Posts Tagged ‘Mark Ford’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

April 28-May 1, 2018

Next week in this space, we will be profiling all the happenings from our Kentucky Derby evening card, which is filled up with all four finals of the Bobby Weiss late closer series and two divisions of the Van Rose Memorial pace featuring some of the finest aged pacers in the world and kicking off the Great Northeast Open series, which will continue throughout the spring and summer at Harrah’s at Philadelphia as well as at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Here now are the finest performances of the past week at Pocono, highlighted in our Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: STRAWB’S CHIPPIE

Every once in a while, a horse will ship into Pocono with a gaudy record at other tracks and be unable to match that level of success once it reaches the top levels of competition here. Strawb’s Chippie initially looked like she might fall into category. The seven-year-old mare had amassed wins in four of her first five starts on the New York harness circuit to begin 2018. But her first two starts at Pocono in this meet were less distinguished, as she came away with a second and a sixth in two races against the $15,000 to $20,000 claiming handicap pacing mares.

The tide started to turn for Strawb’s Chippie when she joined the Rene Allard barn on April 16. She located her front-pacing stride that had garnered her so much success in New York and ripped off back-to-back wins while leading at every pole with winning times of 1:56.1 in the slop and 1:52.3, the latter a career-best. She joined the Hunter Oakes barn following a claim and took on the same grouping on Monday night from an outside #8 post as a 4-5 betting favorite.

Even though the barn changed, the strategy didn’t for the mare. Driver George Napoitano Jr. cut her loose early to reach the early lead and she played keep-away from there. Despite a solid challenge from Warrawee Qually in the lane, Strawb’s Chippie once again proved her toughness with the lead and came home a half-length winner, this time in 1:52.4. With her third straight victory, those early Pocono struggles now seem like a distant memory.

Other top pacers this week include: Drunken Terror (Anthony Napolitano, Marta Piotrow), who scored his second consecutive claiming handicap win on Saturday night, this one in 1:51.2; We Think Alike (George Napolitano Jr., Brandon Todd), who moved up in class to win a condition pace on Saturday night in 1:52.4, his second straight victory; and Make A Statement A (Anthony Napolitano, Jody Riedel), whose condition win on Tuesday night came in 1:50.4, a new career-mark and tied for fastest pacing time of the week at Pocono.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: GOLDEN SON

In Sunday’s $17,500 featured condition trot, a showdown was looming between Golden Son and Upfront Billy. The former, a five-year-old gelding from the Jenny Melander barn, was coming off a sharp victory at Harrah’s and returning to a class at Pocono where he had a near-miss second on March 24. The latter, a nine-year-old gelding trained by Mark Ford, is the defending Trotter of the Year at Pocono and has already scored two wins in this meet, including a victory in his previous race in 1:52.2, fastest trotting time at Pocono in 2018 so far.

Golden Son, the 2-1 second choice, left from the inside post in a field of nine as a 2-1 second choice. Upfront Billy, the 6-5 favorite, left from the #3 post. It was Upfront Billy who grabbed the early lead, a change in tactics from his earlier victory, when he sat the pocket behind a hot pace. With Upfront Billy doing the work, driver Jim Morrill Jr. was all right with letting Golden Son sit the pocket, knowing he’d likely have a shot at the leader late if he could stay close.

Of course, that meant he would have to outtrot Upfront Billy, who is known for being extremely game late in the race. But when Morrill tipped Golden Son out of the pocket to take dead aim, the gelding responded with powerful late kick, just enough to corral Upfront Billy at the line by a nose in 1:54.1. That gives him two wins in a row, and anytime you can beat the Trotter of the Year at the top of his game, it’s quite an accomplishment.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Such An Angel (George Napolitano Jr., Hunter Oakes), who overwhelmed a condition group on Monday night to win in 1:53.1, the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono; Elysium Lindy (Anthony Napolitano, Ron Burke), who shipped in from The Meadowlands to pick up a condition win on Saturday night in 1:55.1; and Chelsees A Winner (George Napolitano Jr., Christie Collins), a mare who moved up in class on Tuesday night to win her second straight condition since arriving from Ohio, this one coming in a career-best 1:55:4.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: MR HAM SANDWICH

Despite having won his last start, this pacer driven by Eric Carlson went off at 43-1 in a condition on Saturday night, a race he promptly won to pay off $88 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: PAT BERRY

Berry always seems to give bettors great value for his wins, as he proved Saturday night by posting a double with horses who went off at 7-1 (A Real Miracle) and 9-2 (Jimmy C R).

