Posts Tagged ‘Saratoga’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

April 2-8, 2016

Racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono ramped up to three live nights this past week, as Sunday joined the schedule for the first time this year. By next week, we will have reached our four-nights-per-week schedule that will be our standby for the bulk of the meet. In the meantime, the three racing nights this week have given us just enough fodder to hand out 2016’s first edition of the Weekly Awards. Let’s see who takes the initial honors.

PACER OF THE WEEK: KINGS BARNS

This 5-year-old gelding spent the early part of 2016 battling it out at Yonkers with little to show for it. In nine races at the half-mile oval, he could only manage a pair of third-place finishes. In his last start at Yonkers, he switched to the barn of Rene Allard, a fellow who does serious damage at Pocono with all manner of horses.

Thus it was understandable that Kings Barns was favored in his 2016 Pocono debut on March 26 in an $11,000 condition pace, and he delivered on that promise with a front-pacing win with Simon Allard in the bike in a career-best 1:50:3. He moved up slightly to take on a $12,500 condition group on Saturday night, but he was unable to find the early lead for a second straight race. Instead he had to follow cover on the back stretch and make an early three-wide move.

Once the stretch rolled around, the gelding had gathered enough momentum to take aim at the leaders. Simon Allard guided him back to the inside to save ground, and he rolled by the faltering leaders to win in 1:52 by 1 ¾ lengths. That makes back-to-back victories for Kings Barns, who looks positively regal so far this meet at Pocono.

Other top pacers this week include: Whatagamble (George Napolitano Jr., Dean Eckley), who rolled to his second straight win over the $10,000 claimers on Saturday night in 1:53; Options Are Adream (Corey Callahan, Richard Lewis), a 3-year-old colt who is now unbeaten after seven career races, following up six straight wins at Dover with a Bobby Weiss series victory on Sunday night in 1:52:1; and Cooperstown (Anthony Napolitano, Daniel Renaud), whose victory in Sunday night’s featured condition pace in 1:50:1 was his third straight win, two of which have come at Pocono.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SOUTH SIDE HANOVER

This filly from the Todd Schadel barn didn’t do much as a 2-year-old a year ago, failing to break her maiden in 13 races and hitting the board just four times. She came off the layoff to battle a non-winners of one condition distaff group last week. Despite being a 22-1 long shot in the race and leaving from a tough #7 post, she made the lead, gutted it out, and came home a winner in 1:57:1.

In a $15,000 division of the Bobby Weiss series for distaff trotters on Tuesday night, South Side Hanover was assigned the outside #7 post and received a bit more betting attention, going off as the 7-1 second choice. Most of the money went to 1-5 betting favorite Ready Any Time. But it was South Side Hanover who was ready from the getgo, hustling to the front end under before the quarter pole under urging from Todd Schadel to dictate the terms.

At the top of the stretch, South Side Hanover turned back a charge from pocket horse Squeals Of Delight, while the heavy favorite Ready Any Time could only rally for the show. She won by 1 ½ lengths in a new career mark of 1:56:4. From a nondescript maiden to Late Closer series contender in just a couple weeks, this filly is rising fast and it seems like even higher levels are within her reach.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Massacaia (George Napolitano Jr., Jason Robinson), who bounced back from a break in his previous start to score a condition win on Saturday night in 1:55; Extracurricular (Jim Morrill Jr., Lance Hudson), who arrived from Yonkers and fought hard for a condition win in 155; and Daylon Miracle (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), a mare who arrived from Saratoga to dominate in a condition trot in Tuesday night in 1:53, easily the fastest trotting time of the week.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: ROCKINTHEPINES

This gelding driven by Marcus Miller started Tuesday night off with a surprising bang, rallying from way back to stun a claiming trotting field at 34-1, paying off $71.60 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: TODD SCHADEL

Schadel zipped to victories in two of the three Bobby Weiss divisions held on Tuesday night for distaff trotters, winning with South Side Hanover and Real Caviar, both of whom he also trains.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: DEAN ECKLEY

Talk about efficient: Eckley sent out only three starters on Saturday night, and every one of them came home a winner for a perfect training evening.

