Posts Tagged ‘Rene Allard’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

May 12-18, 2018

One of the many things making the racing action at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in 2018 even more exciting than usual is the brand new Great Northeast Open series. Pocono and Harrah’s at Philadelphia will be hosting these races all through the spring and summer for the best aged pacers and trotters around. It will all culminate with big-money Finals held at Pocono in September, meaning that the horses will be battling in the preliminary legs not just for the excellent purses, but also for the chance to nab the really huge payday at the end. This edition of the Weekly Awards is highlighted by horses who triumphed in the series this week in thrilling fashion.

PACER OF THE WEEK: AGENT Q

Winning in your first start off a significant layoff is difficult against anyone, let alone a field of crackerjack distaffers. Yet that’s what faced Agent Q in her 2018 debut on Sunday night in the $30,000 Open pace for mares. In addition to that, her return to racing for the first time since back-to-back stakes wins in November to end her three-year-old season would have to come from an outside post in a field of eight stars. Not an easy task, even for a mare with over $1.1 million in earnings in her first two years of racing.

Driver David Miller didn’t push Agent Q, who went off as the 5-2 second choice, early in the mile, preferring instead to let her sit at the back of the pack. Lady Shadow took the early lead and had to deal with Pure Country pressuring her first-over. Agent Q, making her first start in the Chris Oakes barn, saved ground until the 5/8-mile marker, when she started moving on a three-wide path behind the cover of Elliesjet N.

Still, Agent Q was last at the three-quarter pole, albeit closing the margin, as Pure Country took over the lead. Once Miller guided the mare to a clear look at the leaders, there was simply no stopping her. She eclipsed the entire field until Pure Country was the last one in front of her, eventually nipping her at the line to win by a nose in 1:52.3 on the off track (good condition.) Consider her first test against aged mares passed with flying colors, especially considering everything she had to surmount to get the victory.

Other top pacers this week include: Soho Wallstreet A (Marcus Miller, Ross Croghan), who followed up a win at The Meadowlands with a victory in Saturday night’s featured condition pace at Pocono in 1:50.4 in the slop; Pa’s Corn Squeezin (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), a mare who is now three-for-three since coming from California after a claiming handicap win on Monday night in 1:53.3; and Eclipse Me N (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), a mare who moved up in class to win her second straight, doing so in the Tuesday feature condition distaff pace in a career-best 1:50.1.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: WILL TAKE CHARGE

Will Take Charge, a five-year-old gelding who did very well in the early part of the year in Canada for trainer Jeffrey Gillis, was made the 3-5 favorite on Sunday night in the $30,000 Open trot after just missing in his last start at The Meadowlands behind the great Hannelore Hanover. But then the thing that every trotter dreads befell him at the beginning of the race: He went off stride. Even though driver Tim Tetrick was able to get him back and trotting relatively quickly, Will Take Charge found himself last in an excellent field of seven.

At that point, most probably wrote him off and looked to the horses at the front of the pack, as Sutton set a measured pace that looked like it would hold up when push came to shove. Will Take Charge didn’t give in, however, moving third over on the back stretch and hoping for the best. As they entered the final turn, all eyes once again turned to the favorite, as Tetrick spun him off the cover and he came bounding up to threaten the leaders.

In the stretch, despite the reasonable fractions that were maintained, the rest of the field appeared as if they were trotting in molasses. Will Take Charge swept right by for the win by a comfortable two lengths over Smalltownthrowdown. The winning time of 1:53:4 might seem modest, until you consider that the track was only in good condition and he had to give up that early ground because of the break. If he gets a clean trip, it will be a blast to see what Will Take Charge can really do.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Star Studded Cast (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), whose winning time in a claiming handicap trot on Monday of 1:54.1 was a career-best and faster than anybody at Pocono this week not named Will Take Charge; Holy Halibut (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who now has wins in two of his last three races following a claiming handicap victory on Monday night in 1:56.1; and Tyson (Jason Bartlett, Edwin Gannon Jr.), who sprung an upset in a $21,500 condition trot on Sunday night in 1:56.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: SERIOUS SAVANNAH

This gelding came into his condition trot on Tuesday night winless in 2018, but he wasn’t anymore after rallying at 22-1 with Marcus Miller in the bike to pay $46.80 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: JIM MORRILL JR.

