Posts Tagged ‘Matt Kakaley’

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

Monday, April 10th, 2017

April 1-7, 2017

We’re just a few weeks into the racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, but we’re already seeing some horses establishing themselves as ones to watch for the entire meet if they stick around. We’re also getting a good look at how the drivers and trainers’ standings might be shaking out this season. It’s just a small sample size, as they say in baseball, but the first few weeks definitely indicate we are in for one wild ride of a season at Pocono. Here are the Weekly Awards for the week gone by.

PACER OF THE WEEK: CRAFTY MASTER

It’s not very often that we see a horse make the jump from the claiming ranks onto the highest rungs of the condition ladder and have success. Then again, the way things have been going in the first few weeks of the meet for trainer Rene Allard and driver Simon Allard, everything is on the table. So when Crafty Master stepped up to face the featured $15,500 condition pacers on Saturday night, the 6-year-old stallion received respect from the windows and went off as a 9-5 second betting choice.

Crafty Master was coming off back-to-back wins, one in Canada and then on March 25 at Pocono in his first start for the Allard barn against a claiming group. On Saturday night, the stallion sat in the middle of the pack behind a blistering pace set by Lean On You. Simon Allard set him motion first over in the back stretch, but he was unable to corral the lead quickly, meaning that he was parked on the outside all the way around the final turn.

It looked like Ontario Success, the 6-5 favorite who had the excellent pocket trip going behind Lean On You, might be the horse to watch in the stretch. But Crafty Master kept after it despite the extra effort around that last turn. He eventually poked ahead and kept on right on striving until he was 1 ½ lengths ahead of Ontario Success. The winning time for Crafty Master of 1:50:2 was the fastest of the season to date at Pocono and a new career mark, proving that he belongs in the upper echelons of Pocono racing in the early going.

Other top pacers this week include: Next Success (Jim Morrill Jr., Les Givens), who now has three straight wins, the last two at Pocono, after handling a $25,000 claiming field Saturday night in 1:53:1; Dash Of Danger (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), whose victory in the first division of the Bobby Weiss series for pacing colts, stallions and geldings on Sunday night was his second straight at Pocono and came in a new career-best mark of 1:51:4; and Cheap N Easy (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), a mare who moved up the ladder to score her second consecutive win on Tuesday night, this one in 1:53:4.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SWISHNFLICK

It was that kind of week for the Allards; Simon and Rene were in charge of both horses of the week, and those two winners were really just the tip of the iceberg concerning their hot streak at Pocono. Swishnflick, a seven-year-old mare, arrived from Yonkers on March 25, having faced rugged condition competition throughout the early part of the season in New York. She immediately reminded the Pocono faithful of her talent with a front-trotting win in 1:54:1 against a $14,000 condition group.

The mare was back at it on Saturday night, only this time she went up against the $15,500 conditioners and was the only distaff trotter in the field. Leaving from post position #4 in a field of eight as a 5-2 second choice, she immediately settled in behind pacesetting Skates N Plates. The leader was able to get away with relatively soft fractions for the first three-quarters of a mile, meaning that, even from the pocket spot, Swishnflick might have issues rallying.

In the stretch, it was essentially a match race between Skates N Plates and Swishnflick. Simon Allard guided the mare to the inside passing lane, where she found her best stride and powered up past a game Skates N Plates. The mare came across the line a half-length in front in 1:55:4. That gives Swishnflick two straight wins and some serious momentum in the early part of the 2017 campaign.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: ABC Muscles Boy (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), whose condition victory on Saturday night came in 1:54:1, fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono; What A Peach (Simon Allard, Frank Kamine), who, with a claiming handicap win on Sunday night, now has three victories in his last four races; and Hot Mess Hanover (Andrew McCarthy, Joe Pavia Jr.), whose Bobby Weiss series win in the distaff trotters class came in 1:56:3, a new career mark and the fastest split of the group on Tuesday night.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: THREEUPTHREEDOWN

Sunday night got off to a wild start, as this gelding driven by Matt Kakaley overcame the #9 post and rallied furiously for a Race 1 condition trotting victory at 55-1, paying off $119.20 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: VICTOR KIRBY

Kirby made the most of his Sunday night appearance, scoring a pair of victories in the Bobby Weiss series with Highalator and Rewind Again, his only two drives of the evening.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: RENE ALLARD

Allard has really asserted his dominance in the early part of the meet, following up a big first week by scoring a combined eight training victories on Saturday and Sunday 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 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

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week in Review

September 10-16, 2016

The Stallion Series finals dominated the action in this abbreviated week of racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. On Sunday night there were four $40,000 finals held for three-year-olds, followed by four more finals for two-year-olds on Monday, again at $40,000 a pop. As the culmination of a summer’s worth of series racing, these finals put some outstanding young racing talent on display. Here are the results.

