Posts Tagged ‘Mike Simons’

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.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week in Review

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

September 18-24, 2015

Lest anyone think that the racing action at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono has slowed up a bit as summer makes its transition into fall, this past week’s excitement should definitively put that theory to rest. Four nights of action produced times as quick as any we witnessed in the heart of summer. We even had a world record performance to really push this week over the edge. That performance, needless to say, kicks off our Weekly Awards.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: DAYLON MIRACLE

In the $30,000 Open Handicap trot on Saturday night, Wind Of The North was assigned the outside post in the nine-horse field, meaning that he conceivably should have been the one that stood a notch above the rest of the field. But it was the mare Daylon Miracle who went off as the even-money favorite from post position #7.

Maybe the betting faithful saw a horse on top of her game after a close 3rd in a $100,000 race at Pocono and a sharp condition win at Yonkers in her previous two starts. Or maybe they realized that her human companions, trainer Rene Allard and driver Simon Allard, were in the midst of a monster night. In any case, Daylon Miracle rewarded the bettor’s faith, taking the lead on the front stretch and trotting away to hide.

She kicked away from her pursuit to cross the line 7 ½ lengths in front of the best trotters on the grounds. The winning time of 1:50:3 revealed just why Daylon Miracle was so far out in front, as it broke the world record for aged trotting mares on a 5/8-mile oval. Only Sebastian K and Father Patrick, two all-time greats, have ever trotted faster at Pocono than what Daylon Miracle achieved on Saturday night.

Other top trotters this week include: Extracurricular (Simon Allard, Rene Allard) whose victory in Tuesday night’s featured condition trot was his second straight and came in a career-best 1:53; Racer X (George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes), who now has three straight wins, two of which were at Pocono, following a victory Friday night in a career best 1:53:3; and Cantabs Fortune (George Napolitano Jr., Kevin Carr), a mare who moved up in class on Tuesday night to score her second straight condition win, this one coming in 1:55.

PACER OF THE WEEK: BUGGER BRUISER

This four-year-old gelding from the barn of trainer of Carmen Auciello has spent his time in 2015 bouncing back and forth amidst Pennsylvania, New York and Canada. In his previous start before going toe-to-toe with a $13,000 condition group at Pocono on Saturday night, he overcame an outside post to win at Tioga by a neck in 1:52:1.

Although that winning time might have seemed modest next to some of the speedsters in Saturday night’s race, Bugger Bruiser also had a 1:49:1 win at Mohawk to his credit in 2015. He needed that speed early to find the pocket seat behind Mustang Art, a classy Pocono veteran who made the front end and tried to scare off the rest of the field by setting intimidating fractions.

Those fractions didn’t frighten Bugger Bruiser, who stayed close behind Mustang Art as the leader dealt with pressure on the outside. At the top of the stretch, driver Simon Allard tipped Bugger Bruiser to the outside and the gelding pounced, blowing by the pacesetter to win by two lengths in a sizzling 1:50. With two straight wins, this precocious pacer appears ready to step up and take on even tougher foes, no matter where he races next.

Honorable mention on the pacing side goes to: Dynamic Youth (Joe Bongiorno, Ron Burke), who battled to a win in Saturday night’s $30,000 Open Handicap pace in 1:49, the fastest pacing time of the week; Artistic Major (Eric Goodell, Steve Elliott), a 3-year-old colt who beat some tough older horses in a condition on Saturday night in a career-best 1:49:4; and Frost Damage Blues (Mike Simons, Tom Fanning), a three-year-old filly who, after winning five straight races in New York to start her career, handled a condition field at Pocono on Wednesday night in a career-best 1:51:1 to stay perfect.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: CULINARY DELIGHT

At 36-1, this filly wasn’t given much of a chance on Tuesday night, but she upset a condition trotting field with Marcus Miller in the bike to pay out $74.80 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: SIMON ALLARD

As if five wins on Friday night weren’t enough, he came right back to dominate the proceedings with eight wins on Saturday night, a personal best for him here at Pocono.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: RENE ALLARD

After notching four training wins on both Friday and Saturday night, the meet’s leading trainer now has twice as many wins in 2015 as his nearest competitor in the Pocono training standings.

