Posts Tagged ‘Mike Simons’

Sun Stakes Saturday Eliminations Night showcases the best of the best

Monday, June 19th, 2017

The very best trotters and pacers in North American harness racing will be converging on The Downs at Mohegan Sin Pocono the next two Saturdays, with elimination races being held this Saturday in order to qualify horses to participate in the Sun Stakes Saturday supercard on Saturday, July 1.

The $500,000 Franklin Pace for free-for-allers, the $500,000 Hempt Pace for three-year-old colts and geldings, the $500,000 Beal Trot for three-year-olds, and the $300,000 Lynch Pace for three-year-old fillies all drawn sufficient entrants that there will be three eliminations for each event this Saturday night, with the top three finishers in each elim advancing to their rich Championship event on July 1.

Here’s a look at the elimination events for the four big races, starting with the one where a top filly is going to try “the boys”:

EARL BEAL TROT: $500,000 Championship; $25,000 eliminations in races 2, 9, and 14

This may be the case of “saving the best for last,” as super filly Ariana G will test male opposition in the Beal, contributing factors being a lack of top-money events in her division right now and the still-awaited return of top colt Walner, and she will be the next-to-last horse to post parade on Saturday, starting from post six in a field of seven in the 14th and final race.

Ariana G is a daughter of Muscle Hill trained by Jimmy Takter for owners/breeders Marvin Katz and Al Libfield. She was named divisional champion as a two-year-old off the strength of 9 wins in 11 starts, earnings of over $700,000, and a win in the Breeders Crown. This year Ariana G has been perfect in two starts, winning her last race, a New Jersey Sire Stakes final for fillies, in a career-best 1:51.1.

Two state champion colts will square off in the second race elimination, which has eight entrants. Giveitgasandgo, a Yankee Glide ridgling, won the 2016 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championship and comes off a PaSS victory in his last start; he’ll begin in post four for driver Corey Callahan and trainer John Butenschoen. Two starting slots to his right will be Long Tom, recent New Jersey Sire Stakes final winner, with the son of Muscle Hill backed by the team of driver Tim Tetrick and trainer Marcus Melander. Rubio (post three, Yannick Gingras for Jimmy Takter) will also get respect off a sharp PaSS win in his 2017 bow.

The state of New York weighs in in the ninth race Beal elimination, as the Credit Winner colt Devious Man comes to the mountain oval off a win Sunday in the Empire Breeders Classic final. Devious Man will be behind slot six in the eight-horse grouping for Team Orange Crush – driver Andy Miller and trainer/wife Julie.

BEAL RACE 2 ELIMINATION (PP, horse, listed driver, trainer): 1, Common Parlance, Jim Marohn Jr., Joseph Skowyra; 2, Snowstorm Hanover, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 3, Rubio, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 4, Giveitgasandgo, Corey Callahan, John Butenschoen; 5, Lucky Matter, David Miller, Christopher Beaver; 6, Long Tom, Tim Tetrick, Marcus Melander; 7, Sortie, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley; 8, President Lindy, Andy Miller, Julie Miller.

BEAL RACE 9 ELIMINATION: 1, Southwind Woody, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 2, Dover Dan, Corey Callahan, John Butenschoen; 3, Don Dream, Brian Sears, Chris Oakes; 4, Andy M, David Miller, Christopher Beaver; 5, Meteoric, Joe Bongiorno, Richard Johnson; 6, Devious Man, Andy Miller, Julie Miller; 7, Perfect Spirit, Yannick Gingras, Åke Svanstedt; 8, King On The Hill, Jim Marohn Jr., Jimmy Takter.

BEAL RACE 14 ELIMINATION: 1, What The Hill, David Miller, Ron Burke; 2. Ei Ei O, Corey Callahan, Richard Hans; 3, Backstage Pass, Mike Simons, Mike Simons; 4, Bill’s Man, Corey Callahan also listed, John Butenschoen; 5, Muscles Jared, Brian Sears, George Ducharme; 6, Ariana G (*filly), Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 7, Moonshiner Hanover, Scott Zeron, Christopher Beaver.

BEN FRANKLIN PACE: $500,000 Championship; $35,000 eliminations in races 5, 7, and 11

The two horses likely to attract much attention in the 11th race elimination will be starting at opposite ends of the gate in the seven-horse field. Getting the innermost draw is Mel Mara, a son of Lis Mara scheduled to be handled by Corey Callahan for trainer Dylan Davis and owners Robert Cooper Stables LLC and J&T Silva Stables LLC. Mel Mara has a mark of 1:47, was fourth in the Franklin Final last year, and comes off of a 1:48 victory at The Meadowlands in which he paced his last quarter in 26.