THREE-YEAR-OLD PACING FILLIES

Glidinthruparadise, coming in with seven straight first or second-place finishes for trainer Lisa Dunn, had anything but a glide in the final. She was parked out for the entire mile, and needed a three-wide move just to corral the pacesetter South Side Hanover late. Once Glidinthruparadise took the lead, it seemed like she might be vulnerable to some closers, but she held tight to the advantage with Brian Zendt in the bike and came home a winner in 1:54:3, which matched her career-best.

THREE-YEAR-OLD TROTTING COLTS AND GELDINGS

Iholdon was the 6-5 betting favorite and worked out the pocket trip in the final behind pacesetting Marty De Vie, who rated the pace very well. Normally a slow pace makes it difficult for a horse making a first-over move to do damage. But that’s exactly the course that Skeezix, a gelding trained by Roland Mallar, took on Sunday night. Driver Mike Simons had him moving like a champion in the stretch, and Skeezix prevailed by 1 ¾ lengths over Iholdon in 1:54:3, which equaled his lifetime best.

THREE-YEAR-OLD PACING COLTS AND GELDINGS

Despite not having won a race in 15 races this season and having the lowest amount of earnings of anyone in the field, Nimble And Quick went off as the 2-1 betting favorite in this group. And, sure enough, the gelding trained by Rich Ringler found himself in a nice pocket seat behind pacesetter Safensound Hanover. In the stretch, driver Matt Kakaley found room for Nimble And Quick in the passing lane, and he outpaced a host of closers to win by a half-length in a career-best 1:52.

THREE-YEAR-OLD PACING FILLIES

The most dominant performance of Sunday night was turned in by Terror At Night, a filly trained by Les Givens who went off at the medium price of 7-2. Driver Brett Miller aggressively sent her to the front around the first turn. From there she was pressured by a first-over move from Addy Girl, but she rebuffed that move with disdain and started opening up on the rest of the field as they turned for home. Terror At Night rolled home in front by 4 ¼ lengths in a career-best 1:50:4.

TWO-YEAR-OLD TROTTING FILLIES

As a 6-1 shot, Trixie Dust, a filly trained by Rich Gillock, was somewhat of an afterthought in this Monday final. She got off to a slow start, but a hot pace set the race up nicely for someone coming from off the pace. With David Miller in the bike, Trixie Dust picked up some live cover in EZ Passer, who took over the lead at the three-quarter pole. Trixie Dust then blew by that one and trotted away from the field in the stretch, winning by a comfortable 3 ½ lengths in a career-best 1:56:2.

TWO-YEAR-OLD TROTTING COLTS AND GELDINGS

Off of four consecutive victories, Backstage Pass was the odds-on favorite in this one, and he made the lead with a front-stretch swoop. But as soon as he took over the lead, Two AM took it away. No slouch himself at 2-1 with wins in three of previous five races, Two AM kept after it on the front end until Backstage Pass, unaccustomed to coming from behind, fell way back. With Andrew McCarthy driving for trainer Todd Buter, Two AM coasted home 4 ½ lengths in front in 1:55:2, a new career-best time.

TWO-YEAR-OLD PACING COLTS AND GELDINGS

Western Hill, a colt trained by Tony Alagna, came into the final on Monday night with three consecutive wins under his belt. In each of those victories, he didn’t take over the lead until the stretch. But he moved earlier in the final, as a back stretch brush earned him the lead. Driver Brett Miller made sure that Western Hill, the 6-5 favorite, stretched out the lead so that the pursuit couldn’t get there, and he glided home a two-length winner in 1:53 for four in a row.

TWO-YEAR-OLD PACING FILLIES

The last Stallion Series race of the season featured a stacked group of distaff pacers. It came down to a showdown between Emily R Hanover and Brazuca, as the pair locked up in a struggle that began on the back stretch and wasn’t decided until the second half of the home stretch. That’s when Brazuca, with Dave Palone doing the driving for trainer Thomas Cancelliere, finally wore down Emily R Hanover and picked up the victory as the 2-1 favorite by 1 ¼ lengths in 1:53:4.