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.

Opening Night Saturday at the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono

Friday, March 18th, 2016

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono opens its 51st season of harness racing on Saturday night, March 19th, with a $15,500 trotting feature and a trio of $14,000 co-features, two on the pace and one on the trot. The card starts off strongly, with the nightly feature slotted for race 2 on the 14-race card, and one of the co-features hitting leadoff for the mountain action, which has a first post at 6:30 p.m.

In the second race conditioned trot, the Holiday Road gelding Its Huw You Know has been accorded 3-1 morning line favoritism by oddsmaker Jim Beviglia despite form that would try the patience of a mother. The Ron Burke-trained gelding has won twice in his last four starts, including a 1:54.2 triumph in his last outing at The Meadowlands, but he has been known to throw the occasional tantrum in a race. His backers will hope for the “good” Its Huw You Know to show up as he starts from post six in a field of eight for driver Jim Morrill Jr., who comes to Pocono red-hot from Buffalo Raceway, sporting an incredible .624 early-season UDR.

In the curtainraiser, a handicapped event for high-level claiming pacers, Cotton Eyed Joe has been tabbed a 3-1 choice despite not having started since the end of the last Pocono meet, on November 21, though he had a good qualifying prep. “Joe” will start from post three in a group of eight, and will be driven by George Napolitano Jr., the track’s all-time leading single-season dashwinning champion with nine, including a record 407 visits to Victory Lane last year.

The other pacing co-feature, race 10, finds Ultimate Beachboy starting from the rail, inside seven foes, as he comes in from Toronto for trainer Rene Allard, who topped the conditioning tables at Pocono last season. Rene’s brother Simon, second to “George Nap” in the driving standings here last year, will guide the “Beachboy,” a $72,000 purchase at The Meadowlands’ January sale, who returns to the track where he took his personal record of 1:48.3, which at the time equaled the world record for three-year-old pacing geldings over a 5/8-mile track.

The co-featured trot, race 6, affords 5-2 favoritism to the $770,000+-winner Zooming, who drops in class after battling Open competition at Yonkers and Saratoga. George Napolitano Jr. has been picked to guide Zooming as the pair starts from post seven in a field of nine.

Pocono opens its season racing on Saturdays and Tuesdays in March; it will add Sundays (with a new 7:30 post time as opposed to the “usual” 6:30 start) on April 3 and Mondays on April 11. That Saturday through Tuesday schedule will be the basic format at The Downs through the spring and summer, with special event days accompanying the three races of the Thoroughbred Triple Crown.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week in Review

Friday, November 6th, 2015

October 31-November 6, 2015

This will be our last article this year that features our Weekly Awards. With only two weeks left in the 2015 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, we’ll close it out the next few weeks by looking back on the season gone past. But, before we do, let’s make these count and hand out the awards to the best of the best in the week that was at Pocono.

PACER OF THE WEEK: PREPARTY

It makes sense that our last Pacer of the Week award goes to a horse from the barn of trainer Rene Allard, since his horses have dominated this column space for most of the season. Yet this particular Allard trainee would have seemed an unlikely choice for these honors a few months back. Preparty, a 4-year-old gelding, had a stretch of three races in August and September at Pocono in which he finished no better than seventh.

On September 18, he returned from a third-place finish at Saratoga to face our $8,500 condition pacers. That’s the lowest level of condition action at the track, so Preparty needed to step up with these or run the risk of an even more prolonged slump. A gate-to-wire win seemed that night reinvigorated him, and he came into Saturday night’s featured $20,000 condition pace having won three out of four, all while moving significantly up the condition ladder from that earlier nadir.

On Saturday night as the even-money favorite, the gelding found a perfect pocket spot as a speed duel raged in front of him. In the stretch, driver Simon Allard guided Preparty into the inside passing lane. From there he overtook Rockin Rumble, a game long shot who battled all the way on the outside only to come up short by a nose. With the victory in 1:52, Preparty now has won two straight and four out of five, and those down times seem like a distant memory.

