Posts Tagged ‘Meadows’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

May 20-26, 2017

While every race has its own special charms, the races with the biggest purses always tend to carry something a little extra special with them at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The early part of the season consists mostly of overnight races, but now is the about the time of year when some major money is up for grabs on the Pocono oval.

This past week saw a significant influx of high-stakes races on the racing schedule at Pocono. It was the first time we’ve hosted the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes in the meet, in particular the glamour division of three-year-old pacing colts and geldings, with three divisions on Sunday night each carrying a purse just shy of $50,000. Sire Stakes are always followed by Stallion Series races, and we had six of those on Monday night to the tune of $20,000 a pop. Sprinkle in three condition paces with $25,000 on the line for each, and you’ve got a lot of cabbage up for grabs.

With that in mind, I thought I’d give the Weekly Awards a rest and talk solely about how those big races went down during this past racing week at Pocono. We’ll start on Saturday night with a $25,000 featured condition pace for winners of over $25,000 lifetime. That race featured Boston Red Rocks, who starred as a 3-year-old a year ago, and Barimah A, who was coming off a surprising win in the Van Rose Memorial at Pocono. One of the ones that Barimah A beat that night was Rockin Ron, who suffered through a miserable trip on the outside on a sloppy track. But Saturday night was an entirely different story, as driver Matt Kakaley settled the five-year-old gelding in the pocket early and then coaxed some potent closing kick out of Rockin Ron for the win in 1:50:3 by a neck over Major Uptrend, who had set the pace.

On Sunday night, the distaff pacers had their turn at the spotlight, as a winners of over $25,000 lifetime mares grouping took to the track. Nike Franco, a seven-year-old mare trained by Jo Ann Looney-King, was made the 3-5 favorite off an impressive victory at Yonkers. Facing a field that included a pair of rising four-year-old stars in Call Me Queen Bee and Blue Moon Stride, the veteran was in complete control from the start. Driver Tim Tetrick guided Nike Franco to fractions that were quick but not out of control, and she led all the way home to the tune of a 1:50:1 time, a new career-mark for the mare.

Next up on Sunday came the winners of over $25,000 lifetime trotters, with a field of nine competing for a $25,000 purse. Post positions were assigned in this race and Melady’s Monet and Charmed Life, a pair of trotters with over a million bucks in career earnings, took those outside slots. Melady’s Monet set the pace and got away with reasonable fractions on the front end. But he wasn’t counting on the stiff first-over challenge from Rubber Duck, the 2-1 co-favorite who arrived from the Meadowlands having faced extremely tough company his last few starts. The two battled tooth-and-nail until Rubber Duck, driven by Joe Bongiorno for trainer Richard Johnson, came out on top by three parts of a length in 1:53.

That led to the three Sire Stakes divisions, and it was no surprise that trainer Jimmy Takter was a heavy player in the action. Ocean Colony was a Takter trainee who was expected to win on Sunday night and he did, pouncing from the pocket in his split in 1:50:2 with Yannick Gingras doing the honors. But Blood Line was a surprise for the Takter barn, taking his Sire Stakes division gate to wire for a victory in 1:50:2 with Mark MacDonald in the bike and paying off at 12-1.

The Sire Stakes race that stood out though was the second split of the night, one that was expected to be a showcase for Huntsville, a Breeders Crown champion as a 2-year-old in 2016 and winner in his 2017 debut in a Sire Stakes at The Meadows by ten lengths. But while Huntsville drew the pre-race attention, it was Fear The Dragon, trained by Brian Brown and driven by David Miller, who stole the show. Fear The Dragon made an electric first-over brush on the back stretch that stunned the heavy favorite Huntsville and resulted in an impressive victory at 5-1 in 1:49:1.

Last up in this stretch of high-stakes contests were the six Stallion Series races on Monday night for the three-year-old male pacers. Most of those splits were won by horses handling matters on the front end, and the most impressive of those miles was turned in by Donttellmeagain. With Tim Tetrick in the bike, this sophomore gelding trained by Jo Ann Looney-King powered to a winning time in his division of 1:50:2, which was a tick faster than two of the three Sire Stakes winners managed the night before.

So it was a week filled with exciting, high-stakes races at Pocono. With summer fast approaching, those kind of weeks will be the norm and not the exception very soon.

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

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

April 9-15, 2016

This past racing week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono was the first in which we raced our normal schedule of four nights per week so far this season. And despite some iffy weather, the action seemed to intensify during the four consecutive evenings of live racing, producing plenty of candidates for the Weekly Awards. So instead of blabbing on and on about them, why don’t we hand them out?

