Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania Sire Stakes’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

June 11-17, 2016

If you were looking for the unexpected, it was a good week to watch the races at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Long shots seemed to be coming in every time you turned around, and favorites, with some notable exceptions, had a hard time getting the job done. Weeks like this past one remind everyone just how unpredictable this sport can be. Keep that in mind as we take a look at some of the top equine and human performers and hand out the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: PRICELESS EDITION

Rules have been put in place this season at Pocono that have changed the claiming ranks to some extent. Without getting into the minutiae of those rules changes, the gist of them are that horses that are claimed or have had a lot of recent success at a certain price generally must move up in the ranks. As a result, winning streaks are much harder to come by among claimers. But apparently nobody told that to Priceless Edition, who’s been carving his way through his claiming brethren of late.

The hot streak for this 12-year-old gelding began on May 15. After coming up empty in his first five starts of the year following an excellent 2015, Priceless Edition handled a group of $7,500 claimers in 1:54:2. He followed that up with a place and a win in his next two races, which triggered a move up to the $10,000 claimers for his next race. And he promptly won in that class on June 4.

On Saturday night, he faced off with the $10,000 claimers once again and went off as an even-money favorite. After sitting fourth early, the veteran pacer, under the guidance of driver Andrew McCarthy, swooped to the lead on the front stretch. He never really extended to a big lead, but he kept the pressure at bay and came home strong to win by a length-and-a-quarter in 1:54:1. That makes four wins out of five for Priceless Edition, and, even though he now has to move up again, don’t be surprised if he keeps it rolling.

Other top pacers this week include: Allbeef N Nobull (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who upset the field at 27-1 in Saturday night’s featured $25,000 condition pace, winning in a career-best 1:49:2 that was also the fastest pacing time of the week at Pocono; Mr D’s Dragon (Simon Allard, Staffan Lind) a 3-year-old who ripped off his third straight condition win on Tuesday night, this one coming in career-best 1:52:1; and Cracker Coffee (Eric Carlson, Amber Buter), a mare who followed up consecutive wins at Tioga with a victory on Tuesday night at Pocono in the featured pace for mares in a career-best 1:51:2.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SPICEDBOURBONGIRL

This 3-year-old filly from the barn of trainer Jeff Gregory has been outstanding to this point in 2016. After winning just once in nine tries as a freshman in 2015, she came out of the gate firing this year with wins in three of her first four races. Two of those wins came at Pocono, including a career-best mile of 1:53:4 on May 29, and the other was in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes competition at The Meadows.

With that kind of record it was no surprise that she went off as a 3-5 favorite in a condition trot at Pocono for non-winners of five on Sunday night. Gregory also did the driving on this night and moved Spicedbourbongirl to the front with a quarter-pole move. Even though she had put up that impressive 1:53:4 in her previous race, the filly needed much less on this night thanks to a nice rating job by Gregory in the first half of the mile.

The slower pace meant that there were other horses close by late, but Spicedbourbongirl had little trouble holding them off. Even though her winning time of 1:56:3 was nearly three seconds off her previous effort, it was easy to see she had plenty left in the tank had she wanted to push it. With four wins in five races so far in 2016, this filly looks like one of the best in her age group on the regional level, and she might just have the stuff to do some damage on a bigger stage should the opportunity arise.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Explosive Man (Robert Krivelin driver and trainer), whose condition win on Sunday in 1:56:1 was his third straight victory, two of which have come at Pocono; Amicus (George Napolitano Jr., William Mullin), who led just about all the way on Monday night to notch his second straight claiming victory, with this one coming in 1:58; and Quick Deal (Ake Svanstedt driver and trainer), who posted the week’s fastest trotting time at Pocono when he won a condition on Saturday night in 1:53.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: PITTSTOP KIP

Sunday night was a night of long shots, but none were more surprising than this gelding driven by David Miller who scored a claiming handicap win at 40-1, paying off $83.80 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: COREY CALLAHAN

With a Sire Stakes win Sunday night and two Stallion Series scores Monday night, Callahan was the only driver this week to get at least one win in both, and not one of his winners went off at lower than 8-1.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: RON BURKE

The ever-prolific Burke barn produced three winners on Saturday night, including 27-1 bomber Allbeef N Nobull in the $25,000 featured condition pace.

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, May 18th, 2016

May 14-20, 2016

It seems like we are in the middle of a stretch at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono where each week features another brand new batch of huge races. This past week we had the chance to witness the Pennsylvania All-Stars, a series for 3-year-olds from the Keystone State which brought out some of the best sophomore racing talent in the entire nation, lured as they were by the solid $30,000 purses available for each division.

We saw a different class on three consecutive nights. Here are some of the highlights of this batch of Pennsylvania All-Stars races.