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.

Stallion Series offers big return to bettors on Sunday card

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

For a track with a 47.8% winning favorites rate heading into Sunday’s program, May 17th, The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono offered some tasty win mutuels on well-pedigreed horses in the first three of the four $20,000 divisions of the Pennsylvania Stallion Series for three-year-old pacing colts.

The chalkplayers finally had their moment in the spotlight in the fourth and final division, and even in that event favored Parklane Eagle had a couple of anxious moments before winning in a personal best 1:51 for driver David Miller and trainer Peter Foley. The son of Somebeachsomewhere, owned by Shirley Le Vin, had controlled the early pace with fractions of 26.4 and 55.1, but 47-1 shot Kwik Mac gave the frontstepper something to think about as he got to within a neck at the 1:23.1 3/4s. Parklane Eagle shrugged off that challenge though, and by the wire he had that rival 3¾ lengths in arrears of him.

Hall of Fame driver Miller also brought in the “best bet for the odds” winner of the four, a horse with impeccable connections making his first start of the year for trainer Jim Campbell. Gallic Beach is a son of Somebeachsomewhere out of Western Gallie, whose dam Galleria (herself a champion racemare) has also produced the unlucky Gallie Bythe Sea, a Breeders Crown elimination winner at two and three who through misfortune got to start in neither final. And Gallic Beach was ready right out of the box, setting the pace and blazing home in 54.3 to earn a new speed badge of 1:51.4 for owner/breeder Fashion Farms LLC – and returning a generous $15.40.

Sire Somebeachsomwhere had a third Stallion Series winner in Guantanamo Bay, who overcame the first-over route to hang a head loss on Jo Pa’s Well Said, flying late after coming from sixth at the half, to take a new mark of 1:52 for driver Mike Simons, at 11-1 odds, highest return on the four winners. Trainer Fred Grant, a native of Nova Scotia, conditions the winner for owners from his native province, James Bagnell and Ann Smith.

It’s rare to get 5-1 at Pocono on the track’s eight-time driving champion George Napolitano Jr., and even rarer if “GNap” is teaming with top trainer Chris Oakes. But the backers of the McArdle gelding Mckenry got just such a windfall in his division, as the pacesetting winner got a nontaxing half in 57, then flew home in 55 for “GNap” to hold off “ANap” (his brother Anthony) and hard-charging Angelo J Fra by a half-length, with the 1:52 final package giving each series winner a rewritten speed mark. Mckenry won for Susan Oakes, Conrad Zurich, Hauser Brothers Racing Enterprises, and the Wheelhouse Racing Stable.

The Stallion Series’ four winners reflect the purpose of Pennsylvania’s ”little brother” to the Sire Stakes – it gives a chance for horses not quite yet at the top a chance to race competitively for good money. Parkland Eagle had three lifetime wins coming into his race – which was the exact total of the other three winners combined. But after four miles in 1:52 or better, one of more of the visitors to Victory Lane Sunday at The Downs could be stepping up to battle the “big boys” as they develop.

Double header of live racing on Derby day featured All-Stars & more

Monday, May 4th, 2015

Kentucky Derby Day meant a doubleheader of harness racing action at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with the $50,000 Van Rose Memorial Invitational Pace on the evening card taken by the hot Domethatagain in 1:49, and Whom Shall I Fear and Cruzado Dela Noche both notching 1:55 triumphs among four division of a $128,000 Pennsylvania All-Stars event for sophomore trotting colts in the early card’s headliner.                                 .

Two-hole tactics took Domethatagain, a son of Bettors Delight, to victory in the richest race of the year to date, the $529,000 Levy Final at Yonkers last Saturday, and tonight Domethatagain also parlayed sitting the golden chair to victory in the Van Rose Memorial. Bandolito left strongly from the rail and Domethatagain went out quickly just to his right, discouraging outside leavers from engaging in a brutal fight, and driver Simon Allard sat right on the back of the pacesetter with the winner through splits of 26.1, 55, and 1:21.3.

