Posts Tagged ‘Mark Ford’

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 Week In Review

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

March 25-31, 2017

After some weather-related delays, we finally enjoyed our first semi-full week of racing for the 2017 season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. This means we’re finally ready to hand out our first edition of the Weekly Awards. And it’s only fitting that our first horses of the week are the ones that made it to multiple wins on the meet before anybody else. Here are the best of the best for the week that was.

PACER OF THE WEEK: MAJO JUST DO IT

If you had to pick a horse beforehand that you thought would be our first Pacer of the Week, it probably wouldn’t have been this 11-year-old gelding. In 36 tries a year ago, Majo Just Do It won just four races and earned only a little over $16,000 for those efforts. He had shown some life in recent starts at Monticello, however, picking up a win and a show before coming to Pocono for Opening Night.

As a 7-2 shot that night, the gelding came from way back in the pack to score a win in 1:56. Trained by Jennifer Sansone, Majo Just Do It had George Napolitano Jr. in the bike for his race Sunday night against a field of $7,500 claimers. As the 2-1 second choice, he was shuffled to the end of the line once again. He was still last at the half-mile marker when he began steadily improving as part of the outer flow.

At the top of the lane he was still fifth, but Napolitano found a clear lane for him for the stretch drive. He once again found his best stride in the lane, blowing by the horses in front of him and prevailing by a half-length in 1:54:1. Suddenly Majo Just Do It has three-quarters as many wins as he did a year ago and things are looking up, especially if he can keep uncorking that lethal late kick on his unsuspecting foes.

Other top pacers this week include: City Hall (George Napolitano Jr., Amber Buter), who captured the Saturday night featured pace in 1:52:1, giving him wins in three of his last four races after a recent hot streak at The Meadowlands; Ronny Bugatti (Austin Siegelman, Nicholas Devita), who picked up a condition win in 1:51 on Tuesday night, the fastest time of the week at Pocono despite sloppy conditions; and Arielle Lynn (Eric Goodell, Kevin McDermott), who captured Tuesday night’s featured condition pace for mares in the slop in 1:53:4.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: MISTER PHOTOGENIC

Like Majo Just Do It, Mister Photogenic wasn’t exactly a name on everyone’s lips coming into the season. But hot streaks can arrive out of anywhere, and this 3-year-old gelding trained by Jim McGettigan definitely is on one right now. It began on opening night, when he surprised a field of maiden condition trotters with a come-from behind win at 7-1 in 1:58:3.

He was back at it again facing the same class on Sunday night. Because he had a win under his belt, he was forced to draw for an outside post, which left him in the tough #8 post position in field of nine. Driver Jim Morrill Jr. was able to guide Mister Photogenic to the lead with a steady move, taking over on the front stretch. The gelding received a lot of pressure, however, and as they rounded the final turn there were horses close behind and all around the 8-5 favorite.

It turns out that the gelding was playing a little possum, because once Morrill asked him for a little bit of speed, he left the pursuit far behind. Mister Photogenic ended up winning by a comfortable 5 ¼ lengths, a margin that seemed unlikely at the top of the stretch. His winning time of 1:58 reset his career best, although, if he continues to progress like he has early in the meet, it’s likely that mark will fall again very soon.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Muscle Diamond (John Campbell, Brett Bittle), a Meadowlands invader who scored a win in Sunday night’s featured trot in 1:53:3; DW’s NY Yank (Eric Goodell, Ron Burke), who overcame an outside post to deliver a condition victory on Saturday night in 1:53:3, matching Muscle Diamond for the fastest of the week at Pocono; and Swishnflick (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who handled a tough condition group on Saturday night in 1:54:3.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: NEXT SUCCESS

Even off a win in his last start at Rosecroft, this condition pacer driven by Jim Morrill Jr. went off at 19-1 on Sunday night and scored a victory to pay off $41.20 on a $2 ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: SIMON ALLARD

All signs point to a big season for Simon, as he followed up three wins on Opening night with three more victories in Saturday night’s action.

