Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania All-Stars’

2016 Season Preview

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

2016 Season Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

October 24-30, 2015

As we head into the final month of the 2015 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, it’s fun to look back and contemplate what an assemblage of equine talent we were lucky to see this year. As Pocono has ascended in the past decade to become one of the finest tracks in the country, the world’s top standardbreds often make the track an important part of their racing itineraries.

This past Saturday at Woodbine in Canada, the Breeders Crown races, which Pocono has hosted twice before and which serve as the unofficial yearend championships for harness racing’s various divisions, were held. And several of the big winners also spent a little time at MSPD this year, with varying levels of success.

Four of the twelve Breeders Crown champions from Saturday night raced at Pocono at some point this past year. (Two others, Open pacing champ Always B Miki and 2-year-old pacing colt Boston Red Rocks qualified here but never raced under the lights.) So let’s turn our focus to that quartet of big winners, particularly in the context of their 2015 performances at Pocono.

We start with Pure Country, who added an exclamation point to a wondrous debut racing season with her two-year-old pacing win at the Breeders Crown. The Jimmy Takter trainee has won every one of her ten career starts, so she’s been impossible to beat no matter what tracks she frequents. Still there’s a sentimental connection to Pocono, because it was here that she made her racing debut on June 30 in a Pennsylvania All Stars race.

Needless to say, she won that race. She returned in August to pick up another victory, this time against Pennsylvania Sire Stakes competition. This unbelievable unbeaten streak seems likely to continue into her three-year-old campaign next year, at which point we can only hope she returns to the scene of her introduction to the racing public.

Another Jimmy Takter trainee who made his mark at Pocono before busting onto the larger scene is The Bank. For much of the season, this 3-year-old colt came up short behind his more highly-touted stablemate Pinkman. This included his first Pocono appearance on August 22, when he finished 2nd in the $500,000 Colonial behind a typically brilliant Pinkman performance.

But two weeks later it was The Bank’s turn to take the spotlight in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. With Pinkman not in the field, The Bank went from understudy to star that night, scoring a decisive win in 1:53:1. And maybe that was all the confidence he needed, because he outtrotted his old buddy Pinkman to pull off the upset victory on Saturday.

Wild Honey has had some of the finest moments of her racing career at Pocono oval. The 3-year-old filly won the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship at the track as a 2-year-old in 2014, then defended her title this year with a rallying win. That more than made up for a loss as a 1-9 favorite to Smokin Mambo in a preliminary leg of the Sire Stakes at Pocono in June.

But then again, Wild Honey knows a thing or two about atoning for losses. Last year she was the dominant 2-year-old filly in the division but she broke stride in the Breeders Crown, an unfortunate blemish on an otherwise brilliant season. Her three-year-old year has been brilliant as well, but she was the second choice behind Mission Brief in the Breeders Crown finals on Saturday. This time it was Mission Brief going off stride, leaving Wild Honey to pick up the title that eluded her a year ago.

The example of Divine Caroline, a three-year-old pacing filly from the barn of trainer Joe Holloway, shows how fortunes can change, even within the relatively short span of a racing season. The filly raced at Pocono twice in June. In the James M Lynch Memorial elimination, she finished second. She followed that up the next week by finishing sixth in the final won by Bettor Be Steppin.

But the month of October has belonged to her, with four straight victories. The last of those victories came in the Breeders Crown final on Saturday, as she handled a field that included Bettor Be Steppin and a few others who competed in the Lynch way back when, a complete turnaround from the way it all worked out for her in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

So maybe Divine Caroline doesn’t have the fondest memories of the Pocono oval. By contrast, the Pocono faithful can look back happily at these four champions and know that the road to harness racing immortality went right through their backyard.

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.

Somebeachsomewhere everywhere in PA Sire Stakes

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Somebeachsomewhere, newly-installed into the Living Harness Horse Hall of Fame, sired three of the five winners in the $268,940 first round of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes for two-year-old pacing colts Wednesday night, July 15th,  at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.

The trio of winners by the great horse included two Ron Burke trainees: Check Six (out of Southwind Vanna), who quarter-moved to the top then snapped home in 55.4 – 27.3 to tally in 1:53.4 for driver Matt Kakaley and owners Burke Racing, Weaver Bruscemi, William Switala and James Martin, along with 3 Brothers Stables’ JK Will Power (whose dam is Whats New Pussycat), who paced an individual last quarter of 27.1 to be a 1:54.2 “pocket rocket” for pilot Yannick Gingras.

The other SBSW winner was Canadian invader Carter Beach (dam: Flaming Diablo), who was in the “feature division” which contained three of the five Pennsylvania All-Star winners earlier this month. But in his first start “south of the border,” Carter Beach showed his mettle by grinding uncovered in a 56.1 last half to post a neck triumph for driver Jody Jamieson and trainer/father Carl, the latter co-owner with Thomas Kyron and George Harrison.

Neither the fastest winner or the longest-priced winner was a son of “Somebeach,” however. Speed honors went in the opening division to the Western Ideal-Stolly Up Bluechip colt Spider Man Hanover, who produced a superhero-like 27.1 brush to the lead in the third quarter to win in 1:52.1 for driver David Miller, trainer Brian Brown, and owners Country Club Acres, Kenneth Vauper, Mike Mallett, and Milton Leeman.

