Posts Tagged ‘Mark Ford’

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.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week in Review

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

May 2-8, 2015

We’re coming a fun week of racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, featuring five racing cards in four calendar dates thanks to a doubleheader card on Kentucky Derby. We also had the first appearance of the always-thrilling Pennsylvania All Stars races and our first major invitational race of the season, the $50,000 Van Rose Memorial on Saturday night. So let’s take a look at this heady week of action by handing out some Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: DOMETHATAGAIN

Held each year in honor of a local sportswriter who did an amazing job highlighting the action at Pocono over his long career, the Van Rose Memorial drew an especially impressive group of pacers for the 2015 edition. The favorite was understandably Domethatagain, a six-year-old stallion who was not only coming off a win in the prestigious Levy at Yonkers, but also boasted the driver/trainer combination of Simon Allard and Rene Allard, who have been dominating Saturday night action at Pocono.

Yet despite the half-million dollar race he just bagged and the hot connections, Domethatagain was a somewhat tepid 2-1 choice on the board. Part of that was due to the balance of the field, and maybe part was based on the notion that he had lucked out in the Levy with a great trip. But there’s a skill in the ability to find that pocket, and Domethatagain did it again in the Rose on Saturday night, tucking in early behind pacesetting Bandolito.

Bandoilito had to go hard on the back stretch to hold off the first-over pressure of Dancin Yankee, leaving him ripe for someone coming from behind. Since Domethatagain was sitting only a length back, he didn’t have far to come in the passing lane to get past. Simon Allard asked and the stallion responded, blowing by to win a length in 1:49, fastest time of the 2015 meet at Pocono so far. If he keeps winning against the best of the best, no matter how he does it, you won’t be able to get such favorable odds on Domethatagain anytime soon.

Other top pacers this week include: Rocky Mountain Guy (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who picked up his second straight condition win on Saturday afternoon and did so in a career-best time of 1:50:4; Caviart Shelly (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), a mare who rolled to her second straight condition win on Tuesday night, this time in a career-best 1:51:4; and Arodasi (Joe Pavia Jr. driver and trainer), who moved up in class and won her second straight condition race for mares on Wednesday night, this one in 1:52:1.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SIM BROWN

His name sounds like a computerized approximation of the former Cleveland Brown running back Jim Brown. And this 7-year-old gelding has been racing lately with the same kind of bruising authority. In his start in April 25, he handled a tough condition group on the front end in 1:54:4 for trainer Carmen Auciello. On Saturday night, he moved up in class to face the non-winners of $20,000 in the last five starts for a purse of $22,000.

With Wisenheimer setting a furious pace, Sim Brown stayed third on the inside early. Driver George Napolitano Jr. took a chance that there would be racing room for his horse late, which seemed doubtful for a while as the outer flow moved up alongside him. But Wisenheimer’s quick numbers caused the outside horses to falter, allowing Sim Brown room to roam at the top of the stretch.

Sim Brown may have had the racing luck break his way, but he had to have the goods to take advantage of it. Napolitano called for late kick and he responded by zipping by the leaders with a powerful brush. He ended up winning by a length-and-a-half over Bouncing Bax in 1:53, a new career mark and the fastest trotting time of the week. With two straight winning efforts, this talented trotter is living up to his Hall-of-Fame name.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Upfront Billy (George Napolitano Jr., Mark Ford), who powered to an easy condition victory on Saturday, his second straight, in 1:54; Oh My Darlin (Ake Svanstedt driver and trainer), a filly who followed up her maiden win with a condition victory on Tuesday night in a new career mark of 1:55:3; and Ali De Vie (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), whose claiming handicap victory on Wednesday night in 1:55:1 was his second straight overall and his fourth straight when racing at Pocono.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: DAVID ON ICE

This condition pacer came from way off the pace with Marcus Miller to surprise in Saturday night’s last race, scoring at 21-1 for a $45.80 payout on a $2 win bet.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANTHONY NAPOLITANO

Anthony scored wins in all five of our racing cards this past week, and was especially fine under the bright lights on Saturday night with three victories.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: KEVIN LARE

Lare has been very effective in the early part of the season at Pocono, and this week he scored a pair of winners on Saturday night and one more on Sunday.

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.