday, as will fourth-place Cup finisher Boston Red Rocks, last year’s two-year-old champion, and many of the early stars of the state’s tough Pennsylvania-sired contests. These two eliminations look to be fairly wide-open, as the sophomores try to establish early position behind leader pro tem Betting Line as they travel the path towards the Meadowlands Pace, the Battle of the Brandywine, the Little Brown Jug, and the Breeders Crown. (And remember that last year’s Hempt winner went on to have a pretty good 2015 – his name was Wiggle It Jiggleit.)

$25,000 3RD RACE ELIMINATION: 1, Boston Red Rocks, Tim Tetrick, Steve Elliott; 2, JK Will Power, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 3, More Dragon, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 4, Control The Moment, Randy Waples, Brad Maxwell; 5, American Passport, Brian Sears, Tony Alagna; 6, Western Dynasty, Tim Tetrick also listed, Chris Ryder.

$25,000 5TH RACE ELIMINATION: 1, Racing Hill, Brett Miller, Tony Alagna; 2, Tailgunner Hanover, Tim Tetrick, Ray Schnittker; 3, Big Top Hanover, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 4, Katie’s Rocker, David Miller, Jim Campbell; 5, Talk Show, Scott Zeron, Steve Elliott; 6, Western Fame, David Miller also listed, Jimmy Takter; 7, Another Daily Copy, Jim Morrill Jr., Nicholas DeVita.

JAMES LYNCH 3F PACE (Championship purse: $300,000, Saturday eliminations races 6 and 8):

Pure Country was pure perfection as a two-year-old, going undefeated in 10 starts and being named divisional champion. This year, like a typical country song, there have been a few “bumps in the road,” but as trainer Jimmy Takter noted last week, “She’s won the two big races for her group so far” (last Saturday’s $341,640 Fan Hanover Championship at Mohawk, and the $313,800 Miss Pennsylvania Championship here at Pocono). The daughter of Somebeachsomewhere, owned by Diamond Creek Racing, is set to have Brett Miller in his accustomed perch in the sulky as the pair start from post three in the nine-horse race eight elimination, with a battle sure to come from Darlinonthebeach, the only horse ever to be favored against Pure Country (in the Miss Pennsylvania final, where she set a lightning pace then tired), and second in the Fan Hanover final.

In the sixth race elim, the Well Said filly I Said Diamonds should draw her fair share of attention from post four, with Matt Kakaley driving for trainer Matias Ruiz and Little Bapa LLC from post four. This “Diamond” was second to Pure Country in the Miss Pennsylvania Championship after winning her elimination, and she also shows 2016 stakes triumphs in the Pennsylvania All-Stars and the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes.

$20,000 6TH RACE ELIMINATION: 1, Shezarealdeal, John Campbell, Ross Croghan; 2, Skinny Dipper, Andrew McCarthy, Ross Croghan; 3, JK Fannie, David Miller, Nancy Johansson; 4, I Said Diamonds, Matt Kakaley, Matias Ruiz; 5, Newborn Sassy, Tim Tetrick, Jo Ann Looney-King; 6, Sail To The Beach, John Campbell also listed, Richard Bilach; 7, Princess Fabulosa, Jim Marohn Jr., Greg White; 8, Terror At Night, Brett Miller, Les Givens; 9, Lindwood Beachgirl, Yannick Gingras, Mark Steacy.

$20,000 8TH RACE ELIMINATION: 1, Kiss Me Onthebeach, John Campbell, Chris Ryder; 2, Yankee Moonshine, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 3, Pure Country, Brett Miller, Jimmy Takter; 4, Blue Moon Stride, Andrew McCarthy, Mark Harder; 5, Lyons River Pride, driver TBA, Bruce Goit; 6, Darlinonthebeach, David Miller, Nancy Johansson; 7. Penpal, Pat Lachance, Pat Lachance; 8. Some Fancy Filly, David Miller also listed, Nancy Johansson; 9, Call Me Queen Be, Scott Zeron, Ross Croghan.

ALSO ON THE CARD – a $25,000 winners-over pace in the four-slot, matching Rockeyed Optimist, 18-of-29 the last two years and consistently close against top free-for-allers (including showing a win over Always B Miki in that one’s 2016 bow), and Wakizashi Hanover, a million-dollar winner in his three-year-old form, who was eligible to the Franklin, but is making his 2016 seasonal debut on Saturday. “Wakizashi” adds Lasix as he enters his older form, and trainer Jo Ann Looney-King decided to go into this event rather than throw her pride and joy against the bullyboy FFAers in his bow this season; Tim Tetrick is scheduled for sulky duty behind Wakizashi Hanover from post four in a field of eight, while Rockeyed Optimist starts in post six for driver Brett Miller and trainer Steve Elliott.

