Posts Tagged ‘Rene Allard’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono 2017 Season Review

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Well, here we are at the end of another campaign of racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The meet officially ends on Saturday, November 25, at which point we in racing all begin our hibernation periods. It’s hard to believe that it is the end of the racing season, perhaps because we were blessed in Northeastern Pennsylvania with such benign weather for most of September and October. When the weather really started to bite in November, we were already on the home stretch.

Reflecting back on the season that was, I, as I always tend to do at this point of the year, realize how difficult it is to sum everything up in just one article. Harness racing is comprised of mini-trends and spurts, but it’s very rare that you can point to something that has really taken hold for the duration of the season. But there are a few thoughts that do stand out and will likely separate 2017 from other seasons in my mind.

The first thing was a wager, which is ironic for me, because I don’t do any betting myself even though I essentially go through the process of handicapping the races as the morning line maker. But I must say that the Rainbow Pick 5, which we added about halfway through the 2017 campaign as a wager at Pocono, really took an already exciting sport up a few more notches. The strategy in the wager as well as the little bit of luck that went along with it really super-charged the last several races of each night’s card. I know that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and, by the response of the fans, I wasn’t the only one.

One other occurrence, or I guess it would be accurate to say that it was the lack of an occurrence, was the fact that there were no track records set at Pocono in 2017. Now that in no way is a commentary on the caliber of racing; I actually the think that this might have been our most rugged year of competition ever. On the contrary, I think it was a more a reflection of times in general becoming more moderate around the harness racing world. Some wetter summer weather also had a hand in it as well. What I think you’ll see is a huge reversal of that trend next year, especially with the Breeders Crown coming to town. More on that later.

As for the driving and training communities, George Napolitano Jr. and Rene Allard continued to dominate, which shouldn’t be taken for granted. There is as deep a colony of quality drivers and trainers at Pocono as anywhere in the country, so the way that George and Rene have kind of planted themselves at the top daring everyone else to knock them off is truly impressive.

As usual, many of the top names in the sport passed through Pocono in 2017. Superstars like Keystone Velocity, Manchego, Ariana G and many others made appearances and wowed the faithful. On a nightly basis, the overnight races provided excellent proving grounds for a wide variety of claimers and condition horses, many of whom put together impressive winning streaks and eye-opening times. Again, there were far too many to possibly note them all in a short article like this one, but all of their exploits definitely deserve honor and appreciation.

The 2017 season basically stands as a continuation of the excellence that the racing product has displayed for about the past decade at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. It may not have been a round number anniversary year like the 50th a year ago and it may not culminate in the Breeders Crown like 2018 will, but it was a season of racing featuring outstanding performances, constant surprises, and excitement pretty much from the opening race on Opening night all the way through these waning moments of the season. And that’s nothing to sneeze at.

In the meantime, we’re all looking forward to the return of The Breeders Crown a year from now. It will be the third time we’ve hosted the event at Pocono, and there’s nothing quite like having all of those champions of every age, gait, and gender on the same track. It will be bittersweet calling the races without Sam McKee, who was with me for the previous two Crowns at Pocono, but I’m certain he’ll be with us in spirit.

Until next season, just let me say thanks to all of my co-workers at the track who do such an amazing job putting on our racing product night in and night out. And thanks as well to the Pocono faithful, the best fans in the racing business without a doubt. I hope everyone has a wonderful winter, and I look forward to seeing you all again and communicating with you via this column again next season.

That will do it for this season, 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 – End of Season Awards

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

November 4-10, 2017

For the past seven months plus in this column, we’ve been chronicling the exploits of some of the finest horses each week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Now it’s time to go a little further and highlight the 2017 Horses of the Year.

This is never an easy task, simply because there are so many excellent horses who pass through Pocono, many of whom put up outstanding records along the way. Narrowing down all of those choices from an eight-month season into just four winners means leaving out a lot of worthy competitors. But these choices are what I consider to be the best of the best this season. Let’s take a look.