SUNDAY: 3-YEAR-OLD PACING COLTS AND GELDINGS

The three divisions held on Sunday night proved that there are many different ways to win a race. In the first split, The Catamount Kid, the even-money favorite after a solid 4th-place finish the previous week in the Pennsylvania Classic, used a pocket trip to come up a winner. Simon Allard did the driving for trainer Carl Jamieson, although it wasn’t easy for The Catamount Kid. It took a career-best mile of 1:51:2 to hold off the extremely game Bully Pulpit by a neck.

The next division provided a display of how to win from off the pace. As even-money favorite JJ Flynn started to lose grasp of his lead late, it appeared that Settlemoir, who was sitting the excellent pocket trip, had the edge to come up for the win. Yet it was Voltaire, an 11-1 shot guided by Tim Tetrick, who revved it up on the outside out of nowhere to win by a neck in a career-best 1:52:2. Trained by Brian Malone, it was Voltaire’s first win since March.

In the final split, Another Daily Copy provided a master’s class on how to control a field on the front end. The colt from the Nicholas Devita barn was aided in that effort by driver Jim Morrill Jr., who expertly rated the pace so that even 4-5 favorite Fernando Hanover couldn’t get past in the stretch. At 5-1, Another Daily Copy came home a solid winner by 1 ¼ lengths in 1:51:2, his first win of the season and a new career-best.

MONDAY: 3-YEAR-OLD PACING FILLIES

Monday night provided a chance for some of the fillies who came up short in the Miss Pennsylvania a few weeks ago to get a bit of redemption. In the first split, Darlinonthebeach, who had been favored in the Miss Pennsylvania after upsetting Pure Country in the elimination but got caught up in blistering fractions and faded to 7th in the final, nearly had bad racing luck doom her chances in the All-Stars race. She had to check while making a brush to the lead around the clubhouse turn. The Nancy Johansson trainee didn’t panic, gathering her wits about her until called on again by David Miller in the stretch. She rolled by as the 4-5 favorite to win by a neck in 1:51:3, pushing her career earnings over $247,000 in the process.

Next up was I Said Diamonds, who had battled to 2nd in the Miss Pennsylvania final despite a #9 post. She was once again on the outside in the All-Stars race, starting furthest out in the field of seven as the 1-2 favorite. By the end of the first turn she had assumed the lead. At the top of the stretch, with competitors starting to loom behind her, she kicked away from her foes with Matt Kakaley in the bike. Trained by Ron Burke, I Said Diamonds continues to impress; she’s hit the board in every one of her nine starts with five victories and earnings topping $245,000.

In the final split, Yankee Moonshine, who was a huge earner as a 2-year-old but missed the Miss Pennsylvania final after finishing fifth in her elimination race, was favored at 7-5. But she never really fired and finished fourth. Instead it was a newcomer to Pocono named Shesasmokinlady who came in from the Meadows and put together an outstanding performance. Fresh off a win in the slop, the filly trained and driven by Ray Paver worked out a pocket trip behind a sizzling pace and came on to win by a neck in the night’s fastest time of 1:50:4 as an 8-5 second choice.

TUESDAY: 3-YEAR-OLD TROTTING FILLIES

The action for the distaff trotters started out on Tuesday night with a split featuring a pair of horses, Pink Pistol and Ginny Weasley, coming off wins in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes action. Synonymous Hanover, a 5-1 shot making her first start of the season, took the lead from Ginny Weasley at the half. Pink Pistol broke stride in her first-over attempt, and Ginny Weasley couldn’t get there from the pocket. Instead Brett Miller guided Synonymous Hanover, trained by Chris Oakes, to the win by 1 ¼ lengths in a career-best 1:56.

In the second split, Lookin Sharp was coming off a 5th-place finish in her season debut and was saddled with a #9 post, so it was understandable that she went off as a 6-1 shot. But the filly from the John Butenschoen was also the big earner in the field as a 2-year-old, and she regained that fine form on this night. With David Miller in the bike, Lookin Sharp grabbed the lead an eight of a mile into the race and never looked back from there, dominating the field in 1:55:2, a new career-best time.

As it turns out, it wouldn’t be a good night for Pennsylvania All-Stars favorites. Although Abbie’s Celticlass, the 4-5 favorite in the final split, fared better than the favorites in the first two divisions, both of whom went off-stride, her first-over effort wasn’t enough to get more than the show. Meanwhile Modern Mercury, a filly trained and driven by Charlie Norris coming off a win at Harrah’s at Philadelphia, stepped into the breach and scored the victory on the front end in 1:56:1, ending an exciting week of Pennsylvania All-Stars action.

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.

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.

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.