PACER OF THE WEEK: JINS DRAGON

What a start to the 2016 Pocono meet it’s been for this six-year-old gelding from the Michael Rashkin barn. Considering that Jins Dragon hadn’t done much early in the year at the Meadows, hitting the board just once in seven races without a win, there wasn’t much to suggest that he’d do anything special at MSPD. Yet he quickly ripped off a pair of condition wins when he arrived, the latter coming in a new career mark of 1:50:3.

On Saturday night, Jins Dragon moved into the claiming ranks, where he faced Pocono’s highest-priced claiming handicap grouping. Since Larry Stalbaum, who had driven the gelding to the previous two wins, had another driving commitment in the race, the reins were handed to George Napolitano Jr., the meet’s top pilot so far. And George Nap put Jins Dragon on the lead with a quick swooping maneuver on the first turn.

On the back stretch, the gelding, who went off as an even-money favorite, opened up a comfortable margin on the rest of the six-horse field. That allowed Napolitano to gear him down on the stretch, as Jins Dragon still came home a solid two lengths in front in 1:53 on an off-track listed in good condition. He was unsurprisingly claimed from the race, so we’ll see if he can keep up his winning ways going forward for the new barn.

Other top pacers this week include: Camcruiser Hanover (Jim Morrill Jr., Dale Loney), who romped over a $15,000 claiming class on Saturday night, his second straight win at that price, in 1:54:1; Glammit (Jim Morrill Jr., Daniel Maier), who moved up in class and captured his second straight condition win on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:52:4; and Sweet Talkin Satin (Simon Allard, Josh Green), whose condition win on Tuesday night in 1:50:4 was the fastest pacing mile of the week at Pocono.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: ABC MUSCLES BOY

Moving up in class is never an easy task. But sometimes there are circumstances surrounding a horse which make a step or two up the ladder less daunting than it would otherwise be. Take, for example, the case of ABC Muscles Boy. On Saturday night he moved up from an $11,000 condition class to one with a $14,000 purse.

Normally that would be a recipe for an up-the-track finish. But ABC Muscles Boy, a 5-year-old gelding from the Rene Allard barn, had a few things going for him. For one, he had won his previous start from the #9 post, proving his ability to overcome tough odds. For another, his 2015 season, which included over six figures in earnings and a career-best 1:52:3 mile at Pocono, demonstrated that he had the class to capably handle this group if he was on top of his game.

On Saturday night, ABC Muscles Boy quickly stepped to the front on the first turn. As the 2-1 second choice on the board, he held the lead from that point. Its Payday Friday, the 3-2 race favorite, went off-stride trying to catch him, and ABC Muscles Boy, under urging from Simon Allard, held off the rest to win in 1:55:3. Moving up in class was no sweat for this gelding; as a matter of fact, don’t be surprised if he successfully does it again in the very near future.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Noble Lover (Larry Stalbaum, Kimberly Asher), a mare who moved up in class to win a claiming handicap trot on Sunday night, which was her second straight victory and came in a new career mark of 1:55:3; Stormont Lancelot (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who stepped up in the claiming ranks on Monday night to pick up his second straight victory, this one coming in 1:56:1; and JJ Alex (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who moved up in class and picked up his second straight condition win on Tuesday night, this one in 1:56.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: NOBODY

That’s not the name of a horse; that’s just recognition of the fact that it was a good week for chalk and that no horses at 10-1 or over came up with a win in four nights of racing.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MATT KAKALEY

Kakaley ripped off three straight driving triples from Sunday through Tuesday night, and four of those victories came aboard horses in the Bobby Weiss series.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: RICHARD JOHNSON

Johnson looks set in the Weiss series for three and four-year-old trotting colts, stallions, and geldings after winning two of the four divisions Monday night with Sweet Royalty and Steed.

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.

Saturday features and George Napolitano Jr.’s win streak

Monday, November 9th, 2015

In the $24,000 co-featured events at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Saturday night, November 7th,  both winners used “pocket rocket” tactics to emerge with victories — Extracurricular on the trot and Arthur Blue Chip on the pace.

Extracurricular, a veteran Revenue S gelding owned by Darren Mahoney, had a tougher time making his rally effective — as befits a 10-1 shot trying to catch a 1-5 pacesetting favorite, Somebody As. But Extracurricular dug in for the stretch battle with gameness and edged his frontstepping rival while taking a new mark of 1:52 at age nine for the brother team of driver Simon and trainer Rene Allard.

Arthur Blue Chip was the 11-10 favorite in his event and collared pacesetting Somethinginthewind with a bit more ease, but then the son of Shadow Play had to stay in high gear to withstand the persistent first-over Ontario Success, whose bid for victory came up a half-length shy. Dr. Ian Moore conditions the winner, who was third in his Breeders Crown elimination last month, for the Shadow One Stable.

George Napolitano Jr., the winningest driver in North American harness racing this season, visited Victory Lane five times on the Saturday card at Pocono

to raise his margin over second-place Aaron Merriman to 22, with the score now Napolitano 743, Merriman 721.

