Posts Tagged ‘Mike Simons’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

October 1-7, 2016

Although the calendar flipped to October, the racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono showed no signs of cooling off with the weather. Even sloppy racing conditions couldn’t slow down the action. As a result, there were plenty of performances worthy of consideration for this edition of the Weekly Awards. We present the best of the best from the week that was to you now.

PACER OF THE WEEK: MICHAEL’S VICTORY

This three-year-old gelding from the barn of Mark Silva showed his talent earlier this season when he ripped off a victory at The Meadowlands in a scorching 1:49:1. He entered his race against the non-winners of five on Sunday night on a high note as well, having beaten the same class in his previous race at Pocono in 1:52:3.

Despite all of that, Michael’s Victory went off as a 9-5 second choice. That’s because Tom Hill, a newcomer from the racing wars in Canada, went off as the 1-2 favorite based on some quick times up north. Yet it was Michael’s Victory who proved to be the aggressor, taking the lead away from Settlemoir with a quick brush on the front stretch and opening up a nice advantage on the rest of the field.

Tom Hill took a shot at the leader on the back stretch, but Michael’s Victory was having none of it. He kept up the heat until Tom Hill, struggling to get closer, made a speed break. And Michael’s Victory just kept pouring it on from there. When it was all over, the three-year-old, driven by Simon Allard, was a winner by an impressive 7 ¼ lengths in a zippy time of 1:51. He’ll be graduating from the non-winners of five off this win, and it should be fun to see how he performs at his next step up the racing ladder.

Other top pacers this week include: Keystone Velocity (Simon Allard, Barry Probber), who rolled over an outstanding field in Saturday night’s featured $25,000 handicap pace, matching a career-best of 1:48:2 despite sloppy conditions; Rockin Rambaran (George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes), who followed up a claiming handicap at Chester with another at Pocono on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:49:4 in the slop; and Yes You Can (Jim Marohn Jr., Tony Dinges), who arrived from Vernon Downs to capture Tuesday night’s feature pace for mares in a career-best 1:50:4.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: WESTSIDE LINDY

One of the things that seems to be true about harness racing perhaps more than other sports is that it often takes just a single victory to ignite a hot streak. In the case of Westside Lindy, a nine-year-old gelding, that victory came at Chester on August 25, which was his first of the season in twelve tries. He quickly followed that up with another win at Chester, whereupon he was claimed for $15,000 and joined the Chris Oakes barn when he shipped to Pocono.

After a second at a claiming price of $20,000 on September 12, he ripped off a victory against the same class two weeks later. On Sunday night he was once again facing off against the $20,000 claimers. As the even-money favorite, he swooped to the front around the first turn under the guidance of driver George Napolitano Jr. From there he held on to the lead without seeming to exert much effort, even as the fractions he posted were swift.

In the stretch, he widened his lead over the rest of the field until he could finally gear down a bit at the end. The veteran gelding still came home 2 ¾ lengths ahead of his closest competitor in a hasty 1:53:2. That winning time not only set a new career mark by almost a second, but it was also the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono. That one victory at Chester really fired up Westside Lindy, to the point where he’s racing better than he ever has before in his solid racing career.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Tweet Me (Mike Simons, Nicholas Devita) a mare who captured Sunday night’s featured $20,000 condition trot in 1:54:2; Star Photo (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), whose victory in a claiming trot on Monday night in 1:55:3 gave him three consecutive wins; and Eyes Cool (Anthony Napolitano, Ake Svanstedt), a two-year-old gelding who picked up his second straight condition victory on Tuesday and did so in a career-best 1:57:1.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: WINDUP WEST

Windup West, a filly pacer driven by Mike Simons, will never forget her maiden win on Sunday night, and neither will her backers since she went off at 50-1 and paid off $108 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.

The meet’s leading driver may have picked up his milestone 8,000th career win at Chester last Friday, but George Nap quickly added to that total at Pocono by ripping off five wins on Saturday night.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JOE PAVIA JR.

Now focused on training after an amazing driving career, Pavia oversees a talented barn, as evidenced by wins on Saturday with Pointsman and Monday with Divination, each of whom went off at 7-1.

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.

Weiss Series kicks off with powerful Pacing performances

Monday, April 4th, 2016

Iwillmakeyousaywow lived up to his name, winning one of five $15,000 divisions of the first round of the Bobby Weiss Series for 3-4YO pacing males in 1:51.4 during the first Sunday card of the season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on April 3.