PACER OF THE YEAR: MAXDADDY BLUE CHIP

After dominating racing at Pompano Park early in the season, this five-year-old gelding made his first appearance at Pocono in August not long after joining the Rene Allard barn. He immediately made his presence felt by ripping off back-to-back wins in tough condition races. And that pretty much set the tone for what we could expect from him in 2017. He raced at Pocono nine times, often in Saturday night features, and won five of those races. He only missed the board in two of those races, and many of his wins broke the 1:50 barrier. If that kind of performance sounds familiar, you might remember that Keystone Velocity, another Rene Allard trainee, put up similar stats in winning Pacer of the Year at Pocono, and now he is one of the top aged pacers in the country. Who knows? Maybe Maxdaddy Blue Chip will follow in his footsteps.

TROTTER OF THE YEAR: UP FRONT BILLY

This seven-year-old gelding trained by Mark Ford has bounced around this year, but whenever he journeys to Pocono, good things to happen. He started out the meet inauspiciously, finishing no better than fourth in his first three races, before picking up a $14,000 condition win on May 6. After about a month in New York, he returned to Pocono and really got cooking, picking up wins in four out of nine races, including a couple for $16,500 purses. Then it was off again, this time to Harrah’s for a couple months. But when he returned for a condition start on October 14, he picked up right where he left off with another solid condition victory. When you combine the amount of time that he has performed here this season, his excellent overall performance with six victories in the meet, and the caliber of the competition he faced, Up Front Billy makes sense as our Trotter of the Year.

CLAIMER OF THE YEAR: POUNCE HANOVER

Sometimes a horse can make such an impact with just one hot streak that it overpowers the deeds of those horses who have been around much longer and put up consistent performances throughout the season. That’s the case with this six-year-old gelding, who made his mark this season at Pocono with a six-race winning streak. That stretch ran from June 5 to July 31, during which time Pounce Hanover had three different trainers and three different drivers. He also raised his claiming price during that time from $10,000 to $20,000. Many of his wins came from far outside posts, which raised the degree of difficulty level considerably. Overall this gelding won seven of his twelve races this season at Pocono, but that unforgettable two-month streak is the reason he stands as the 2017 Pocono Claimer of the Year.

MARE OF THE YEAR – CELEBRITY EVENTSY

Making the transition from three-year-old to four-year-old can be tough for a distaff trotter, because you often go from facing just your own age and gender to battling older, male horses. This four-year-old mare trained by Staffan Lind made that transition this season with aplomb, especially when he was at Pocono. In seven races this year at Pocono, all condition trots and none with a purse lower than $14,000, she put up three wins and three places. In most of those miles, she faced off against more experienced trotters with gaudier career records. Much of her damage was done in May and June, but Celebrity Eventsy returned for one command performance in September, beating the $25,000 winners over trotters. Along the way she also posted a career-best of 1:52:2 on the Pocono oval. Her performance was such that you could also make a case for her as Trotter of the Year, but Mare of the Year will do just fine.

Congratulations to these well-deserving winners. Next week we will wrap up the 2017 season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun in this column.

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

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

October 28-November 3, 2017

As we closed in on the month of November, Northeastern Pennsylvania finally settled into autumn-like weather after an extended benign stretch. It presented interesting challenges to the competitors at The Downs at Mohegan Sun this past racing week, including a steady downpour throughout Sunday night and biting winds on Monday afternoon and evening. Yet even with the adverse conditions, our horses and horsemen and women shined, as evidenced by these outstanding performers who earned Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: ANDREIOS KARDIA

Saturday night’s $20,000 featured condition pace attracted a lot of excellent competitors, as that featured pace usually does. Andreios Kardia was one of the big names, a six-year-old gelding from the Tony Dinges barn who made his bones with excellent work throughout the summer with the toughest pacers at Tioga Downs. He wasted no time at Pocono, winning his first start after the ship on September 30 in 1:50:4. The gelding was sixth in his next race against a brutally rugged field on October 21.