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: BRANDON TODD

Todd is making the most of his opportunities at Pocono, as was evidenced on Saturday night when he won with two of the three starters he sent out to race.

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 – 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

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

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

August 12-18, 2017

This past week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono featured either Pennsylvania Sire Stakes or Stallion Series competition every racing night. It’s always a lot of fun to see these two and three-year-olds going at it for big purses as they try to establish themselves among the stars of their age groups. It’s also a reminder that Labor Day brings the two-year-old Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championships to Pocono. In the meantime, here are the finest performances of the past week via the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: HOLD IT HANOVER

In general, Stallion Series races are reserved for two and three-year-olds that are a notch below Sire Stakes level; that’s reflected in the lower, but still substantial, purses for the Stallion Series races. But, in some cases, the Stallion Series serves as a great location for horses that may have started a bit later in their career than others but are suddenly demonstrating immense talent. That certainly seems to be the case for Hold It Hanover.

This filly didn’t race at age two, and made her debut in Canada this season as a sophomore, picking up one win in eight starts. But things started to transform when she arrived in Pennsylvania in July and joined the barn of trainer Michael Hall. After finishing fourth in her first start at Harrah’s at Philadelphia, Hold It Hanover promptly ripped off three straight victories against non-winners of three fillies and mares. She then came to Pocono on August 8 and beat that same class from an outside post in a career-best 1:51:2.

On Sunday night, she took on the Stallion Series for three-year-old pacing fillies for the first time and the domination continued. As the 2-5 favorite from an outside post in a field of seven, she overwhelmed the field on the front end by 5 ¾ lengths with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike. The winning time of 1:51 was easily the fastest Stallion series time of the night and was comparable to the times of Saturday night’s Sire Stakes winners in the same division. With five wins in a row under her belt, the best way to classify Hold It Hanover is as tough to beat.

Other top pacers this week include: Maxdaddy Blue Chip (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who moved up in class and grinded out a first-over mile for his second straight condition victory on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:50:1; Scotty Lauxmont (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who scored his second consecutive condition win on Sunday night, moving up in class to win in a career-best 1:52:3; and First Class Horse (George Napolitano Jr. Tracy Brainard), whose condition win on Saturday night in 1:50 marked a career-best and the fastest pacing time of the week at Pocono.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: RIDGEWAY SPRINGS

One can never tell when the light is going to come on for a struggling horse. In the case of Ridgeway Springs, it looked like he might dwell in darkness all year long. When he arrived at Pocono from The Meadowlands for a non-winners of $6,000 in the last five event on August 6, he was winless this season in 19 races. But the change of scenery must have helped, as the four-year-old gelding, who had just joined the Owen Eiler Jr. barn, made a three-wide back stretch move on his way to a win in a career-best 1:55:2 at 11-1.

On Sunday night, Ridgeway Springs took on a different challenge, battling the non-winners of five for a purse of $16,000. Those are much bigger stakes than what he’s used to seeking, so it was somewhat understandable that he was let go at 13-1 despite the win in his last start. Driver Anthony Napolitano had the gelding ready to roll, however, pushing him to the front early and then settling into the pocket after race favorite Rosesareexplosive grabbed the lead on the front stretch.

Some first-over pressure from Centurion Hanover softened up Rosesareexplosive, all while Ridgeway Springs relaxed in the pocket. In the stretch, Ridgeway Springs uncorked his best move and slid past Rosesareexplosive to win by three-parts of a length. In doing so, he matched his career-best 1:55:2 time from the previous week. After two straight victories at double-digit odds, hope springs anew for this suddenly red-hot trotter.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Up Front Billy (Anthony Napolitano, Mark Ford), who scored a condition win on Saturday night in a brisk 1:53:1; Windsongmusclelady (George Napolitano Jr., Hunter Oakes), a mare who followed up a win at Harrah’s with a victory in Monday night’s featured claiming handicap trot in 1:52:3, a new career-best and the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono; and Frac (Anthony Napolitano, Jim Ray), who stepped up the condition ladder to win his second straight on Tuesday night in 1:55.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: CAN I SAY

With Anthony Morgan in the bike, this trotting mare beat a field of boys to win a condition event at 29-1 on Saturday night, paying off $60 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.

On Sunday night’s card, which featured some top drivers shipping in for the Stallion Series races, Pocono’s top driver asserted his dominance by winning eight of the 14 races on the program.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: NIFTY NORMAN

Among Norman’s four training victories at Pocono this week were back-to-back Stallion Series wins on Sunday night with sophomore filly pacers Bridge To Tomorrow and Perplexed.

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.