Posts Tagged ‘Richard Johnson’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

May 27-June 2, 2017

The fact that the calendar has now crossed over into June means that we are just about a quarter of a way through the racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. It’s been a thrill-a-minute ride to this point, and we haven’t even really entered the heart of stakes season yet. This past week we saw four excellent racing cards and many horses and horsemen who could make legitimate claims on the Weekly Awards. Let’s see who takes them home.

PACER OF THE WEEK: CHEAP N EASY

This nine-year-old mare has been a hot streak of which most horses can only dream. In a stretch from March 28 to May 1, Cheap N Easy ripped off five consecutive victories, four of them right here at Pocono. But then she was laid off for the next four weeks, as she was scratched sick from her only scheduled start in that period.

Trained by Gilberto Garcia-Herrera, Cheap N Easy returned to face a group of $15,000 to $20,000 claiming handicap mares on Monday night. In every one of those previous five straight wins, the mare had either led or been in the pocket at the top of the stretch. But in this one she got away third and watched as Timmylynn opened up a pretty sizable advantage. Still there was no panic from driver George Napolitano Jr., as he allowed Cheap N Easy to save ground.

In the stretch, Napolitano was able to shift Cheap N Easy out three-wide to get a clear look at the leader. Timmylynn didn’t give way easily, but Cheap N Easy was flying and made up a lot of ground in a little bit of time to win by a neck in 1:53:4. Apparently the month or so off didn’t slow her down at all, and she’ll take a six-race winning streak into her next race. Whether that’s a month from now or tomorrow, this mare is going to be tough to handle.

Other top pacers this week include: Luck Be Withyou (George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes), who captured Saturday night’s featured condition pace in 1:49:3, giving him the fastest time of the week at Pocono and two wins in a row; Long Live Rock (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who overcame a move up the condition ladder and an outside post to capture his second straight victory on Saturday night, matching a career-best with a mile of 1:50 in the process; and Angels Rockin Pink (Marcus Miller, John Butenschoen), a mare who moved up in class to win Tuesday night’s featured distaff condition pace in 1:53 for her second straight victory.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: CELEBRITY EVENTSY

For the first two years of her racing career, this four-year-old mare from the Staffan Lind barn was a standout, earning at least $200,000 at ages two and three. There is often a period of adjustment for four-year-olds who have to face older horses for the first time after taking on their own age group almost exclusively in their first two seasons. But Celebrity Eventsy made that adjustment pretty quickly. In just her third race of the year on May 13 at Pocono, she beat a $14,000 condition field made up of mostly older horses on a sloppy track in 1:56:2

She was back at it once again on Saturday night, only this time she stepped up the ladder to face an even more rugged test in a $16,500 condition. Leaving from post position #1 in a field of nine as a 3-1 second choice, the mare sat third early on in the mile. Driver Christian Lind chose to keep her out of the outer flow on the back stretch, a risky move considering that the horse could have got blocked in late.

But Lind read the race perfectly. The outer flow mostly faded from view, allowing him the chance to tip Celebrity Eventsy out three-wide on the back stretch after saving all that ground and energy. The mare unleashed some fierce closing speed and swept by race favorite Skates N Plates in the final strides to win by a head in 1:54:2. If she keeps this up, Celebrity Eventsy is going to make her third racing year as lucrative as the first two.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: French Press (Scott Zeron, Frank Antonacci), a filly who followed up her maiden win with a second straight condition win on Monday night in 1:59; The Erm (Charlie Norris driver and trainer), a filly who picked up her second consecutive condition win on Tuesday in 1:54:4, a new career mark; and Meteoric (Joe Bongiorno, Richard Johnson), a 3-year-old gelding who burned up the track for a condition win on Tuesday night in 1:52:4, a new career-best and easily the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: TICA HANOVER

This filly driven by Marcus Miller worked out on inside trip in a condition pace on Monday night to score at 24-1 for a $51.60 payout on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: SIMON ALLARD

Simon had multiple victories on all four racing nights at Pocono this past week, but the highlight came on Sunday night when he picked up his 3,000th career victory aboard San Jose Hanover.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: RICHARD JOHNSON

Johnson made the most of his two Pocono training wins this week, as Windsongmusclelady won Monday night’s featured claiming trot and Meteoric posted the fastest trotting time of the week.