First post for this Saturday extravaganza of trotting and pacing prowess is listed at 6:30 p.m.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

April 2-8, 2016

Racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono ramped up to three live nights this past week, as Sunday joined the schedule for the first time this year. By next week, we will have reached our four-nights-per-week schedule that will be our standby for the bulk of the meet. In the meantime, the three racing nights this week have given us just enough fodder to hand out 2016’s first edition of the Weekly Awards. Let’s see who takes the initial honors.

PACER OF THE WEEK: KINGS BARNS

This 5-year-old gelding spent the early part of 2016 battling it out at Yonkers with little to show for it. In nine races at the half-mile oval, he could only manage a pair of third-place finishes. In his last start at Yonkers, he switched to the barn of Rene Allard, a fellow who does serious damage at Pocono with all manner of horses.

Thus it was understandable that Kings Barns was favored in his 2016 Pocono debut on March 26 in an $11,000 condition pace, and he delivered on that promise with a front-pacing win with Simon Allard in the bike in a career-best 1:50:3. He moved up slightly to take on a $12,500 condition group on Saturday night, but he was unable to find the early lead for a second straight race. Instead he had to follow cover on the back stretch and make an early three-wide move.

Once the stretch rolled around, the gelding had gathered enough momentum to take aim at the leaders. Simon Allard guided him back to the inside to save ground, and he rolled by the faltering leaders to win in 1:52 by 1 ¾ lengths. That makes back-to-back victories for Kings Barns, who looks positively regal so far this meet at Pocono.

Other top pacers this week include: Whatagamble (George Napolitano Jr., Dean Eckley), who rolled to his second straight win over the $10,000 claimers on Saturday night in 1:53; Options Are Adream (Corey Callahan, Richard Lewis), a 3-year-old colt who is now unbeaten after seven career races, following up six straight wins at Dover with a Bobby Weiss series victory on Sunday night in 1:52:1; and Cooperstown (Anthony Napolitano, Daniel Renaud), whose victory in Sunday night’s featured condition pace in 1:50:1 was his third straight win, two of which have come at Pocono.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SOUTH SIDE HANOVER

This filly from the Todd Schadel barn didn’t do much as a 2-year-old a year ago, failing to break her maiden in 13 races and hitting the board just four times. She came off the layoff to battle a non-winners of one condition distaff group last week. Despite being a 22-1 long shot in the race and leaving from a tough #7 post, she made the lead, gutted it out, and came home a winner in 1:57:1.

In a $15,000 division of the Bobby Weiss series for distaff trotters on Tuesday night, South Side Hanover was assigned the outside #7 post and received a bit more betting attention, going off as the 7-1 second choice. Most of the money went to 1-5 betting favorite Ready Any Time. But it was South Side Hanover who was ready from the getgo, hustling to the front end under before the quarter pole under urging from Todd Schadel to dictate the terms.

At the top of the stretch, South Side Hanover turned back a charge from pocket horse Squeals Of Delight, while the heavy favorite Ready Any Time could only rally for the show. She won by 1 ½ lengths in a new career mark of 1:56:4. From a nondescript maiden to Late Closer series contender in just a couple weeks, this filly is rising fast and it seems like even higher levels are within her reach.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Massacaia (George Napolitano Jr., Jason Robinson), who bounced back from a break in his previous start to score a condition win on Saturday night in 1:55; Extracurricular (Jim Morrill Jr., Lance Hudson), who arrived from Yonkers and fought hard for a condition win in 155; and Daylon Miracle (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), a mare who arrived from Saratoga to dominate in a condition trot in Tuesday night in 1:53, easily the fastest trotting time of the week.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: ROCKINTHEPINES

This gelding driven by Marcus Miller started Tuesday night off with a surprising bang, rallying from way back to stun a claiming trotting field at 34-1, paying off $71.60 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: TODD SCHADEL

Schadel zipped to victories in two of the three Bobby Weiss divisions held on Tuesday night for distaff trotters, winning with South Side Hanover and Real Caviar, both of whom he also trains.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: DEAN ECKLEY

Talk about efficient: Eckley sent out only three starters on Saturday night, and every one of them came home a winner for a perfect training evening.

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.