The Western Ideal stallion Luck Be Withyou had no luck at the pill shake with the outside draw, but the outer fringes of the starting gate are nothing new to him: he won his 2015 Franklin elim from post eight and then the 2015 Championship from post nine! Also a winner of the 2016 Franklin Consolation and his Breeders Crown event here as a two-year-old, Luck Be Withyou is truly a “horse for the course,” with 15 wins in only 22 starts at Pocono, and over $700G of his $1.3M lifetime bankroll earned locally. George Napolitano Jr. will have sulky duties for trainer Chris Oakes.

The charismatic Freaky Feet Pete, second to Always B Miki in the Franklin Championship last year, will be making his seasonal debut in the seven-horse seventh race elimination, starting from post two for driver Trace Tetrick and trainer Marty Rheinheimer. His prime opposition could come from McWicked, the 2014 Hempt champion, and the razor-sharp Rockeyed Optimist, second to Mel Mara last week.

The fifth race looks the most wide-open of the three Franklin eliminations; if anyone has an advantage, it may be the “home cookin’” of Napolitano and Oakes behind Split The House, who starts in the middle of the field of seven, and who won his last race here at Pocono in 1:48.2 – 27.2.

FRANKLIN RACE 5 ELIMINATION: 1. Dealt A Winner, David Miller, Mark Silva; 2. Check Six, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 3. Boston Red Rocks, Tim Tetrick, Steve Elliott; 4. Split The House, George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes; 5. Soto, Art Stafford Jr., Eric Ell; 6. Dude’s The Man, driver TBA, Jessica Okusko; 7. Shamballa, Scott Zeron, Rick Zeron.

FRANKLIN RACE 7 ELIMINATION: 1. McWicked, David Miller, Casie Coleman; 2. Freaky Feet Pete, Trace Tetrick, Marty Rheinheimer; 3. All Bets Off, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 4. Mach It So, Tim Tetrick, Jeff Bamond Jr.; 5. Keystone Velocity, Simon Allard, Rene Allard; 6. Lyons Snyder, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 7. Rockeyed Optimist, Andy Miller, Steve Elliott.

FRANKLIN RACE 11 ELIMINATION: 1. Mel Mara, Corey Callahan, Dylan Davis; 2. Wakizashi Hanover, Tim Tetrick, Jo Ann Looney-King; 3. Anwar Hanover, Jim Marohn Jr., Frank Kamine; 4. Rockin Ron, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 5. Rock N’ Roll World, Brian Sears, Jeff Cullipher; 6. Sunfire Blue Chip, Mark MacDonald, Jimmy Takter; 7. Luck Be Withyou, George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes.

MAX C. HEMPT PACE: $500,000 Championship; $25,000 eliminations in races 3, 10, and 12

“Fear The Dragon” is not just the name of a three-year-old colt – it’s the watchword of everybody campaigning a high-class sophomore pacer right now. The son of Dragon Again, trained by Brian Brown for the Emerald Highlands Farm, won the “big showdown” this past Saturday in the $730,000 (U.S.) North America Cup, closing strongly to notch a 1:48.4 victory for driver David Miller, and establishing himself as the leader in the sport’s glamour division. In going five-for-five this year, the Dragon has shown he can overcome obstacles in his road: tough posts (he does have PP2 in a field of six here), first-over trips, and even an errant head number thrown to the track that caused him to skip in the stretch of his N.A. Cup elim, but he quickly righted and even won that contest.

Fear The Dragon’s stablemate in the Brian Brown Stable, Downbytheseaside, suffered his first seasonal defeat in finishing third in the North America Cup, but in his defense he was pushed to brutal middle fractions of 52.1 and 1:19.3, the latter the fastest clocking at the ¾ on the continent in 2017. The Somebeachsomewhere colt will look to regain his winning ways as he starts from post five in the seven-horse twelfth race elimination, with Brian Sears driving.

Trainer Dylan Davis, who has Mel Mara in the Franklin elims, saw his Every Way Out sweep two eliminations and then the final of the New Jersey Sire Stakes series at The Meadowlands, and he will turn the lines over to Tim Tetrick in hopes of remaining undefeated in 2017 as they begin from post four in the seven-horse elim.