On Saturday night he left from post position #7 in a field of eight at odds of 5-1. Andreios Kardia is not a pacer who likes to fire early, preferring instead to stay back and let others set the pace. This was a race that was made for him, as Parnu Hanover set the pace and was determined to hold it to such an extent that it creating grueling fractions. Andreois Kardia sat well off the pace, and even when he started moving third-over on the back stretch, he seemed like a non-factor, five lengths back at the three-quarter pole.

But Andreios Kardia was hitting his best stride just when everybody else was beginning to falter. Even with driver Jim Marohn Jr. forced to guide him five-wide so he could have racing room in the stretch, the gelding overpowered the pacers in front of him, finally picking off a game Parnu Hanover by a neck in 1:50:1. That makes two wins out of three against competition that would make lesser horses wilt.

Other top pacers this week include: Sneaky Girl (Matt Kakaley, Agostino Abatiello), a three-year-old filly who has now won two straight at Pocono after shipping in from the Midwest, scoring on Monday night in 1:55:4; Pramatic Life (Jim Taggart Jr., Robin DiBenedetto), who picked up his second straight claiming win on Monday with a victory in 1:54:2; and Stirling Escort (Matt Kakaley, Douglas Hamilton), who captured the annual Grey Ghost & Poltergeist Pace for Halloween on Tuesday night in 1:52:3.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: PANANA REPUBLIC

It’s easy at times in the harness racing world to get caught up in the exploits of younger horses and overlook the performances of veterans. That could be why this six-year-old mare was let go as a 2-1 third choice on Sunday night despite coming off a standout win in 1:53:4 and having the post position edge on his top two competitors. Panana Republic, trained by Jennifer Sabot, possessed the #2 post in a non-winners of seven trot with a purse of $18,000.

Her toughest foes figured to be Evelyn, a three-year-old filly from the Ake Svanstedt barn with buckets of class and the fastest win in the field this season, and Catch A Mission, a four-year-old mare trained by Erv Miller without a loss in three tries in 2017. Those two horses were on the far outside to start and watched as Panana Republic muscled her way to the front early. When Catch A Misssion tried to get past on the second turn, Panana Republic, with Simon Allard in the bike, held her position and forced the other mare to go on a speed break.

Evelyn, on the other hand, made a furious charge at the leader late in the mile. But, again, Panana Republic was up to the challenge. She held together and held off Evelyn by a half-length, making it two in a row. Her win came in 1:55:2 in the sloppy, cold conditions that prevailed on Sunday night. This is a mare who is deserving of respect no matter the age or caliber of her foes.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Smalltownthrowdown (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who moved up in class and rallied for a condition victory on Saturday night, his third straight, in a career-best 1:53:4; Weslynn Dancer (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), a three-year-old filly who picked up her second straight condition victory and fourth in her last five when she won on Sunday night in the slop in 1:55:2; and Crosbys Clam Bake (Pat Berry, Randy Bendis), whose condition victory on Saturday night came in 1:53:3, the week’s fastest trotting time at Pocono.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: EL PESCADORO

In the sloppy mess on Sunday night, this gelding glided between the raindrops for a condition trotting victory with Austin Siegelman in the bike at 65-1, paying off $132.20 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: JIM MAROHN JR.

Marohn’s consistency in such a tough driving colony continues to be impressive, and he displayed it again this past week with four straight racing nights of multiple driving wins.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JENNY MELANDER

In a week with a lot of balance among the training community, Melander gets the nod for the convincing victory by her trotter Golden Son in Sunday night’s feature.

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, October 4th, 2017

September 30-October 6, 2017

While we didn’t quite reach the 90-degree temperatures of the previous week, the weather in Northeastern Pennsylvania still cooperated with an excellent stretch of pleasant autumn weather, giving us four straight fast tracks at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono for the racing week. The action was predictably slick as well, yielding plenty of candidates for the Weekly Awards, the best of which you can find right here.