Allard guided the winner into the famed Pocono Pike passing lane, quickly overtook the leader, and then held off the late bursts of two horses shipping in from Mohawk, Alexa’s Jackpot and Modern Legend, who completed the board spots. Simon and his brother, trainer Rene Allard, have been next to lethal at Pocono, especially on Saturdays, and tonight proved no exception, boosting the lifetime bankroll of Domethatagain to within hailing distance of $850,000 for Allard Racing Inc., Robert Hamather, and Bruce Soulsby.

In the afternoon quartet of trotting features:

Whom Shall I Fear, the full brother to Father Patrick and Pastor Stephen, had to work harder than his brothers usually did in their victories over the last few years, but the son of Cantab Hall kept on grinding steadily to edge pocketsitting Wicker Hanover by a neck in 1:55 to keep the 1-20 favorite’s seasonal record perfect in three seasonal starts. If you read “Pastor Stephen” and “Father Patrick,” you know trainer Jimmy Takter can’t be far behind, with Corey Callahan handling sulky duties for lessee Brixton Medical Inc.

Cruzado Dela Noche, a 1:53.4 Grand circuit winner at Lexington last year, was impressive in his seasonal debut, matching that 1:55 clocking by rallying from nine lengths back at the half to catch frontstepping favorite Suit And Tie by 1¼ lengths. Keeping it “all in the training family,” Nancy Johansson, daughter of Jimmy Takter (and trainer of JK She’salady), conditions Cruzado Dela Noche, and husband Marcus Johannson was in the sulky behind the son of Muscle Massive for Courant A B.

Another native of Sweden, Åke Svanstedt, was in Victory Lane in a third cut after the Andover Hall colt Real DJ Hanover played “pocket rocket” in overhauling pacesetter Piercewave Hanover by a head. The 1:56.2 clocking, in his 2015 debut, was a lifetime mark for the winner, who is trained and was driven by Svanstedt, also co-owner with Torbjorn Swahn.

The fourth division was won by Pocono’s “Trot Man,” diamondgaited driving specialist Mike Simons, and the Yankee Glide colt Boots N Chains, rallying from the two-hole after leaving from outside post seven to catch pacesetting Jacksons Minion by a neck in 1:55.1. Trainer John Butenschoen had his charge sharp for his first start of the campaign while winning for William Wiswell, Jean Goehlen, and Eugene Schick.

YS Lotus brilliant in Weiss Final

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

To modify the old adage, call him whatever you want, as long as you call him to the winners circle.

YS Lotus, without a space between the first two letters of his name but whom The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono broadcaster George Anthony insists should be called as if there were a space – after all, his owner is Yves Sarrazin – was brilliant Saturday night, April 19th,  in taking the $30,000 Bobby Weiss Series Championship for male pacers at the mountain oval in 1:49.3.

The altered son of If I Can Dream had first acquired a reputation for his ironsidedness, racing six times in 18 days between the Weiss and the Sagamore Hill Series at Yonkers. Before last week’s final Weiss prelim he had had a full week off, and he took a new mark of 1:50.2; with another 7-day rest, he lowered that mark by 4/5 of a second Satuday.

Victory At Last and Shadow Margeaux engaged in a bitter duel for the front end in a 26 opener, with YS Lotus five lengths off them early in third, but driver Simon Allard had the winner rolling in front of the stands, hitting the half in 54. Favored Major Uptrend, impressive winner of his only two Weiss starts, came first-up down the backstretch, but “YS” and Allard kept distance between them past the 1:21.1 ¾s and all the way to the finish, winning by 2¼ lengths. Trainer Rene Allard sent out not only the winner but also Vance Bayama (driver Mike Simons), who claimed third after a troubled trip.

In the $25,000 winners-over pacing feature, Ideal Matters was a “pocket rocket,” winning by a nose in 1:50 for driver George Napolitano Jr. and owner/trainer Gil Garcia-Herrera. Favored Sparky Mark just missed with his late rally, while pacesetter Mustang Art held well for third, beaten a length, after cutting fractions of 26.3, 53.4, and 1:22.