That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

September 3-9, 2016

As we roll into the month of September, the racing action at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono is showing no signs of slowing down. This week in particular we got a look at some outstanding performances, many thrilling finishes, and more than a few stunning long shots, all under picture-perfect racing conditions. How can we sum it all up? Well, we can hand out some Weekly Awards to try and sort it all out.

PACER OF THE WEEK: STAR COVER

Winning streaks are difficult enough to pull off under any circumstances, but they are extremely hard to come by for horses who are consistently going off as long shots in the betting. This is because the betting public is generally on top of things, so when they don’t think too much of a horse, chances are that the horse in question doesn’t have the goods to get it done in that particular class. Star Cover, a 4-year-old gelding from the Brewer Adams barn, apparently never got the memo.

On August 6, he rallied from out of the clouds late to shock a condition field at Pocono at 16-1 in 1:52:1. After struggling in a race at Yonkers, he returned to Pocono on August 27 and chalked up another condition win, this one at 24-1, in 1:50:2. On Saturday night he stepped up in class to face a $20,000 condition group, and, predictably, went off at 10-1.

Driver Andrew McCarthy settled Star Cover in third early, which is where he sat behind pacesetting Clear Vision until the final turn. That’s when the gelding took advantage of some room on the outside, popped off the pylons, and came at Clear Vision with everything he had. The result was a third consecutive victory on the Pocono oval, this time by a neck in 1:50. Based on the odds, Star Cover hasn’t had a lot of backers lately, but the ones in his corner have been celebrating all the way to the bank.

Other top pacers this week include: Luckbewithyou (George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes), who won a showdown with Mel Mara in Saturday night’s featured $25,000 handicap pace in 1:49, the fastest pacing time of the week at Pocono; Want Me (George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes), whose claiming win on Saturday night in 1:52:1 was his second straight victory and third in his last four; and Prairie Sweetheart (Anthony Napolitano, Michael Deters), a three-year-old filly who moved her career record to ten victories in ten starts with her third straight win at Pocono on Tuesday night in a career-best 1:50:2.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: UNCLE HANOVER

This four-year-old gelding trained by Doug Ackerman has displayed some impressive versatility in his recent hot streak. On August 14, he beat older horses in an $11,000 condition by flying up late with a three-wide move to win in 1:55:2. He followed that up by facing horses his own age and younger in a non-winners of seven group on August 21; in that one he took charge early and scored the victory with a front-end ride in 1:56:2.

Both of those wins by Uncle Hanover came on off-tracks, but he faced pristine racing conditions and a tough field of non-winners of seven on Sunday night. In this start, the gelding showed another trick u0 his sleeve, as he raced third on the inside behind leader Glidinthruparadise. Neither on the lead or way off it, Uncle Hanover started a first-over move as he hit the half-mile marker.

For a moment around the final turn, Uncle Hanover lost some ground to the pacesetter. But driver Jim Marohn Jr. was able to coax another charge out of him, and he sped by Glidinthruparadise to win by a length in 1:54. The winning time matched the career-best for Uncle Hanover, who now has three straight victories at Pocono with three different styles of racing. Not bad at all, especially considering he wasn’t favored in any of those three wins.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Rose Run Parker (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who won a $25,000 handicap trot on Sunday night in 1:53:1 for his second victory in his last three races; Mandabra (Eric Goodell, Chris Oakes), who rallied to beat a $10,000 claiming group on Monday in 1:56:2, making it three consecutive wins and four in his last five races; and Walter White (Eric Carlson, James Eaton), who scored a victory on Saturday night against a tough condition group in 1:54:4.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: NATHAN FEELSGOOD

This gelding with Andrew McCarthy in the bike made his bettors feel great on Saturday night when he captured a claiming pace at 46-1 for a $95.80 win payout on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANDREW MCCARTHY

Nobody does it better with the long shots than McCarthy, as he proved on Saturday night when he three winners came at odds of 10-1, 46-1, and 16-1.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: ROB HARMON

Harmon made the most of minimal appearances at Pocono this weekend, winning with his lone starter on both Saturday (Dabunka) and Sunday (Party On The River).

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.