PACER OF THE WEEK: KING OF THE CROP

Trained by Wayne Short, this six-year-old gelding struggled his way through much of the summer, with many finishes well up the track. In an effort to get him going again, his handlers dropped him to the lowest condition level on September 18, and the gambit worked. King Of The Crop came up first-over for a victory in 1:52:4 that night, and moved back up in class this past Saturday night to face an $11,000 group.

With Tom Jackson in the bike, King Of The Crop left from post position #6 in a field of nine and didn’t garner too much betting attention at 8-1. He sat sixth early on as East Coast Cruiser set a menacing pace. Jackson started the gelding up on the back stretch, and after a quick pass of a tiring horse on the outside he found himself first-over. For a while he was stalled a few lengths back, as it appeared East Coast Cruiser might be able to pace out the clock.

But in the stretch the pacesetter started to feel the burden of the fractions and King Of The Crop began to surge. Despite being on the outside on the last turn he gathered momentum under the guidance of Jackson and took over as the line approached to win it by a head in 1:52:2. Now with two straight wins, King Of The Crop will likely make another move up the condition ladder, but his recent performances suggest he’s ready.

Other top pacers this week include: Si Semalu (Jim Marohn Jr., Bruce Clarke), who overcame an outside post to win a condition pace on Saturday night in 1:50:1, which was a new career-best and the fastest pacing time of this past week at Pocono; Pappy’s Pal (Jim Marohn Jr., Matias Ruiz), who followed up a win at Harrah’s with a victory in Saturday night’s featured condition pace in 1:50:2; and Iwillnotbemached (Simon Allard, Amanda Payson), who switched barns, moved up in class and picked up his second straight claiming win on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:52:4.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SIMEON

They say that revenge is a dish best served cold, but Simeon didn’t have the luxury of waiting long for another chance at his nemesis. The five-year-old gelding from the Toni Freitas barn was an impressive winner on September 18 in the $15,000 to $20,000 claiming handicap trotting group, scoring in 1:55:3. But the following week Simeon was stymied with a fourth-place finish behind Warrawee Onyx, who won his second straight in the class.

On Monday night Simeon was back at it in the same class, and once again he had to deal with Warrawee Onyx, who left as the even money from post position #8 as the even money favorite. Simeon, meanwhile, was let go as the 5-1 second choice. Warrawee Onyx dictated the pace and faced some stiff competition for the lead, but was still on top around the final turn. Simeon, by contrast, sat third on the inside and waited patiently for an opening.

That opening finally arrived around the final turn, which is when driver Jim Marohn Jr. guided Simeon quickly to the outside for a furious charge. Warrawee Onyx was defenseless as Simeon hustled by to win it by 2 ¾ lengths in 1:54:1. That was a career-best time for the gelding, making his revenge pretty sweet, even if it wasn’t all that cold.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Chocouture (Anthony Napolitano, Tom Wine II), who scored a condition win in 1:54:4 on Sunday night, earning a new lifetime mark; Jurgen Hanover (Matt Kakaley, Jenny Bier), who followed up a condition win at Harrington with a victory in 1:55:2 from an outside post on Monday in a claiming handicap ; and Justice Jet (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who handled a condition field on Tuesday night in 1:53:1, which was a new career mark and the fastest of the week at Pocono.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: LEAN ON YOU

This pacer driven by Tom Jackson started Monday off with a surprise for the faithful, winning a condition at 17-1 and paying out $37.80 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANTHONY NAPOLITANO

A-Nap had a monster evening on Sunday, ripping off wins on six of the 14 races on the program for one of his finest performances of the season.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: WAYNE SHORT

Short made the most of his training efforts, winning with the lone starter he sent out on both Saturday (King Of The Crop) and Sunday (Moonshine Runner.)

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

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

August 12-18, 2017

This past week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono featured either Pennsylvania Sire Stakes or Stallion Series competition every racing night. It’s always a lot of fun to see these two and three-year-olds going at it for big purses as they try to establish themselves among the stars of their age groups. It’s also a reminder that Labor Day brings the two-year-old Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championships to Pocono. In the meantime, here are the finest performances of the past week via the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: HOLD IT HANOVER

In general, Stallion Series races are reserved for two and three-year-olds that are a notch below Sire Stakes level; that’s reflected in the lower, but still substantial, purses for the Stallion Series races. But, in some cases, the Stallion Series serves as a great location for horses that may have started a bit later in their career than others but are suddenly demonstrating immense talent. That certainly seems to be the case for Hold It Hanover.