Morrill’s win with Indy Ingot from last to first capped off a three-win night on Sunday and also gave him 7,000 driving victories in his outstanding career in racing.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: HUNTER OAKES

The young conditioner had one of his finest nights ever on Saturday night at Pocono, ripping off four wins on the program.

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 2nd, 2018

April 28-May 1, 2018

Next week in this space, we will be profiling all the happenings from our Kentucky Derby evening card, which is filled up with all four finals of the Bobby Weiss late closer series and two divisions of the Van Rose Memorial pace featuring some of the finest aged pacers in the world and kicking off the Great Northeast Open series, which will continue throughout the spring and summer at Harrah’s at Philadelphia as well as at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Here now are the finest performances of the past week at Pocono, highlighted in our Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: STRAWB’S CHIPPIE

Every once in a while, a horse will ship into Pocono with a gaudy record at other tracks and be unable to match that level of success once it reaches the top levels of competition here. Strawb’s Chippie initially looked like she might fall into category. The seven-year-old mare had amassed wins in four of her first five starts on the New York harness circuit to begin 2018. But her first two starts at Pocono in this meet were less distinguished, as she came away with a second and a sixth in two races against the $15,000 to $20,000 claiming handicap pacing mares.

The tide started to turn for Strawb’s Chippie when she joined the Rene Allard barn on April 16. She located her front-pacing stride that had garnered her so much success in New York and ripped off back-to-back wins while leading at every pole with winning times of 1:56.1 in the slop and 1:52.3, the latter a career-best. She joined the Hunter Oakes barn following a claim and took on the same grouping on Monday night from an outside #8 post as a 4-5 betting favorite.

Even though the barn changed, the strategy didn’t for the mare. Driver George Napoitano Jr. cut her loose early to reach the early lead and she played keep-away from there. Despite a solid challenge from Warrawee Qually in the lane, Strawb’s Chippie once again proved her toughness with the lead and came home a half-length winner, this time in 1:52.4. With her third straight victory, those early Pocono struggles now seem like a distant memory.

Other top pacers this week include: Drunken Terror (Anthony Napolitano, Marta Piotrow), who scored his second consecutive claiming handicap win on Saturday night, this one in 1:51.2; We Think Alike (George Napolitano Jr., Brandon Todd), who moved up in class to win a condition pace on Saturday night in 1:52.4, his second straight victory; and Make A Statement A (Anthony Napolitano, Jody Riedel), whose condition win on Tuesday night came in 1:50.4, a new career-mark and tied for fastest pacing time of the week at Pocono.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: GOLDEN SON

In Sunday’s $17,500 featured condition trot, a showdown was looming between Golden Son and Upfront Billy. The former, a five-year-old gelding from the Jenny Melander barn, was coming off a sharp victory at Harrah’s and returning to a class at Pocono where he had a near-miss second on March 24. The latter, a nine-year-old gelding trained by Mark Ford, is the defending Trotter of the Year at Pocono and has already scored two wins in this meet, including a victory in his previous race in 1:52.2, fastest trotting time at Pocono in 2018 so far.

Golden Son, the 2-1 second choice, left from the inside post in a field of nine as a 2-1 second choice. Upfront Billy, the 6-5 favorite, left from the #3 post. It was Upfront Billy who grabbed the early lead, a change in tactics from his earlier victory, when he sat the pocket behind a hot pace. With Upfront Billy doing the work, driver Jim Morrill Jr. was all right with letting Golden Son sit the pocket, knowing he’d likely have a shot at the leader late if he could stay close.

Of course, that meant he would have to outtrot Upfront Billy, who is known for being extremely game late in the race. But when Morrill tipped Golden Son out of the pocket to take dead aim, the gelding responded with powerful late kick, just enough to corral Upfront Billy at the line by a nose in 1:54.1. That gives him two wins in a row, and anytime you can beat the Trotter of the Year at the top of his game, it’s quite an accomplishment.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Such An Angel (George Napolitano Jr., Hunter Oakes), who overwhelmed a condition group on Monday night to win in 1:53.1, the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono; Elysium Lindy (Anthony Napolitano, Ron Burke), who shipped in from The Meadowlands to pick up a condition win on Saturday night in 1:55.1; and Chelsees A Winner (George Napolitano Jr., Christie Collins), a mare who moved up in class on Tuesday night to win her second straight condition since arriving from Ohio, this one coming in a career-best 1:55:4.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: MR HAM SANDWICH

Despite having won his last start, this pacer driven by Eric Carlson went off at 43-1 in a condition on Saturday night, a race he promptly won to pay off $88 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: PAT BERRY

Berry always seems to give bettors great value for his wins, as he proved Saturday night by posting a double with horses who went off at 7-1 (A Real Miracle) and 9-2 (Jimmy C R).