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 24th, 2017

May 20-26, 2017

While every race has its own special charms, the races with the biggest purses always tend to carry something a little extra special with them at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The early part of the season consists mostly of overnight races, but now is the about the time of year when some major money is up for grabs on the Pocono oval.

This past week saw a significant influx of high-stakes races on the racing schedule at Pocono. It was the first time we’ve hosted the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes in the meet, in particular the glamour division of three-year-old pacing colts and geldings, with three divisions on Sunday night each carrying a purse just shy of $50,000. Sire Stakes are always followed by Stallion Series races, and we had six of those on Monday night to the tune of $20,000 a pop. Sprinkle in three condition paces with $25,000 on the line for each, and you’ve got a lot of cabbage up for grabs.

With that in mind, I thought I’d give the Weekly Awards a rest and talk solely about how those big races went down during this past racing week at Pocono. We’ll start on Saturday night with a $25,000 featured condition pace for winners of over $25,000 lifetime. That race featured Boston Red Rocks, who starred as a 3-year-old a year ago, and Barimah A, who was coming off a surprising win in the Van Rose Memorial at Pocono. One of the ones that Barimah A beat that night was Rockin Ron, who suffered through a miserable trip on the outside on a sloppy track. But Saturday night was an entirely different story, as driver Matt Kakaley settled the five-year-old gelding in the pocket early and then coaxed some potent closing kick out of Rockin Ron for the win in 1:50:3 by a neck over Major Uptrend, who had set the pace.

On Sunday night, the distaff pacers had their turn at the spotlight, as a winners of over $25,000 lifetime mares grouping took to the track. Nike Franco, a seven-year-old mare trained by Jo Ann Looney-King, was made the 3-5 favorite off an impressive victory at Yonkers. Facing a field that included a pair of rising four-year-old stars in Call Me Queen Bee and Blue Moon Stride, the veteran was in complete control from the start. Driver Tim Tetrick guided Nike Franco to fractions that were quick but not out of control, and she led all the way home to the tune of a 1:50:1 time, a new career-mark for the mare.

Next up on Sunday came the winners of over $25,000 lifetime trotters, with a field of nine competing for a $25,000 purse. Post positions were assigned in this race and Melady’s Monet and Charmed Life, a pair of trotters with over a million bucks in career earnings, took those outside slots. Melady’s Monet set the pace and got away with reasonable fractions on the front end. But he wasn’t counting on the stiff first-over challenge from Rubber Duck, the 2-1 co-favorite who arrived from the Meadowlands having faced extremely tough company his last few starts. The two battled tooth-and-nail until Rubber Duck, driven by Joe Bongiorno for trainer Richard Johnson, came out on top by three parts of a length in 1:53.

That led to the three Sire Stakes divisions, and it was no surprise that trainer Jimmy Takter was a heavy player in the action. Ocean Colony was a Takter trainee who was expected to win on Sunday night and he did, pouncing from the pocket in his split in 1:50:2 with Yannick Gingras doing the honors. But Blood Line was a surprise for the Takter barn, taking his Sire Stakes division gate to wire for a victory in 1:50:2 with Mark MacDonald in the bike and paying off at 12-1.

The Sire Stakes race that stood out though was the second split of the night, one that was expected to be a showcase for Huntsville, a Breeders Crown champion as a 2-year-old in 2016 and winner in his 2017 debut in a Sire Stakes at The Meadows by ten lengths. But while Huntsville drew the pre-race attention, it was Fear The Dragon, trained by Brian Brown and driven by David Miller, who stole the show. Fear The Dragon made an electric first-over brush on the back stretch that stunned the heavy favorite Huntsville and resulted in an impressive victory at 5-1 in 1:49:1.

Last up in this stretch of high-stakes contests were the six Stallion Series races on Monday night for the three-year-old male pacers. Most of those splits were won by horses handling matters on the front end, and the most impressive of those miles was turned in by Donttellmeagain. With Tim Tetrick in the bike, this sophomore gelding trained by Jo Ann Looney-King powered to a winning time in his division of 1:50:2, which was a tick faster than two of the three Sire Stakes winners managed the night before.