TRAINER OF THR WEEK: MARK FORD

One of the top trainers for many seasons now at Pocono, Ford picked up a win on Saturday night and then backed it up with a training double on Tuesday.

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, March 23rd, 2016

March 19-25, 2016

We’re starting out slowly for the 2016 season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, kind of easing into it if you will. Eventually Pocono will be hosting racing four nights a week, but we’re operating on a partial schedule for the first three weeks. As a result, there were just two cards in the first week of the season. So we’ll hold off on handing out Weekly Awards until the schedule normalizes.

Instead let’s take an opportunity to look back on the Opening Night action. Considering that there will be 135 racing cards held at Pocono in 2016, it’s probably a bit ill-advised to draw any conclusions after just one. Still Saturday night provided a nice glimpse into the kind of excitement and unpredictability that will likely be a hallmark of racing all season long.

The season began under favorable skies, a bit chilly but clear to allow both for a fast track and for the faithful to come out and enjoy racing in the bleachers and on the track apron. And those faithful witnessed a fine performance right off the bat from Northfield shipper Forego The Cigar, who took control of the lead at the 3/8-mile marker and held it from there, holding back favorite Cotton Eyed Joe to win the first race of 2016 at Pocono in 1:52:4. Jim Morrill Jr. did the driving for trainer Dale Loney.

Morrill liked the move he made in the first race so much that he did it again in Race 2 with trotter It’s Huw You Know, who also picked up the win (in 1:55:2) and gave Morrill a sweep of the early Daily Double. He would end up with three driving wins on the night, a mark which was matched by Anthony Napolitano and defending Pocono driving champ George Napolitano Jr. Eric Carlson and Mike Simons added driving doubles as six drivers carved up the fourteen wins on the night. On the training side, 13 different trainers secured a piece of the winning action, with only Mark Ford picking up a pair of training wins.

Marcus Miller scored a lone driving win, but it was a memorable one aboard the season’s first long-shot surprise. In Race 6 Dealmaker, despite being a 25-1 shot, rolled on the front end with Miller driving, scoring a comfortable 2 ¼-length win in a condition pace in 1:52. The payoff of $52.60 would turn out to be the night’s most lucrative win ticket, although Sody’s Moonshine and Kiss Of Terror would each later score as double-digit long shots (odd of longer than 10-1.) Favorites also made their presence felt though, winning six of the fourteen races overall on the night.

Opening night also witnessed the return of a veteran trotter who has amassed a lot of big victories against tough company at Pocono in the past. Zooming, with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike for trainer Amber Buter, came into his condition trot on Saturday night with $772,956 In earnings for his career, and much of that dough was banked at the Pocono oval. He looked happy to be back, grinding first-over to ease by a rugged bunch of condition trotters in 1:53:3.

Opening Night was also notable for the speeds at which the horses were travelling. While the track was in fast condition, there were also sporadic cold winds in play as well as temperatures that dropped rapidly once the sun ceded to the moon, not exactly ideal conditions for zippy racing. Yet the timer often showed numbers that looked like they were earned in the heat of July or August. On the trotting side, the effortless 1:53:3 Zooming was easily the fastest of the night. UF Rockin Dragon, with Anthony Napolitano doing the honors for trainer Mark Ford, ripped off the quickest pacing time of the evening, scorching a condition field in 1:50:2, which was also a career-best for the six-year-old gelding.

In the night’s feature race, a condition pace for non-winners of $13,000 in the last five starts which carried a purse of $14,000, Star Cover took the honors. Eric Carlson guided him to the win in 1:51 for trainer Brewer Adams. The 4-year-old gelding was coming off three straight near-miss second-place finishes at The Meadows and Woodbine, so starting off his Pocono season with such an impressive win had to feel extra sweet for his connections.