Other top pacers this week include: Mickey Hanover (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who is now two-for-two at Pocono since returning from New York after a condition win on Saturday night in 1:51; Mr Massimo (George Napolitano Jr., Kevin Reynolds), who continued his late-season torrid streak by moving up in class to win his fourth straight claimer on Saturday night, this one in 1:50:4; and Scandalicious (Marcus Miller, Scott DiDomenico), who captured Wednesday night’s featured distaff condition pace in 1:52:2.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SOMEBODY AS

If you’ve watched any harness racing at all at Pocono over the last two months, you’ve probably noticed that symbol AS showing up at the end of the names of a lot of winning trotters. It’s an abbreviation for an ownership group based in Kentucky who generally uses trainer Anette Lorentzon to condition their horses, usually with outstanding results.

Somebody AS, a 6-year-old gelding, has climbed the highest of these trotters in the Pocono condition ranks. After spending a lot of time this year in Ohio, he shipped in for a $20,000 condition trot on October 3 and pulled off an upset win in the slop in 1:54:4 as a 10-1 shot. He then moved up in class to face the $24,000 condition pacers, acquitting himself well with back-to-back thirds.

On Saturday night, he dropped back down to the $20,000 level. Driver George Napolitano Jr. sent Somebody AS to the front and set nasty fractions, losing the pursuit behind him in the process. Somebody AS ended up seven lengths in front of the rest at the line, trotting the mile in a career-best 1:52:2, the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono by a wide margin and a very impressive number considering the chilly temperatures. Bottom line: when you see that AS name, don’t sleep on the horse’s chances in that particular race.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Code Bon (Simon Allard, Ake Svanstedt), a 3-year-old colt who followed up a win at Lexington with a condition victory on Tuesday night at Pocono in 1:53:2; Musical Rhythm (Marcus Miller, Tony Alagna), a 3-year-old colt who rallied from far back early to score in Tuesday night’s featured condition trot in a career-best 1:56; and Vimy Ridge (Howard Parker, Bill Mullin), who dominated a claiming handicap group on Wednesday night in a career-best 1:53, picking up his second straight victory in the process.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: HOPE FOR BADLANDS

In a condition pace on Tuesday night, this gelding with Andrew McCarthy blew by his competitors late as a 38-1 long shot to pay off a hefty $79.80 on a $2 win ticket.

In lieu of driver and trainer of the week awards this week, I’d like to take a moment to salute our entire community of drivers and trainers. The balance among the drivers and trainers community has been incredible all year long. Tuesday night was typical: 10 different drivers won at least one race and the 16 victories on the care were divvied up among 15 different trainers. It’s never been as competitive at Pocono, and the ladies and gentlemen doing the driving and training are a big reason why. Nice job, folks.

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

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

July 17-23, 2015

Now that we’re in the heart of the 2015 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, the schedule provides five nights of racing each week. That means that it’s harder than ever to choose who’s deserving of the Weekly Awards, because there are even more candidates from which to select. But we’re going to take a deep dive anyway and come up with the best of the best from the week that was at Pocono.

PACER OF THE WEEK: CAUTION SIGNS

It’s been a lot of fun to chart the ascendancy of this 5-year-old stallion in 2015. On April 16, he finished third in a $12,500 claimer at Yonkers. That’s when he was claimed by owner/trainer Tracy Brainard, who immediately coaxed better efforts from the horse in New York, as he won two of his next three starts. But that was nothing compared to the run of success he’s put together at Pocono. Since arriving at the end of May, Caution Signs has four wins and two places in six races, all while climbing the highest rungs of the condition ladder.

On July 4, he completed his climb by beating Open pacers in 1:48:4, his third straight win. On Saturday night he took on Open company again and a field that was reduced to four by a couple of scratches. Although that might have seemed like an easy assignment, Caution Signs was dealing with a sloppy track. And, as he took the early lead, he was also dealing with a horse in Scott Rocks who sat the pocket and wouldn’t let him get away to a comfortable margin.