“George Nap” will get a chance to add to his margin Sunday afternoon at Harrah’s Philadelphia, but then Merriman will compete on four cards — Northfield Sunday night, The Meadows Monday afternoon and Northfield Monday night, and The Meadows Tuesday afternoon  – before Napolitano resumes sulky action here Tuesday night, concurrent with Merriman racing at Northfield.

There are two more weeks of racing in the 2015 season here at The Downs, with the trotters and pacers going on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday evenings this week and next, with the final night November 21.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Monday, September 21st, 2015

September 4-10, 2015

The Pennsylvania Sire Stakes series is one of the highlights of any racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, showcasing some of the best young horses not just in the state, but often in the entire country. The preliminary legs are held throughout the spring and summer, and although they boast pretty big purses themselves, the other lure of these prelims is that horses who wish to reach the state championships need to perform well in them.

On Saturday, September 5, Pocono hosted the 3-year-old championships. Each of the four races held a purse of $350,000, which, in many cases, is the last time these horses will have the chance to go for a score that big. As always seems to be the case on Sire Stakes championships night, we saw a little bit of everything. Here is a look back at the four title races and the horses who can call themselves a state champion.

THREE-YEAR-OLD TROTTING FILLIES

Despite the fact that she was crowned the Hambletonian Oaks champ just two starts ago, Wild Honey went off as a 5-2 second choice on Saturday night in her final. That was partly due to the fact that she was saddled with the outside post in the race, and partly because she showed a worrisome break of stride in her previous start. Livininthefastlane instead went off as an odds-on favorite. But Wild Honey, trained by Jimmy Takter, fought hard to overcome the outside post, making the lead shy of the half despite getting parked around the first turn. Driver Dave Palone opened up a nice lead from there, and a furious rally from Bright Baby Blues came up a length short of Wild Honey, who trotted the mile in 1:53. Adding the 3-year-old title to the 2-year-old crown she won a year ago, the filly went over $1 million in lifetime earnings and set a record for most money earned in two Pennsylvania Sire Stakes campaigns.

THREE-YEAR-OLD PACING FILLIES

Momas Got A Gun, a consistent performer from the Virgil Morgan Jr. barn, was the even-money favorite in this field, but there seemed to be solid choices up and down the lineup. One exception appeared to be Safe From Terror, who, despite being the second-biggest earner in the field in 2015, went off as a 45-1 long shot for trainer Ron Burke. She also had an outside post, and, with the exception of back-to-back wins at the Meadows in the middle of the summer, had slumped since a fast start to the year. Imagine Dragon set the pace in the race, Momas Got A Gun was in a prime pocket spot, and Safe From Terror seemed hopelessly buried on the inside at the back of the back. Yet in the stretch, driver Tim Tetrick found some room for her at the very edge of the pylons, and she uncorked some serious late kick to speed by Momas Got A Gun and pull off the stunning upset by a head in 1:51:3.

THREE-YEAR-OLD TROTTING COLTS AND GELDINGS

It’s easy to be overlooked when you’re a young trotter in the barn of Jimmy Takter, simply because he always has a bunch of great ones for every division. The Bank faced just such a fate for much of the season, overshadowed by Hambletonian champ Pinkman and even Uncle Lasse, another Takter trainee who went off as the favorite on Saturday. The Bank, with the exception of a win in the Dancer at The Meadowlands, had been stuck with a lot of near-misses in big races. But the colt set out to change that in a big way on Saturday night, moving first-over aggressively with Jim Morrill Jr. in the bike to make a up a ton of ground after starting in the middle of the pack. At the top of the stretch, it seemed like anybody’s race, with Uncle Lasse, Wicker Havover, and Honor And Serve all in good position. But it was The Bank who trotted by them all by a length in 1:53:1, earning the signature win of his career.

THREE-YEAR-OLD PACING COLTS AND GELDINGS

Speaking of overshadowed, Wakizashi Hanover knows that feeling well. The gelding from the barn of trainer Joann Looney-King has spent most of the summer battling it out with superstar Wiggle It Jiggleit and often coming up just short. Since his main rival wasn’t a part of Saturday night’s field, it seemed like it was Wakizashi Hanover’s time to shine, and he went off as a 1-9 favorite. Lost For Words set a screaming pace early, trying to pace away and hide from the competition. But driver Tim Tetrick didn’t panic, finding a spot in the pocket for the heavy favorite and staying close to the pacesetter. In the stretch, Wakizashi Hanover was ready to pounce on a tiring Lost for Words. He took over the lead and had to withstand a late challenge from closing My Hero Ron, holding on by a half-length. The winning time of 1:48:1 was the fastest ever in Pennsylvania championship history, a fitting way to close out another scintillating Sire Stakes season at Pocono.

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.