50-1 shot Whata Twist, last and gapping at the half, and then shoved four-wide late on the far turn due to chain-reaction interference, still managed to rally in the final strides for a 1:53 triumph. The Quik Pulse Mindale-Passage colt, driven by Brett Miller for trainer Chris Ryder, co-owner with Diamond Creek Racing, lived up to his name by producing a $107 return for a $2 win investment to his scattered backers.

First Friday boasts All-Stars stars

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

The father/son team of driver Marcus and trainer Erv Miller accounted for half of the six divisions of a $180,000 Pennsylvania All-Stars event for state-sired two-year-old pacing colts on the first Friday card of the season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, while driver Dave Palone and trainer Ron Burke bookended the action for babies.

The fastest of the three wins for Team Miller was the 1:53.3 triumph of He’s Marvalous, a son of Delmarvalous (hence the spelling: remember the Del(aware)-Mar(yland)-V(irgini)a peninsula). He’s Marvalous made every pole a winning one while closing in 56 – 27.1 for the combine of Badlands Racing LLC and L. A. Express Stable LLC.

Also flying the Miller colors in Victory Lane were the McArdle colt McDave, longest price of the six at
7-1, as he rallied from the pocket into back splits of 55.1 – 27.2 to score in 1:53.4 for owners Ronald Michelon and David & John Prushnok, along with Ideal Jimmy, an altered son of Western Ideal who was a “pocket rocket,” gaining into a 27.4 kicker to stop the clock in 1:54 for owner D R Van Witzenburg.

Palone/Burke got the evening’s stakes action underway with a victory with the Well Said colt Genovese, who made a backstretch brush of 26.4 in going from fifth to the lead and then on to victory in 1:53.2. Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Jack Piatt III, and The Panhellenic Stable Corporation own Genovese; the first two share ownership with the JJK Stables LLC and Lawrence Karr of the other Palone/Burke winner, the Yankee Cruiser colt Allie’s Cruiser, who made a quarter-move and then sped home in 27.1 to complete a 1:53 victory,.

The 1:53 time of Allie’s Cruiser equaled the fastest clocking of the stakes sextet, which was earlier put up by a colt sired by The Panderosa, Bank Shot Hanover, in familiar style for driver George Napolitano Jr. – on the engine – trainer Daniel Renaud and owner Robert DiNozzi.

Stakes action for two-year-old PA Sired kicks off

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Stakes action for two-year-old Pennsylvania-sired horses kicked off Sunday, June 28th,  at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with six divisions of a $180,000 event for trotting colts and geldings.

The fastest winner was Trolley, who set the pace and came home in 57.2 to win by a head over pocketsitting Earn And Burn in 1:56.1. Both of the top two finishers were sons of Donato Hanover, and Trolley is out of the Duke Of York-Conch mare Lakeside Bride, so it was a royal pedigree battle to the wire (Earn And Burn is out of a full sister to millionaire Dejambro), with Trolley the winner for conductor Marcus Miller, trainer Erv Miller, and the ownership of Paymaq Racing, Leland Mathias, Greg Gillis, and Louis Willinger.

Longtime prominent Pennsylvania horsemen Bob Key had a pair of homebred winners, including one who was the longest shot on the board in his race and who won under unusual circumstances. Treasure Keys K (Encore Encore) was sitting third behind pacesetting Milligan’s School and pocketsitting Truemass Volo when those two got tangled up on the final turn, inheriting the lead and going on to win for trainer/driver Charlie Norris in 1:59.2.

Key’s other winner was Boyz N Guitars, a Muscle Massive colt who came his own back half in 57.4 uncovered to catch the leader, Dominus Hanover, and tally in 1:58.3 for Hall Of Fame driver John Campbell and trainer Chuck Sylvester.

Donato Hanover had another siring credit in the All-Stars, Sliding Home, who is out of the 2010 Hambo Oaks-winning mare Bar Slide. Sliding Home quarter-moved to command and came home with twin 29.3 quarters to win easily in 2:00 for driver Corey Callahan, trainer Jonas Czernyson, and the Consus Racing Stable – and be the only “chalk” to prevail in the six races.

Corey Callahan had the only driving double in the Sunday stakes, as he also went to Victory Lane with Hititoutofthepark after an eventful trip – away sixth and parked every step until the 5/8, where his 27.4 individual third split powered him off to a three length win in 1:57.3. The impressive son of Yankee Glide, a full brother to All-Stars 3YO winner and Beal finalist Boots N Chains, is trained by John Butenschoen for the Give It A Shot Stable, Kurt Welling, and the VIP Internet Stable LLC.

The other All-Stars section went to Regina and Rick Beinhauer’s homebred Major Matter, who made every pole a winning one in 1:58.3. The altered son of Explosive Matter stepped home in 58.3 with Rick Beinhauer, who also is the trainer, in the sulky.

All-Stars action for babies continues this coming week, with pacing fillies on Tuesday, trotting fillies on Wednesday, and pacing colts on the first Friday night card of the year at Pocono – the day before the $2M Sun Saturday Stakes Championships.