And so, by the time we closed out the night with trotter Dream Rocker winning a condition in 1:56:1, we had seen a little bit of everything. As I said earlier, it’s impossible to spot any trends or divine how the rest of the season will go based on a single night of racing. But Opening Night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono sure was a lot of fun, and it’s safe to say we can expect that fun to continue throughout the entirety of the 2016 meet.

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.

Familiar faces make their way back to the track for opening night

Monday, March 21st, 2016

The opening night card of the 2016 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono saw some familiar trainers and drivers revisiting the winners circle, and the Holiday Road gelding Its Huw You Know capturing the featured $15,500 second race trot in 1:55.2.

Jim Morrill Jr., with a UDR of over .600 starting the season at Buffalo, completed a sweep of the Daily Double with Its Huw You Know, huw who, as opposed to his win in his last start at The Meadowlands where he came from behind, made a quarter-move to the top in front of the stands, stole a 30 second third quarter, then went on to win over My Love Bi (George Napolitano Jr.). For trainer Ron Burke, it was his sixth win of the day in Pennsylvania after capturing five at The Meadows in the afternoon, with his Burke Racing owning a piece of all six and main partners Weaver / Bruscemi also listed on five winners including this one.

The Morrill – George Napoiltano Jr. finish was a repeat of the season’s curtainraiser, one of three $14,000 cofeatures, this one for high-end claiming handicap pacers. Forego The Cigar, coming from Northfield with a 6-3-3-0 recent tally, added a win at Pocono to that fine record when Morrill also used quarter-moving tactics with the Western Terror in defeating Cotton Eyed Joe (“GNap”) in 1:52.4 for trainer Dale Loney and owner Amy Loney. (Not surprisingly for Pocono, the 1-2 finishers were claimed out of the race, at a track where Saturday night claims usually ran into the double digits the last couple years.)

The $14,000 conditioned actually went considerably fastest than the feature, as Zooming returned to the track where he took his 1:51 mark two years ago and won here for defending driver champion George Napoitano Jr., going 1:53.3 with the temperatures near 40 degrees. Zooming had to go the hard uncovered trip against pacesetting P L Houdini (guided by George’s brother Anthony), but despite the rough journey the Classic Photo gelding had more than enough to get by for trainer Amber Buter and owners Steve Oldford, Gene Oldford Farms LLC, and Tyler Buter.

Eric Carlson completed a consecutive double when he drove Star Cover to a win 1:51 engine triumph in the other $14,000 feature, a high-level conditioned pace. The altered son of Royal Mattjesty had posted three seconds in as many recent starts between Woodbine and The Meadows, but he found the famous Pocono surface just the right answer for trainer Brewer Adams and Owner Joseph Trice.

Just as the fastest trotting time did not come in the biggest purse event, so too did the quickest pacing triumph come outside the twin features for that gait. UF Rockin Dragon, a Rocknroll Hanover gelding handled by Anthony Napolitano, lowered his lifetime mark to 1:50.2 in a $12,500 conditioned pace, with the engine score tacking on a 27.3 kicker to leave little doubt for trainer Mark Ford and owners Up Front Racing LLC.

Pocono races on a Saturday-Tuesday schedule in March, with 16 races slated for this Tuesday at 6:30. The mountain oval adds Sundays on April 3 (with a new Sunday starting time of 7:30), and Mondays on April 11th, racing these four days most of the 2016 campaign.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

July 17-23, 2015

Now that we’re in the heart of the 2015 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, the schedule provides five nights of racing each week. That means that it’s harder than ever to choose who’s deserving of the Weekly Awards, because there are even more candidates from which to select. But we’re going to take a deep dive anyway and come up with the best of the best from the week that was at Pocono.

PACER OF THE WEEK: CAUTION SIGNS

It’s been a lot of fun to chart the ascendancy of this 5-year-old stallion in 2015. On April 16, he finished third in a $12,500 claimer at Yonkers. That’s when he was claimed by owner/trainer Tracy Brainard, who immediately coaxed better efforts from the horse in New York, as he won two of his next three starts. But that was nothing compared to the run of success he’s put together at Pocono. Since arriving at the end of May, Caution Signs has four wins and two places in six races, all while climbing the highest rungs of the condition ladder.

