Posts Tagged ‘Max Hempt Memorial’

It’s Almost Post Time for the 2017 Live Racing Season!

Friday, January 20th, 2017

The 2017 schedule for the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono includes four consecutive nights of racing, and a double-header on Kentucky Derby day, according to Vice President of Racing, Dale Rapson.  A total of 134 race nights and 135 cards are planned for the new season.

Racing opens at the renowned 5/8 mile oval in Wilkes Barre, PA on Saturday, March 18th, with limited days of racing in March, including Tuesday, March 21st; Saturday, March 25th, and Tuesday, March 28th.

In April, racing moves to Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday, with Sunday, April 2nd the 1st leg of the Bobby Weiss Late Closing Series for 3 and 4 year olds, named for the beloved former Director of Track Maintenance.  Bobby retired in 2011, and was responsible for the record-breaking track surface that is maintained today.  The series continues throughout April with the finals on May 2nd and 9th.  There will be no live racing on Monday, April 3rd or Sunday, April 16th.

The prestigious $2 million Sun Stakes Saturday is set for Saturday, July 1st, and will feature the Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial 3-year-old Trot; the James Lynch 3-year-old Filly Pace; the Max Hempt 3-year-old Colt & Gelding Pace; and the Ben Franklin Free For All Pace.  Eliminations will take place on Saturday, June 24th.

Kentucky Derby day, May 6th, features a double-header with two Pocono live race cards.  Post Time for the first card will be at 11 a.m., and the second will be immediately following the 143rd running of the Derby.  The $50,000 Van Rose Memorial Pace for 4 YO & up will take place on the night card, honoring the late well-known local sportswriter, who was a fixture covering Pocono throughout the years.  In between, there will be the Run for the Roses Hat Review and a huge party on the track apron.  Live racing will immediately follow the second and third legs of the Triple Crown, the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

Monday, September 4th will be the PA Sire Stakes Championship Finals for the 2YO future superstars with estimated purses of $260,000.  Also on the stakes schedule are the PA All-Stars for 2 & 3YO  in July: and the 3YO PA Stallion Series and PA Sire Stakes starting in May.

Post Time for Sunday nights is 7:30p.m., with all other nights 6:30p.m.  In September, October, and November, Monday night Post Time will switch to a 4:30p.m. Post.  The 52nd season of live racing concludes on Saturday, November 25th.

***Stall applications are now being taken for the 2017 season by calling Luann Reynolds at 570-831-2125.  Special reduced rates are being offered for the new season.

2016 Season Preview

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

2016 Season Preview

Hello again, everyone! It’s wonderful to be back, writing to the Pocono faithful on the eve of another amazing racing season. Once again I’ll be with you in this column every week, giving you the goods on all the finest performances, shocking long shots, and outstanding action taking place at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in this 2016 campaign.

After about four months away, everyone associated with the track is ready to roll on the new meet. And it feels like it’s a case of carrying over momentum, not just from our special 50th anniversary season of 2015, but also from the past decade or so of racing, during which time Pocono has ascended from just another harness track in a field of many to one of the finest racing establishments in all of North America.

It’s a bit hard for me to believe that this will be my ninth season calling the races at the track. I’ve been writing these columns for more than a decade now as well, so I hope people are used to my big yapper and long-winded bloviating by now. And in 2016 I’ll be adding host of the racing show to my duties from the beginning of the season, which should be a blast. With all of the excellent racing to discuss, and with my good buddies in the TV department propping me up, I might just be able to bluff my way through it.

So what does the 2016 racing season have in store for you? Well, for starters, there are some changes in the schedule. We start things off on Saturday March 19 at our normal starting time of 6:30 ET for Race 1. After a few weeks of easing into things, we settle into our normal four-night-a-week slate in April. The difference is that the four nights in question will be Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and that’s pretty much the schedule we keep right through to closing night, with a few exceptions.

There are some slight post time differences to note as well. Sunday nights will feature a 7:30 ET post time for Race 1. And come the months of September, October and November, our Monday cards will begin at 4:30 ET for a little afternoon racing. Obviously it’s a lot of information to swallow all at once, but rest assured that we’ll be keeping you up to date all season long as need be.