In the stretch, Scott Rocks came out of the pocket full of sound and fury looking to upend the even-money favorite. But no horse wins as consistently as Caution Signs has of late without being more than a little game. The stallion, with Joe Pavia Jr. doing the driving, fought hard to hold on to his lead, eventually winning by a neck in 1:49:4, a blistering time considering the sloppy going. Something tells me you wouldn’t be able to get Caution Signs for $12,500 right now, or maybe even five times that, considering his current hot streak.

Other top pacers this week include: Priceless Edition (Anthony Napolitano, Pierre Paradis), an 11-year-old veteran who cranked out his third straight claiming handicap on Friday night, this one coming in 1:54:4; Union Man Hanover (Andrew McCarthy, Tracy Brainard), who moved up his claiming price on Saturday night to $25,000 and still easily scored his third straight victory, this one in 1:51:4 in the slop; and Request For Parole (Anthony Napolitano, Ron Burke), a mare who followed up a win at The Meadowlands with a victory in Friday night’s featured pace in 1:49:2, the fastest time posted at Pocono this past week.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: AUSPICIOUS HANOVER

When I’m making the morning line odds for some of the top condition races on the card at Pocono, it’s always difficult to assign long odds to horses with strong performance backgrounds. There have to be long shots in every race, of course, so I grit my teeth and hope the public sees it the same way. That’s my way of explaining how a horse as solid as Auspicious Hanover could ever get away at 25-1 like he did on Saturday night.

The 4-year-old gelding from the Chris Oakes barn was coming into the condition trot for non-winners of $22,500 in the last five races, which carried the week’s top trotting purse of $24,000, off a 6th-place finish at Saratoga, but that was in an Open Handicap. Prior to that he had ripped off back-to-back wins at middling prices on the 5/8-mile oval at Harrah’s. Yet he was way back in the betting pecking order, with Madewell Hanover the even-money choice.

None of that mattered once the race started. Driver Kevin Wallis urged Auspicious Hanover to the lead at the quarter in a zippy :26:4. He was able to rate things much more reasonably through the middle portion of the race though, so that Auspicious Hanover didn’t just withstand the late pursuit of Madewell Hanover, but he actually lengthened the lead at the line to 2 ¼ lengths with a winning time of 1:54:1 in the slop. The win payout was $53.20 on a $2 ticket, so those who waded through the talented field to find the merits of this talented gelding were definitely rewarded.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Can I Say (Tom Jackson, Douglas Berkeley), a mare who beat the boys in a tough condition race on Saturday night in 1:54:1 in the slop; Demons N Diamonds (Simon Allard, John McDermott), a filly who stepped up in class on Sunday night and ripped off her second straight win, this one in a career-best time of 1:54; and Born To Fight (George Napolitano Jr., Mark Ford), who stepped up in class on Tuesday night to win his second straight condition won, this one coming in 1:55:2 in the slop.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: BLINTZ

This filly made here maiden victory a memorable one on Sunday night, scoring for trainer/driver Bob Krivelin at 55-1, paying off $118 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.

On Saturday night we honored George Nap for picking up his 7,000th career victory earlier in the week at Harrah’s, and he reminded us of how he reached that milestone by winning the night’s first three races.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: TRACY BRAINARD

Brainard’s efficiency at Pocono has been off the charts in recent weeks, and two more victories on Saturday continued that torrid training streak.

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.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week In Review

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

October 24-30, 2014

The adage says that speed kills, and nowhere is that more accurate than in the sport of harness racing. Sometimes it pays to be patient and wait for an opportunity to rally in a race, but the most surefire way for a horse to take all the variables out of the equation is to head straight for the front end of the field and go as hard as it can, trusting in its ability to get home above all else. Our top two award winners displayed some serious top-end speed this week. Let’s take a look at their exploits and hand out the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: SPEED AGAIN

It’s always fun to watch a horse improve within the course of a season. When last we saw Speed Again, the 5-year-old gelding from the Ron Burke barn put together an outstanding performance on August 9, scorching a mid-priced condition field in a career-best 1:48:2. Propelled by that big mile, he moved up to face tougher competition in his stint at Harrah’s at Philadelphia.