So it was a week filled with exciting, high-stakes races at Pocono. With summer fast approaching, those kind of weeks will be the norm and not the exception very soon.

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, April 13th, 2016

April 9-15, 2016

This past racing week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono was the first in which we raced our normal schedule of four nights per week so far this season. And despite some iffy weather, the action seemed to intensify during the four consecutive evenings of live racing, producing plenty of candidates for the Weekly Awards. So instead of blabbing on and on about them, why don’t we hand them out?

PACER OF THE WEEK: JINS DRAGON

What a start to the 2016 Pocono meet it’s been for this six-year-old gelding from the Michael Rashkin barn. Considering that Jins Dragon hadn’t done much early in the year at the Meadows, hitting the board just once in seven races without a win, there wasn’t much to suggest that he’d do anything special at MSPD. Yet he quickly ripped off a pair of condition wins when he arrived, the latter coming in a new career mark of 1:50:3.

On Saturday night, Jins Dragon moved into the claiming ranks, where he faced Pocono’s highest-priced claiming handicap grouping. Since Larry Stalbaum, who had driven the gelding to the previous two wins, had another driving commitment in the race, the reins were handed to George Napolitano Jr., the meet’s top pilot so far. And George Nap put Jins Dragon on the lead with a quick swooping maneuver on the first turn.

On the back stretch, the gelding, who went off as an even-money favorite, opened up a comfortable margin on the rest of the six-horse field. That allowed Napolitano to gear him down on the stretch, as Jins Dragon still came home a solid two lengths in front in 1:53 on an off-track listed in good condition. He was unsurprisingly claimed from the race, so we’ll see if he can keep up his winning ways going forward for the new barn.

Other top pacers this week include: Camcruiser Hanover (Jim Morrill Jr., Dale Loney), who romped over a $15,000 claiming class on Saturday night, his second straight win at that price, in 1:54:1; Glammit (Jim Morrill Jr., Daniel Maier), who moved up in class and captured his second straight condition win on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:52:4; and Sweet Talkin Satin (Simon Allard, Josh Green), whose condition win on Tuesday night in 1:50:4 was the fastest pacing mile of the week at Pocono.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: ABC MUSCLES BOY

Moving up in class is never an easy task. But sometimes there are circumstances surrounding a horse which make a step or two up the ladder less daunting than it would otherwise be. Take, for example, the case of ABC Muscles Boy. On Saturday night he moved up from an $11,000 condition class to one with a $14,000 purse.

Normally that would be a recipe for an up-the-track finish. But ABC Muscles Boy, a 5-year-old gelding from the Rene Allard barn, had a few things going for him. For one, he had won his previous start from the #9 post, proving his ability to overcome tough odds. For another, his 2015 season, which included over six figures in earnings and a career-best 1:52:3 mile at Pocono, demonstrated that he had the class to capably handle this group if he was on top of his game.

On Saturday night, ABC Muscles Boy quickly stepped to the front on the first turn. As the 2-1 second choice on the board, he held the lead from that point. Its Payday Friday, the 3-2 race favorite, went off-stride trying to catch him, and ABC Muscles Boy, under urging from Simon Allard, held off the rest to win in 1:55:3. Moving up in class was no sweat for this gelding; as a matter of fact, don’t be surprised if he successfully does it again in the very near future.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Noble Lover (Larry Stalbaum, Kimberly Asher), a mare who moved up in class to win a claiming handicap trot on Sunday night, which was her second straight victory and came in a new career mark of 1:55:3; Stormont Lancelot (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who stepped up in the claiming ranks on Monday night to pick up his second straight victory, this one coming in 1:56:1; and JJ Alex (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who moved up in class and picked up his second straight condition win on Tuesday night, this one in 1:56.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: NOBODY

That’s not the name of a horse; that’s just recognition of the fact that it was a good week for chalk and that no horses at 10-1 or over came up with a win in four nights of racing.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MATT KAKALEY

Kakaley ripped off three straight driving triples from Sunday through Tuesday night, and four of those victories came aboard horses in the Bobby Weiss series.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: RICHARD JOHNSON

Johnson looks set in the Weiss series for three and four-year-old trotting colts, stallions, and geldings after winning two of the four divisions Monday night with Sweet Royalty and Steed.

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.