Our schedule will feature our usual combination of outstanding overnight racing and plentiful stakes action. Concerning the stakes, we’ve added once again to the bounty up for grabs for the harness racing’s finest horses. In addition to Sun Stakes Saturday in July, featuring the Hempt, Lynch, Beal, and Ben Franklin, and Super Stakes Saturday in August, when you’ll see the Battle of Brandywine, the Colonial, and the Valley Forge, we’ve added a couple biggies on the first Saturday in May. As part of a day-night dual card on May 7 that sandwiches the simulcast of the Kentucky Derby, Pocono will be hosting a pair of new stakes races: The $500,000 Pennsylvania Classic for 3-year-old pacers and the $300,000 Miss Pennsylvania for 3-year-old filly pacers.

Don’t forget that we’ll also see a steady diet of Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, Pennsylvania All Stars, and Stallion Series races throughout the season. In other words, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a track anywhere putting that kind of money on the line.

It’s predictable then that all that dough brings out a ton of human talent, in terms of owners, trainers, and drivers, to the Pocono oval to get their share of the loot. Our driving colony is as deep as it comes, but there’s no doubt George Napolitano Jr. will have a target on his back after his record-setting 2015 season. Guys like his brother Anthony Napolitano, Simon Allard, Andrew McCarthy, and many others will be trying to take the top spot away. On the training side, Rene Allard and Chris Oakes will return to defend, respectively, their training wins and training percentage titles against an outstanding group of handlers, some who have barns at Pocono, others who will be shipping in their best equine talent.

There will be lots of promotions and events in store throughout the season as well, and we’ll be keeping you up to date on all of it. But now it’s time for the horses to go to the gate and for our 2016 season to be underway. To all our regular fans, I wish you a profitable wagering season. And to all you newcomers, I guarantee you’ll have a fantastic time at the races. The 2016 season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun is about to begin. See you all at the track.

As always, feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com.

Top horses in North America battle on Super Stakes Saturday

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

The two top-rated horses in 2015 North American harness racing, the three-year-old geldings Pinkman and Wiggle It Jiggleit, will continue their battle for #1 status in the sport this Saturday night during the $2,435,000 Super Stakes Saturday card at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, going in consecutive races – first Pinkman in the $500,000 Colonial Trot, and then Wiggle It Jiggleit in the $500,000 Battle of the Brandywine Pace.

The three three-year-old races, which include the $350,000 Valley Forge Pace for fillies, are filled according to 2015 moneywinnings –the nine having the highest seasonal bankrolls are gathered in the “main event” races, with the next nine in order in Consolation I, and the nine after that in Consolation II.

Another high-profile event Saturday is the $100,000 Sebastian K S Invitational Trot, a race which will double as a retirement ceremony for the trans-Atlantic champion who will be honored in special on-track ceremonies before he heads to stallion duties. Ironically, the likely favorite is the Sebastian K S is JL Cruze – the #3-ranked horse in North America, and the one who defeated “Sebastian” by a nose in his only 2015 outing before his retirement.

Here are profiles of the Big Three three-year-old events, followed by a look at the Sebastian K S Trot and other powerful races on the Saturday card:

COLONIAL TROT — $500,000 main event race 11; $200,000 Consolation I race 7; $100,000 Consolation II race 3. Stakes record: 1:52.1, Googoo Gaagaa.

Pinkman, fresh off his two-heat, world recordsetting victory in The Hambletonian, was aided by the draw with post two in the field of nine. Yannick Gingras is listed to drive Pinkman, a son of Explosive Matter who has eight wins and one second in nine seasonal starts, with his mark the 1:51 world record for 3TG in the second heat of the Hambletonian, and his $1,170,965 in 2015 earnings raising his career total to $1,737,625. (By the way, his chief foe in the Hambletonian, the filly Mission Brief, will be racing in Pennsylvania some 27 hours earlier, heading the $174,000 Moni Maker Trot at The Meadows Friday night.)