This filly didn’t race at age two, and made her debut in Canada this season as a sophomore, picking up one win in eight starts. But things started to transform when she arrived in Pennsylvania in July and joined the barn of trainer Michael Hall. After finishing fourth in her first start at Harrah’s at Philadelphia, Hold It Hanover promptly ripped off three straight victories against non-winners of three fillies and mares. She then came to Pocono on August 8 and beat that same class from an outside post in a career-best 1:51:2.

On Sunday night, she took on the Stallion Series for three-year-old pacing fillies for the first time and the domination continued. As the 2-5 favorite from an outside post in a field of seven, she overwhelmed the field on the front end by 5 ¾ lengths with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike. The winning time of 1:51 was easily the fastest Stallion series time of the night and was comparable to the times of Saturday night’s Sire Stakes winners in the same division. With five wins in a row under her belt, the best way to classify Hold It Hanover is as tough to beat.

Other top pacers this week include: Maxdaddy Blue Chip (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who moved up in class and grinded out a first-over mile for his second straight condition victory on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:50:1; Scotty Lauxmont (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who scored his second consecutive condition win on Sunday night, moving up in class to win in a career-best 1:52:3; and First Class Horse (George Napolitano Jr. Tracy Brainard), whose condition win on Saturday night in 1:50 marked a career-best and the fastest pacing time of the week at Pocono.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: RIDGEWAY SPRINGS

One can never tell when the light is going to come on for a struggling horse. In the case of Ridgeway Springs, it looked like he might dwell in darkness all year long. When he arrived at Pocono from The Meadowlands for a non-winners of $6,000 in the last five event on August 6, he was winless this season in 19 races. But the change of scenery must have helped, as the four-year-old gelding, who had just joined the Owen Eiler Jr. barn, made a three-wide back stretch move on his way to a win in a career-best 1:55:2 at 11-1.

On Sunday night, Ridgeway Springs took on a different challenge, battling the non-winners of five for a purse of $16,000. Those are much bigger stakes than what he’s used to seeking, so it was somewhat understandable that he was let go at 13-1 despite the win in his last start. Driver Anthony Napolitano had the gelding ready to roll, however, pushing him to the front early and then settling into the pocket after race favorite Rosesareexplosive grabbed the lead on the front stretch.

Some first-over pressure from Centurion Hanover softened up Rosesareexplosive, all while Ridgeway Springs relaxed in the pocket. In the stretch, Ridgeway Springs uncorked his best move and slid past Rosesareexplosive to win by three-parts of a length. In doing so, he matched his career-best 1:55:2 time from the previous week. After two straight victories at double-digit odds, hope springs anew for this suddenly red-hot trotter.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Up Front Billy (Anthony Napolitano, Mark Ford), who scored a condition win on Saturday night in a brisk 1:53:1; Windsongmusclelady (George Napolitano Jr., Hunter Oakes), a mare who followed up a win at Harrah’s with a victory in Monday night’s featured claiming handicap trot in 1:52:3, a new career-best and the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono; and Frac (Anthony Napolitano, Jim Ray), who stepped up the condition ladder to win his second straight on Tuesday night in 1:55.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: CAN I SAY

With Anthony Morgan in the bike, this trotting mare beat a field of boys to win a condition event at 29-1 on Saturday night, paying off $60 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.

On Sunday night’s card, which featured some top drivers shipping in for the Stallion Series races, Pocono’s top driver asserted his dominance by winning eight of the 14 races on the program.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: NIFTY NORMAN

Among Norman’s four training victories at Pocono this week were back-to-back Stallion Series wins on Sunday night with sophomore filly pacers Bridge To Tomorrow and Perplexed.

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