How does a horse record his 14th career win on March 29 in a series whose entry condition is “non-winners of two pari-mutuel races life as of January 1”? You do it primarily by being a tough horse on the Michigan Fair Circuit at two and three, which Iwillmakeyousaywow was, winning his championship event both seasons without anybody cashing a winning ticket on him through his sophomore final. The son of Manhardt, now four, came east and showed a 1:54 tally at Yonkers, but Sunday he lowered his lifetime mark by over two seconds, rattling off splits of 26.1, 55, and 1:23.1 despite the temperature being one degree above freezing in winning by 8 1/2 lengths for driver Tyler Buter, trainer Todd Buter, and owner Kelly Goodwin and Libby Myers.

Options Are Adream visited the winner’s circle for the seventh time in his life after a 1:52.1 mile in another cut, but the answer to “How’d he do that given the series conditions?” is easier – he was unraced at two, but this year at three he is making up for lost time. The altered son of If I Can Dream had won six in a row at Dover, but wasn’t accorded favoritism upon coming to the Downs, going off as the 2-1 second choice to 7-5 chalk Rollaroundtheworld, who had won his only previous start in 1:52.3 at The Meadowlands. Something had to give in the battle of the two undefeated horses, and Options Are Adream used a 27.1 third quarter to brush to the lead and then fend off his main foe by a half-length for driver Corey Callahan, picking up the last-minute catch-drive;  trainer Richard Lewis, and owners David Banks and Layfield Horses LLC.

In another highly-anticipated battle, the Bettor’s Delight sophomore gelding Bettor Memories, coming off a 1:52 Meadowlands win, got the early jump on recent 1:52.4 Downs winner Settlemoir after leaving from a better post, and then kept him at bay in a 56.1 back half to win by 1¾ lengths in 1:52.4. Scott Zeron sulkysat for trainer Nifty Norman and owner Gus Dovi.

The Sportswriter four-year-old gelding Maxdaddy Blue Chip won a qualifier at Philadelphia on Tuesday, and that was a winning formula to have him ready for his seasonal bow five days later, as he brushed to the lead early then held off favored Sentencing Memo in 1:52.2 for driver Brett Miller, trainer Keith Armer, and the Fred Monteleone Stable LLC.

Midnight Lightning, coming off three checkgetting efforts in the Sagamore Hills Series at Yonkers, didn’t let a first-over trip bother him as he won easily in the last cut for males in 1:52.2. Matt Kakaley handled driving duties behind the four-year-old Camluck gelding for trainer Shaun Vallee, who is also co-owner with D P V Racing Stable.

There were also four $15,000 first prelim events for the female Weiss counterparts, and driver David Miller came out of the box hot, winning the first two divisions – one with 24-1 shot, and the other a 2-5 favorite.

In the first race of the night, Miller posted the big upset with Some Fancy Filly, proving the strongest in the last eighth to take a maiden mark of 1:53.2 by a half length over the favored Mystery Writer. Speaking of mysteries, how a daughter of Somebeachsomewhere out of a two-year-old divisional champion (Fancy Filly), trained by the only conditioner to guide a baby pacing filly to Horse of the Year honors (Nancy Johansson with JK She’salady) could pay $50, even in her sophomore seasonal bow, is puzzling, but her backers are happy with their return, and the winner’s owners, Courant A B, now have a filly pacing back to her pedigree.

Miller took the next cut in a more conventional manner, sending the Bettor’s Delight filly Southwind Tango to the lead in the second quarter and rolling home with the chalk from there to take a race mark of 1:54.4. Trainer Chris Ryder saw his own filly make a satisfying 2016 debut.

A first-time starter also reported home in 1:53.2 in upset fashion in another Weiss female cut, as the Dragon Again filly Candy Corn Hanover proved a sweet treat to her scattered 15-1 backers, rallying to win by a nose over favored Albany Girl for driver Matt Kakaley, trainer Travis Alexander, and the Fiddler’s Creek Stables LLC.

The final female cut saw favored Winners Over get sire Bettor’s Delight a third siring credit in Weiss competition Sunday, being the “last horse to the top” at the 3/8 and then fending off a good challenge by Pandaman Sea in the last 1/8 to lower her speed badge to 1:53.4. Mike Simons guided the victorious filly for trainer Michael Sinclair and owner Brianne Good, and hinted she may eventually wind up in the lofty class whose name she bears.