Pinkman will be find some familiar faces on the track beside him Saturday, as five of the nine Colonial entrants are, like he, part of the trotting superstable of Jimmy Takter. The “other” quartet – Uncle Lasse (PP3, driver David Miller), The Bank (PP6, Takter listing himself), Canepa Hanover (PP8, John Campbell back in the sulky), and French Laundry (PP9, Brett Miller) – are not just “makeweight” entrants either, with combined seasonal earnings of $900,000 among them.

Crazy Wow (PP1, trainer Ron Burke, driver Tim Tetrick) and Wicker Hanover (post five, Noel Daley, Corey Callahan) seem to have the best chance to upset the Takter applecart. Crazy Wow was third in the Beal Final here in June, behind Pinkman and Uncle Lasse, while Wicker Hanover handed Pinkman his only defeat of the year, in the Beal eliminations.

BATTLE OF THE BRANDYWINE — $500,000 main event race 12; $200,000 Consolation I race 8; $100,000 Consolation II race 4. Stakes record: 1:47.4, Sunshine Beach.

Wiggle It Jiggleit, an altered son of Mr Wiggins, has achieved slightly-higher earnings than Pinkman so far – $1,189,144, while winning 15 of 17 starts and showing speed, maneuverability, and courage. The winner of the Hempt Final here at Pocono early this season, Wiggle It Jiggleit will have driver Montrell Teague alert early, as he will be starting from the rail, and Teague’s job will be to get him to the front at some point without a terrific usage of resources, the fate which befell him in the recent Cane Pace, where he was involved in fractions of 25.4, 52,1, and 1:20.4 before tiring to fourth in the stretch.

The four horses who have finished ahead of Wiggle It Jiggleit in his lifetime (he raced only once at two, winning here) are all in the big Battle. Wazikashi Hanover (PP7, trainer Joanne Looney-King, driver Tim Tetrick, #7 in the North American polls) caught “Wiggle” in the stretch drive of the North America Cup at Mohawk, while the 1-2-3 Cane finishers are also here – in order of that race’s finish, Dealt A Winner (PP9, Mark Silva, David Miller), Artspeak (PP8, Tony Alagna, Scott Zeron), and Dude’s The Man (PP2, Jessica Okusko, Corey Callahan). The “Dude” also won the last big-money race for this division in Pennsylvania, the Adios at The Meadows on August 1.

VALLEY FORGE PACE — $350,000 main event race 10; $150,000 Consolation I race 7; $75.000

Consolation II race 3. Stakes record: 1:48.4, I Luv The Nitelife.

A division desperately looking for a leader after a series of different winners in most of this year’s major events to date may find one emerge from the Valley Forge Pace.

The biggest 2015 bankroll in the collection of nine misses belongs to Bettor Be Steppin, a daughter of Bettor’s Delight who will begin from post four for trainer Joe Holloway and driver Corey Callahan. Over half of the seasonal winnings of Bettor Be Steppin came right at Pocono, when she won a multi-horse close finish to capture the $300,000 Lynch Final, taking her mark of 1:50.4.

In finding other ways to measure this evenly-matched group, the biggest career bankroll belongs to Sassa Hanover ($634,440, PP7, trainer Ron Burke, driver Yannick Gingras), while the fastest speed mark is held by Moonlit Dance (1:49 winning the recent Mistletoe Shalee Final, PP6, trainer Tony OSullivan, driver David Miller). Both of those fillies show solid credentials in their achievements and their connections, and are likely to contribute to this fairly-wide-open affair.

OTHER BIG RACES SATURDAY

The $100,000 Sebastian K S Trot (race 5) marks the return to the races after a five-week break of the Cinderella story JL Cruze, who started to build a following while winning the Weiss Series here in the spring, and has gone on to win 16 of 18 starts and over $600,000 for trainer Eric Ell, with John Campbell returning from a recent minor injury to guide “JL” from the middle of the nine-horse field. Along the way, JL Cruze has become the third-fastest trotter of all-time, behind only Sebastian K S and Enough Talk (1:49.3 at Colonial) when he won the Graduate Series Final in 1:49.4.

The card kicks off with a bang, as national stars Cinamony, Krispy Apple, Ooh Bad Shark, and Yagonnakissmeornot collide in the $50,000 Hanover Shoe Farms Pace for mares.