On July 4, he completed his climb by beating Open pacers in 1:48:4, his third straight win. On Saturday night he took on Open company again and a field that was reduced to four by a couple of scratches. Although that might have seemed like an easy assignment, Caution Signs was dealing with a sloppy track. And, as he took the early lead, he was also dealing with a horse in Scott Rocks who sat the pocket and wouldn’t let him get away to a comfortable margin.

In the stretch, Scott Rocks came out of the pocket full of sound and fury looking to upend the even-money favorite. But no horse wins as consistently as Caution Signs has of late without being more than a little game. The stallion, with Joe Pavia Jr. doing the driving, fought hard to hold on to his lead, eventually winning by a neck in 1:49:4, a blistering time considering the sloppy going. Something tells me you wouldn’t be able to get Caution Signs for $12,500 right now, or maybe even five times that, considering his current hot streak.

Other top pacers this week include: Priceless Edition (Anthony Napolitano, Pierre Paradis), an 11-year-old veteran who cranked out his third straight claiming handicap on Friday night, this one coming in 1:54:4; Union Man Hanover (Andrew McCarthy, Tracy Brainard), who moved up his claiming price on Saturday night to $25,000 and still easily scored his third straight victory, this one in 1:51:4 in the slop; and Request For Parole (Anthony Napolitano, Ron Burke), a mare who followed up a win at The Meadowlands with a victory in Friday night’s featured pace in 1:49:2, the fastest time posted at Pocono this past week.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: AUSPICIOUS HANOVER

When I’m making the morning line odds for some of the top condition races on the card at Pocono, it’s always difficult to assign long odds to horses with strong performance backgrounds. There have to be long shots in every race, of course, so I grit my teeth and hope the public sees it the same way. That’s my way of explaining how a horse as solid as Auspicious Hanover could ever get away at 25-1 like he did on Saturday night.

The 4-year-old gelding from the Chris Oakes barn was coming into the condition trot for non-winners of $22,500 in the last five races, which carried the week’s top trotting purse of $24,000, off a 6th-place finish at Saratoga, but that was in an Open Handicap. Prior to that he had ripped off back-to-back wins at middling prices on the 5/8-mile oval at Harrah’s. Yet he was way back in the betting pecking order, with Madewell Hanover the even-money choice.

None of that mattered once the race started. Driver Kevin Wallis urged Auspicious Hanover to the lead at the quarter in a zippy :26:4. He was able to rate things much more reasonably through the middle portion of the race though, so that Auspicious Hanover didn’t just withstand the late pursuit of Madewell Hanover, but he actually lengthened the lead at the line to 2 ¼ lengths with a winning time of 1:54:1 in the slop. The win payout was $53.20 on a $2 ticket, so those who waded through the talented field to find the merits of this talented gelding were definitely rewarded.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Can I Say (Tom Jackson, Douglas Berkeley), a mare who beat the boys in a tough condition race on Saturday night in 1:54:1 in the slop; Demons N Diamonds (Simon Allard, John McDermott), a filly who stepped up in class on Sunday night and ripped off her second straight win, this one in a career-best time of 1:54; and Born To Fight (George Napolitano Jr., Mark Ford), who stepped up in class on Tuesday night to win his second straight condition won, this one coming in 1:55:2 in the slop.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: BLINTZ

This filly made here maiden victory a memorable one on Sunday night, scoring for trainer/driver Bob Krivelin at 55-1, paying off $118 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.

On Saturday night we honored George Nap for picking up his 7,000th career victory earlier in the week at Harrah’s, and he reminded us of how he reached that milestone by winning the night’s first three races.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: TRACY BRAINARD

Brainard’s efficiency at Pocono has been off the charts in recent weeks, and two more victories on Saturday continued that torrid training streak.

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.