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.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week in Review

Monday, October 12th, 2015

October 2-8, 2015

We are heading into the home stretch of the 2015 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. October 9 is our last Friday card of the racing season; after that, racing will take place every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday night until the completion of the meet on November 21. But that doesn’t mean that the season is going out gently. On the contrary, this edition of the Weekly Awards will showcase some performances and performers that would be notable no matter what time of year it is.

PACER OF THE WEEK: FIRST OF ITSKIND

After dry weather and fast tracks for almost two months straight at Pocono, the past week or two has brought some rainier nights and sloppy conditions. Some horses, for whatever reason, seem to thrive when the skies open up. Based on evidence from this past week, it seems that you can safely place First Of Itskind, a 4-year-old gelding trained by Brandon Todd, in that category.

On September 29, First Of Itskind faced an $11,000 condition group and a sloppy track. With Marcus Miller in the bike, he uncorked a late move to rally for a win in 1:51:1, which was a career-best even in the slop. He was back at it on Saturday night for his second race in a five-night span, only this time he moved up to face a $16,000 group. But the track was sloopy again, so First Of Itskind must have thought to himself, “I can do this.”

With Dan Rawlings in the bike this time around, Firstofitskind had to grind it out first-over on the outside for much of the second half of the mile. Nonetheless he wore down the favorite Humility, finally taking the lead from the pacesetter in the stretch. He then had to hold off fast-closing Cadillac Phil, which he did by a nose in 1:51:4. Don’t be surprised if you see the connections of First Of Itskind doing a rain dance the next time he’s scheduled to race.

Other top pacers this week include: Mach It So (Andrew McCarthy, Jeffrey Bamond Jr.), the standout five-year-old who followed up big-stakes wins at Mohawk and Harrington with an Open win at Pocono on Saturday night on a good track in 1:49:4, the fastest pacing time of the week; Brees Creek (George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes), who moved up in class on Saturday night to capture his second straight condition win, this one coming in 1:52 in the off-going; and Frost Damage Blues (Mike Simons, Tom Fanning), a 3-year-old filly who now has seven straight wins to start her career, the last two of which were at Pocono, following a condition win on Wednesday night in 1:51:3.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: MR CANDYMAN

You all know the saying about not fixing something that’s ain’t broke. It certainly seemed like that could have applied to Mr Candyman as he headed out to face a claiming handicap field on Friday night. After all, he had beaten the same class of $7,500-$10,000 claimers in each of his previous two starts, giving him three wins in his last four overall.

In each of those victories, all of which were achieved with Simon Allard in the bike, the 6-year-old gelding sat back off the early pace and trailed all the way into the stretch. That’s when he made his moves for the previous victories. On Friday night as a 1-5 favorite, Allard chose to change the tactics and Mr Candyman was hustled to the lead just shy of the half-mile marker after a first-over move on the front stretch.

Whether Allard wanted to remove the chances of running into traffic somewhere or he just felt that there was no need to hold his horse back, the decision proved to be a winning one. Mr Candyman kept extending his lead until he came home four lengths in front on the sloppy track in 1:55:4. It was his biggest margin of victory in his recent hot streak, proving that this trotter is going to be tough to beat these days no matter how he chooses to conduct his race.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Southwind Warsaw (George Napolitano Jr., Michael Dowdall), whose condition trotting win on Tuesday night in 1:53:1 was not only a career-best time but also the fastest trotting mile of the week at Pocono; Hasty Profitt (Joe Bongiorno, Robert Bongiorno), who stepped up in class on Tuesday night and picked up his second consecutive condition victory, this one in 1:55:3; and Black Broadway (Jason Bartlett, Michael Eaton), a 2-year-old filly who won her second straight to start her career, this one coming in a career-best 156, on Wednesday night.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: POINTSMAN

After several straight near-misses, this gelding trained and driven by Joe Pavia Jr. surprised a bunch of condition pacers on Saturday night at 17-1 for a $37 payout on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MIKE SIMONS

Mike scored a driving double on Friday with mid-priced horses on his way to a four-win week as the longest-tenured driver at Pocono continues to rack up the victories.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: CHRIS OAKES

With training doubles on back-to-back nights, it was a particularly effective week for Chris, one of Pocono’s elite trainers year in and year out.

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.