The $50,000 U.S. Trotting Association Pace for free-for-allers may turn out to be the national coming-out party for the unheralded Always At My Place (PP2, trainer Ron Burke, driver Matt Kalaley), who goes for his sixth win in a row after missing the world record for 4PG by a tick here last Saturday, stopping the timer in 1:48.1 while pacing his own back half uncovered in 53.1 and winning under a hold.

Post Time for this stellar card is 5:30pm.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

September 12-18, 2014

Since there were only two nights of live racing in the past seven days at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs due to the Oktoberfest festivities on the grounds, it seems like a good time to look at the broader picture of harness racing through the Pocono lens. This is the time of year when people start to talk about yearend awards and horses of the year and things like that. We’ve been graced with the presence of many of the year’s best, so let’s examine the performances of the Top 10 horses in the latest Breeders Crown/Hambletonian poll when they travelled to MSPD this year.

Four out of the top ten, #8 JK Shesalady, #7 Artspeak, #5 He’s Watching, and #4 Trixton, have not appeared at Pocono. (Trixton, this year’s Hambletonian champ, did have a winning qualifier at Pocono.) The other six have not only raced here, but they’ve all picked up at least one victory on the Pocono oval this year, often in impressive fashion.

#10 Sandbetweenurtoes, a 3-year-old pacing filly from the Larry Remmen barn, just suffered the first loss of her season with a disappointing seventh in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championships at Harrah’s at Philadelphia. But her lone voyage at Pocono was successful, as she rallied from an early deficit to win a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes race on August 9 in 1:50.

#9 Lifetime Pursuit wasn’t quite on top of her game when she raced at Pocono earlier in the meet, going once across the board in three starts with the win coming in a Pennsylvania All Stars race in June. The 3-year-old trotting filly from the Jimmy Takter barn has been sizzling since, winning her last five races including the Hambletonian Oaks and the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final in her age group.

It’s been an amazing 3-year-old season for pacing colt Mcwicked, trained by Casie Coleman. Much of that success took place at MSPD. He’s won three of four at Pocono in 2014. Although his record includes wins in the prestigious Adios and in the Pennsylvania Championships, his signature victory for the year was likely his incredible effort in winning the Max Hempt Memorial pace at Pocono in June in a world-record time of 1:47:3.

The #3 horse on the list is Father Patrick, who has made an impact everywhere he’s raced but has been absolutely spotless at Pocono. The 3-year-old trotting colt went four-for-four at Pocono as a 2-year-old, including a Breeders Crown title. He has won all four of his starts at MSPD this year as well, the highlight of those coming in the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial trot in June when he won in 1:50:2, the fastest ever trotting time for a 3-year-old on a 5/8-mile oval.

On that same night in June, #2 Sweet Lou, a 5-year-old stallion from the Ron Burke barn, was solidifying his amazing return to prominence in the sport. After struggling in the early part of the season, which included a ho-hum 3rd in an Open at Pocono in May, Sweet Lou found the stride that made him such a force early in his career. In the Ben Franklin at Pocono on that fateful June night, the stallion dominated a stellar field with the fastest pacing time ever on a 5/8-mile oval of 1:47.

The #1 horse on the list has been a revelation all year long and his one start at Pocono was one for the ages. Of course, I’m talking about the sublime Sebastian K, the eight-year-old trotting stallion trained and driven by Ake Svanstedt who has won eight of his nine 2014 races, usually in record-breaking fashion, despite never have raced in the U.S. prior to this year. In his lone start at Pocono in an Open trot on that same June 28 that saw so many incendiary performances, Sebastian K stole the show with a win in 1:49, the fastest mile trotted on any track of any size in the history of the sport.

As you can tell, many of the superstars of the sport have left indelible marks on the Pocono racing wars in 2014. There is still a lot of racing to go in the season before such things as yearend awards are decided. But when those honors are chosen, it’s likely that some of the most compelling evidence for those choices will come courtesy of action at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.

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.