HEMPT RACE 3 ELIMINATION: 1. Blood Line, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 2. Santafe’s Coach, Anthony Napolitano, Leo Iordan; 3. Boogie Shuffle, Scott Zeron, Mark Harder; 4. Every Way Out, Tim Tetrick, Dylan Davis; 5. Air Strike, Corey Callahan, Joe Holloway; 6. Ozone Blue Chip, Brett Miller, Ron Coyne Jr.; 7. Western Joe, Matt Kakaley, Chris Choate.

HEMPT RACE 10 ELIMINATION: 1. Summer Side, Tim Tetrick, Ray Schnittker; 2. Fear The Dragon, David Miller, Brian Brown; 3. Ponderingjacksfame, Brett Miller, Les Givens; 4. Miso Fast, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 5. Pointomygranson, Brett Miller also listed, Chris Ryder; 6. Funknwaffles, Brian Sears, John Butenschoen.

HEMPT RACE 12 ELIMINATION: 1. Eddard Hanover, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 2. Heaven’s Gait, David Miller, Nicholas Devita; 3. Donttellmeagain, Tim Tetrick, Jo Ann Looney-King; 4. Photobombr Hanover, Brett Miller, Tom Fanning; 5. Downbytheseaside, Brian Sears, Brian Brown; 6. Highalator, George Napolitano Jr., Jenny Bier; 7. Talent Soup, Scott Zeron, Bruce Saunders.

JAMES LYNCH PACE: $300,000 Championship; $20,000 eliminations in races 1, 4, and 13

Bettor’s Up defeated Agent Q by a nose in last Saturday’s Fan Hanover final at Mohawk, and the two figure to be slugging it out again as they are matched up in the six-horse race 13 Lynch elimination. Bettor’s Up, who starts from post three for driver Doug McNair and trainer Scott McEneny, has been victorious in half of her 16 career starts, while Agent Q, the 2016 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champion who will begin from the rail for driver David Miller and trainer Aaron Lambert, has been first or second in all but one of her 15 career trips behind the gate.

In the first race elimination, a seven-horse field, Tequila Monday and Idyllic Beach look to rebound: they were the favorite and second choice in the Fan Hanover, respectively, but respectively finished third and fourth. They have the advantage of inside starting positions on Saturday: Tequila Monday starts off from the rail for driver Brian Sears and trainer Chris Oakes, while Idyllic Beach, the 2016 North American champion for this division, begins just to her right for driver Yannick Gingras and trainer Jimmy Takter.

Misqued eked out a nose victory in her New Jersey Sire Stakes final on June 2, and perhaps that race will be a better sign for her as she begins from post two in a grouping of six for driver Steve Smith and trainer John Balzer. This Lynch elim appears to be the most wide-open of the event’s trio of races.

LYNCH RACE 1 ELIMINATION: 1. Tequila Monday, Brian Sears, Chris Oakes; 2. Idyllic Beach, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 3. Inverse Hanover, David Miller, Nifty Norman; 4. Kate Is Well Said, Tim Tetrick, Jim Campbell; 5. YS Tallia, Simon Allard, Rene Allard; 6. Pittstop Danika, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 7. V String, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley.

LYNCH RACE 4 ELIMINATION: 1. Brazuca, Corey Callahan, Thomas Cancelliere; 2. Misqued, Steve Smith, John Balzer; 3, Big City Betty, Jim Marohn Jr., Steve Salerno; 4. Gallic Sea, Brian Sears, Jim Campbell; 5. Roaring To Go, Brett Miller, Kevin Lare; 6. Risky Romance, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley.

LYNCH RACE 13 ELIMINATION: 1. Agent Q, David Miller, Aaron Lambert; 2. Hail Damage Blues, Mike Simons, Tom Fanning; 3. Bettor’s Up, Doug McNair, Scott McEneny; 4. Caviart Ally, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley; 5. Concerto, Andrew McCarthy also listed, Kelvin Harrison; 6. Miss Jones, Corey Callahan, Joe Holloway.

THE UNDERCARD: A $25,000 winners-over pace in race 8, with a field of eight with combined earnings of $3.8M and an average lifetime mark of 1:49, and a $22,500 “nw22500L5” pace where the field of nine has amassed over $2.4M in earnings and an average speed badge of 1:50. (Six horses in each race took their marks at Pocono.)

First post for this first-rate Sun Stakes Saturday elimination night card, with action literally from beginning to end, is listed for 6:30 p.m.

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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.