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: BRANDON TODD

Todd is making the most of his opportunities at Pocono, as was evidenced on Saturday night when he won with two of the three starters he sent out to race.

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.

Van Rose Memorial and Weiss Finals a Powerhouse of Stars

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

When The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono created the $50,000 Van Rose Memorial Invitational Pace, honoring the late local handicapper and writer, it was said that Rose’s reaction might be “They named a $50,000 race after ME?”

Well, Van, guess what – this year it’s the $100,000 Van Rose Memorial Invitational Pace that will be featured on the evening portion of a Kentucky Derby Day doubleheader this Saturday at The Downs, as 14 entrants resulted in the creation of two $50,000 divisions of the Van Rose Pace.

The credentials these horses are bringing to Pocono on Saturday are simply outstanding. Consider these collective achievements of the fourteen fast pacers:

–Combined lifetime earnings of $13,994,142, or an average of $999,581 per horse; with two $2 million+ winners (Mach It So and Christen Me N) and four additional $1 million winners (Boston Red Rocks, Wakizashi Hanover, Keystone Velocity, and Rockin Ron);

–An average speed mark of 1:48.3;

–Four of the finalists from 2018’s richest race to date, April 21’s $532,000 Levy Final at Yonkers, including the winner, Keystone Velocity, the richest horse of 2018 in North America, out of the barn of local trainer Rene Allard, a successful defender of his 2017 Levy championship, the 2017 Franklin champion at Pocono, and the Older Pacer of the Year last season;

–Four of the Levy Consolation starters, including the winner, Always At My Place, whose 1:47.2 mile here in 2015 still stands as the world record for four-year-old pacing geldings;

–Ten wins in the Levy preliminary legs from among the fields;

–The winner of the recent Whata Baron Series Final at The Meadowlands, Barimah A – who also just happens to be the defending Van Rose Memorial winner!

Here are the fields for the two Rose divisions; morning line and final drivers should be available tomorrow (Tuesday):

5th race — $50,000 Rose Pace division – 1. Boston Red Rocks; 2. Rodeo Romeo; 3. Long Live Rock; 4. Wakizashi Hanover; 5. Always At My Place; 6. Dr J Hanover; 7. Barimah A.

10th race — $50,000 Rose Pace division – 1. Keystone Velocity; 2. Rockin Ron; 3. Super Imposed N; 4. Mach It So; 5. Bettor Memories; 6. Christen Me N; 7. Rockeyed Optimist.

The Saturday evening card at Pocono will also feature the four $30,000 Championships of the Bobby Weiss Series, with the top pointwinners in the four preliminaries earning their way to their respective finals. Here’s a brief overview of those races:

6th race, trotting females: Weiss preliminaries won by entrants: 11; three-time winner and fastest winner, I M Fishin, 1:56; summary in a sentence: After a break in her first prelim, I M Fishin has rattled off three straight on the front end, and is the mare to beat.

8th race, trotting males: Weiss preliminaries, 11; three-time winner, Chas Hanover; fastest winner, Archibald, 1:55.1; summary in a sentence: Archibald has two wins and two breaks; if he can’t mind his manners, there’s a lot of talent waiting to pick up the pieces.

11th race, pacing males: Weiss preliminaries, 10; three-time winner, I Soar Him First; fastest winner, Riggle Wealth, 1:50.3; summary in a sentence: After bad luck in the first two legs, Riggle Wealth has been raced on the front end in his last two and won; may face more speedy pressure here.

12th race, pacing females: Weiss preliminaries: 9; three-time winners: Kimberlee and Sharen Hanover; fastest winner, Sharen Hanover, 1:52.2; summary in a sentence: Kimberlee skipped a week but won all of her Weiss starts; Sharen Hanover has won her last three, and in dominating fashion.