 

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

September 13-19, 2013

With only about a month until the Breeders Crown on Saturday, October 19 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, it’s as good a time as any to start looking ahead to how some of the top competitors shape up. Because of the increase in the number of stakes races at Pocono, many more of the North America’s best horses have already traveled over the oval this season than at the same point three years ago when the Breeders Crown was last held at MSPD.

With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at the Top 10 horses in the most recent Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown and see just how well they’ve done this year at Pocono. We’ll count them down in descending order, just like this really good Bob Dylan book I heard about lately.

10. SEVRUGA: This 5-year-old trotting gelding from the Julie Miller barn has won nine of 19 starts this year with earnings of close to $500,000. His first start at Pocono this season was a memorable one, as he ripped off a victory in an Invitational trot in 1:50:3, a new-world record for aged geldings on a 5/8-mile oval. He was upset, however, by Wishing Stone in his last Pocono appearance on Super Stakes Saturday.

9. MAVEN: This 4-year-old trotting gelding is one of the few in the Top 10 who has yet to make an appearance at Pocono in 2013, although fans with longer memories may remember him as a solid performer in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes action at the track as a two and three-year-old. Maven’s biggest success this season has been in Canada, where he in unbeaten in four races for trainer Jonas Czernyson.

8. PET ROCK: A four-year-old pacing stallion from the Virgil Morgan Jr. barn, Pet Rock has had an outstanding season once again in 2013 with earnings north of $600,000. But his story at Pocono has been one of near misses. He finished 3rd and 2nd in the Ben Franklin pace elimination and final in June, then came up just short behind A Rocknroll Dance on Super Stakes Saturday.

7. VEGAS VACATION: Most people have conceded the 3-year-old pacing division to Captaintreacherous, but this gelding trained by Casie Coleman pushed the super-horse to the limit in their last meeting on the Pocono oval, finishing just a nose behind him in the slop in the Max Hempt. He’s been building confidence since then, scoring big-money victories at Tioga and Mohawk.

6. A ROCKNROLL DANCE: Trainer Jim Mulinix hopes the old phrase “horses for courses” applies come Breeders Crown time, because the last two starts this 4-year-old pacer had at Pocono were memorable. In 2012, he turned around a floundering season with a win in the Max Hempt Memorial. His lone start here this season was a win on Super Stakes Saturday in 1:47:4, matching the fastest ever at the track.

5. ROYALTY FOR LIFE: As the Hambletonian winner as well as a victor in several other big stakes races, 2013 has been a great year for Royalty For Life, trained by George Ducharme. Except at Pocono. Back in June, the 3-year-old trotter broke stride in both the elimination and the final for the Earl Beal Jr. In August, he got caught up in a speed duel and faded to 7th as the favorite in the Colonial.

4. FATHER PATRICK: The most celebrated 2-year-old in the country, Father Patrick made his trotting debut at Pocono in July in Pennsylvania All Stars action with a seven-length victory. He returned a few weeks later for another easy score in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. With seven wins in eight races so far for trainer Jimmy Takter, you get the feeling he’ll be tough no matter what track hosts him.

3. I LUV THE NITELIFE: With just one loss in 11 races this season, the pride of the Chris Ryder barn has been without a doubt the class of the 3-year-old pacing fillies division. She has been especially fine at Pocono, winning all three of her races here this year. Included among those were big stakes wins in the James Lynch and the Valley Forge, the latter coming in a world record for her age group of 1:48:4.

2. CAPTAINTREACHEROUS: It took a world-record performance from Sunshine Beach to spoil his unbeaten season at Pocono in the Battle of the Brandywine, and even then it was only in a photo finish. Before that, the Captain overcame a treacherous trip, if you will, to win the Hempt in June. Will the 3-year-old  pacing colt from the Tony Alagna barn step up on Breeders Crown day? Time will tell.

1. BEE A MAGICIAN: The number-one horse in the poll is a relative unknown to Pocono fans, since she’s the only one on this list to have never raced at MSPD. The 3-year-old trotting filly from the Nifty Norman barn has done most of her damage in Canada, but she did stop at The Meadowlands this year to win the Hambletonian Oaks as part of her record of twelve wins in twelve races in 2013.

Those are just some of the horses to watch come October at Pocono. With all of that firepower on display, it should be an amazing 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.