First he performed well in a trio of races against the winners of over $25,000 grouping at Harrah’s, hitting the board twice and winning once. In his final start there, he stepped up to an Open Handicap group and rolled on the front end to win by two lengths in 1:50:4. His return to Pocono on Saturday would also come in the Open group, against a field that included P H Supercam, a powerhouse who had captured three straight Open Handicaps at Yonkers.

None of that mattered to Speed Again and driver Anthony Napolitano when they powered to the front end right from the first few steps of the race. P H Supercam lurked behind him in the pocket for the whole mile, but Speed Again had an answer for him in the front stretch, holding him off to score by a neck in 1:49. Considering he’s already beating Open fields with consistency, any more improvement by Speed Again would almost be unfair.

Other top pacers include: Lark Seelster (Anthony Napolitano, Luis Collazo), a mare who moved up in class on Tuesday night and scored her second consecutive condition win, this one coming in 1:52:1; McBoogie (George Napolitano Jr., Dean Eckley), who moved up in class and switched barns but still tore up a $15,000 claiming group on Saturday night in 1:52:1 for his third straight win; and I’m Blue Too (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who rallied for a victory in a career-best 1:51:4 in Wednesday night’s Grey Ghost & Poltergeist Pace, Pocono’s annual Halloween-themed race featuring only grey and roan pacers.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: HEZATRAIN

This 5-year-old gelding from the barn of trainer Allan Johnson hit a bit of a bumpy stretch in his season in September and October. After winning five out of seven races to start his campaign, he suffered a streak of four straight races both at Pocono and Saratoga without even hitting the board. He returned to MSPD on October 21 and found his stride against our lowest condition group, rolling to a romping win in a new career-best time of 1:53:3.

Feeling confident once again following that win, Hezatrain moved back up on Tuesday into a condition for non-winners of $8,000 in the last five starts. Once again driver George Napolitano Jr. was determined to hustle the gelding to the front end, but on his effort to get there he encountered some traffic on the first turn and was forced to make an early three-wide move. Even though Hezatrain reached the lead before the front stretch ended, such a tough journey to get there threatened to make him vulnerable.

Those concerns were doused as the race progressed. Hezatrain easily fended off any pressure, lengthening the lead until he was comfortably out in front of the rest. He was able to gear down in the final strides and still beat the rest of the field by a solid four lengths with a winning time of 1:54:3. That’s two straight romps for Hezatrain, a trotter who’s back to his winning ways as the season winds to a close.

Honorable mention on the trotting side includes: Rossini (Howard Parker, Jim Raymer), who dominated a condition field on Saturday night in 1:52:2, a new career-best which matched the fastest of the week at MSPD; Proud Moment (Ron Pierce, Rene Allard), who went a career-best mile of 1:52:2, tied for the fastest trot of the week, to win Tuesday night’s featured claiming handicap trot; and Four Starz Speed (Ron Pierce, Rene Allard), who made it two in a row and three of his last four with a claiming handicap victory on Wednesday night in 1:55.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: LINDY’S FIREWORKS

On a wild Tuesday night full of upsets, this trotting filly topped them all, winning a condition easily with Anthony Napolitano in the bike at 85-1, paying off $172.40 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANTHONY NAPOLITANO

Anthony’s finest year at Pocono continued with a –win week, including victories on Saturday with 24-1 shot Salevster Stallion and on Tuesday with 85-1 bomber Lindy’s Fireworks.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: MIKE WATSON

Watson has been threatening to crack the Top 10 of the Pocono training standings all year long, and his pair of victories on Saturday night will certainly help his cause.

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.