The features on the afternoon card will be $15,000 Weiss Consolations for both groups of trotters (the pacing events did not fill). These races will go as the Late Double on the 10-race card that is scheduled to start at 11 a.m.; after a break for the Derby, the nighttime equine fireworks will be beginning at 7:30 p.m.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

April 14-20, 2018

Well, the good news is we had our first really beautiful night weather-wise for harness racing on the 2018 season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs this past Saturday. The bad news is that it was followed by three more nights of winter-like conditions. Nonetheless, the stubbornly-clinging cold did not dampen the enthusiasm at the track, not when there were so many outstanding performances that we witnessed, the best of which we now honor with the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: HIGHALATOR

A year ago as a sophomore pacer, Highalator did much of the damage during an 11-win season at Pocono, including dominance of the Bobby Weiss late closer series for male pacers. His 4-year-old season began with him racing in Delaware, and he did well in his first taste of veteran competition, hitting the board in four of seven races with one victory. But his season immediately jumped a notch when he came to Pocono, as he picked up a victory in a $14,000 condition pace on April 7 in 1:51:3.

On Saturday night, the 4-year-old stallion trained by Jenny Bier decided to step up in class to face the featured $17,500 condition pacers. Leaving from position #3 in a field of eight, he was a 7-2 fourth choice, while Bettor’s Edge, earner of over $2 million in his career, went off as the 8-5 favorite in a rugged field. Highalator sat 4th early as Americanprimetime cut out the mile from an inside post. Driver Tyler Buter decided to take a first-over shot with Highalator just prior to the clubhouse turn.

Highalator immediately pulled up alongside Americanprimetime but couldn’t slip past right away. Instead the two stayed locked up around the second turn as well. But instead of fading, Highalator kept after it and eventually wheeled on by to beat the game American Primetime by a head. Not only did he set a career-best with a winning time of 1:49:4, the stallion also became the first to horse to snap the 1:50 barrier at Pocono in 2018.

Other top pacers this week include: Catherinesdiamond (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who overcame a #9 post on Saturday night to win his second straight $10,000 claimer in 1:53:3; Drinkin Again (Jim Morrill Jr, Philip Jasper), who moved up in class to win Sunday night’s featured condition pace in 1:53:2, giving him two straight victories and three in his last four; and Fox Valley Cadet (George Napolitano Jr., Rob Harmon), who picked up his second straight claiming victory on Tuesday night, this one coming in 1:56:1.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: ARCHBALD

This four-year-old gelding from the Fern Paquet Jr. barn had wins early in the year at both Saratoga and Pompano before stopping into Pocono for the Bobby Weiss late closer series for male trotters. In his first try in that group, he made a costly break of stride and finished fourth. On April 8, however, Archbald steered clear of any breaks and overpowered the field to win a spilt in 1:55:3, which was a career-best and the fastest time in that grouping of the Weiss up to that point.

Archbald was back at it on Sunday night in the third leg of the Weiss as a 7-5 favorite leaving from post position #4 in a field of seven. The field included Chas Hanover, who had won the first two legs of the Weiss, but he wasn’t a factor in the race, eventually finishing fourth. Instead the race became a duel between Law Of Attraction, who set the pace, and Archbald, who, with Paquet doing the driving as well, made a first-over move from third on the back stretch.

The two leaders were practically inseparable throughout the back stretch and the final turn. But in the final strides, Archbald finally wore down Law Of Attraction to take over late. He ended up winning by a length in 1:55:1. That winning time reset his career mark and also reset the standard for the male trotters in the Weiss. It’s looking like Archbald might just be the one to beat in that Weiss classification as we get closer to the Finals.

Honorable mention on the trotting side this week goes to: Lightningpedia (Chuck Connor Jr., Janice Connor), who won his second straight condition trot at Pocono to start his career, this one coming on Monday night in 1:59:2 in the slop; Body Slam (Anthony Napolitano, Tom Wine II), who compiled a two-race winning streak over five months at Pocono, with his maiden win last November, and then a condition win on Tuesday night in his first start of 2018 in 1:59:4; and Karets (Marcus Miller, James Cosenza), who moved up in class to capture his second straight condition victory on Tuesday night, this one in 1:56:1.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: CITY HALL

This veteran pacer worked out a pocket trip in a condition pace on Sunday night with Andrew McCarthy in the bike and rallied for a win at 38-1, paying off $79.80 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ERIC CARLSON

Carlson has been a steady performer at Pocono for several seasons now, so it was fitting that he picked up his 3,000th career victory on Monday night at the track with Call Me Richard.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JOSE GODINEZ

Godinez hasn’t sent out a ton of starters at Pocono but is hitting a high average with the ones who have raced, including a training double on Saturday night.

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 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.