Posts Tagged ‘Sun Stakes Saturday’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

July 8-14, 2017

Coming on the heels of Sun Stakes Saturday, The Pennsylvania All-Stars races have continued the trend of high stakes and thrilling action at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Two weeks ago, the best two-year-olds took center stage, getting their first taste of intense competition in the process. It was an excellent chance for the Pocono faithful to check out some of the future stars of the sport.

This past week it was the three-year-olds who competed in All-Stars action. Even though these horses are a bit more established than their freshman counterparts, the competitiveness of the fields meant that there were plenty of surprises along the way. Next week we’ll get back to the Weekly Awards, but, for now, let’s take a look back at which three-year-olds undoubtedly earned the moniker of All-Star.

THREE-YEAR-OLD COLTS AND GELDINGS ON THE PACE (Sunday)

The so-called glamour division offered three winners who had been seasoned by competing in rugged Max Hempt action the previous two weeks at Pocono. After struggling to eighth in the Hempt final, Eddard Hanover (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke) won a thrilling duel with Last Gunfighter in his split in a career-best 1:50:4. Donttellmeagain (Tim Tetrick, Jo Ann Looney-King), who finished third in the Hempt, picked up an All-Stars win as a 1-9 favorite in 1:51:2. Highalator (George Naplitano Jr., Jenny Bier), who won the Weiss series for his age group at Pocono earlier this season but finished out of the money in his two Hempt tries, bounced back with a gutty victory over Photobombr Hanover in the night’s fastest split of 1:50:3. The big surprise in the division came when Jo Pa’s Somebeach (Brett Miller, Jim Campbell), knocked off heavy favorite Summer Side at 16-1 in 1:51:2.

THREE-YEAR-OLD COLTS AND GELDINGS ON THE TROT (Sunday)

Fans of trainer Jim Campbell had a good night on Sunday. As mentioned, he had a 16-1 winner with Jo Pa’s Somebeach on the pacing side. But that was nothing compared to his trotter Thisguyisonfire, who, with David Miller in the bike, rallied from the clouds to win an All-Stars division in 1:54 at stunning odds of 80-1. The combination of driver Corey Calllahan and trainer John Butenschoen took care of business on Sunday night with a pair of favorites. Dover Dan won his split in 1:53:3, the night’s fastest trotting time among the All-Stars, and then Giveitgasandgo followed that up with a victory in 1:54:1. The remaining division for the sophomore male trotters was captured by Two AM (Tyler Buter, Todd Buter) in mild upset fashion at 9-2, as he rallied late for a victory in 1:54.

THREE-YEAR-OLD FILLIES ON THE PACE (Monday)

It wasn’t a great night for the chalk in the sophomore distaff pacing division. Only one favorite came home a winner out of four divisions; that was Freakonomics (George Napolitano Jr., Ross Croghan), who captured a victory in 1:51:2, fastest time of the group. Driver Brett Miller and trainer Nifty Norman was responsible for two of the surprises. First Perplexed, at 11-1, used a ground-saving trip to rally for a win in 1:52. Then the duo hooked up again with Bridge To Tomorrow, who made the last move in a race where the lead changed hands several times to score in 1:51:4 at 6-1. Meanwhile 9-2 shot Pitttstop Danika (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke) flew up the pylons late to knock off 3-5 favorite Inverse Hanover in 1:52 in another division.

THREE-YEAR-OLD FILLIES ON THE TROT (Tuesday)

As is usually the case with stakes nights, driver David Miller played a big factor. He won the first two splits of the sophomore distaff trotting division, first aboard favorite Vodka N Lindy for trainer George Ducharme in 1:54:2, then with second choice Broadway Idole for trainer Jim Campbell in 1:54:3, with both wins coming on the front end. Crann Tara (Marcus Miller, Linda Toscano), was a first-over, grinding winner in her split at even money in 1:54, while Fine Tuned Lady (Corey Callahan, John Butenschoen) continued the chalky night by winning at 2-5 in 1:54:2. In the night’s final split, Treviso, trained and driven by Charlie Norris, continued her perfect 2017 campaign by coasting to a win in 1:55 to go five-for-five on the season.

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, July 5th, 2017

July 1-7, 2017

It’s always nice when the hype is justified. We’ve been talking about Sun Stakes Saturday for a while now, and that conversation really ramped after some fascinating eliminations. What dominated those discussions was the fact that, unlike in past years, there were no horses that simply dwarfed the fields they were scheduled to face. The four stakes races featured on Saturday figured to be extremely competitive.

And that’s just how it turned out to be. Although the track was listed in fast condition, rain earlier in the afternoon made it a somewhat heavy surface, preventing the times from being too explosive. But the finishes were, for the most part, tight and a little surprising, with only one favorite out of four winning. Let’s take a look at how the action unfolded.

JAMES M. LYNCH MEMORIAL PACE for three-year-old fillies

The betting favorite was Tequila Monday, who had the fastest elimination victory and drew an inside post. But that filly simply never factored into the action, finishing a disappointing eighth. Idyllic Beach was the surprising pace setter from an outside post, but she, and everybody else in the field, had little chance to respond once Agent Q started rolling first-over. After finishing second in a pair of big-money stakes races earlier this season, the filly trained by Aaron Lambert was not going to be denied in this one. With David Miller in the bike, she zipped by the leaders and coasted home by three lengths in front of 99-1 shot Caviart Ally, tripping the line in 1:51, easily the most convincing winner in the four big stakes races on the night.

MAX C. HEMPT MEMORIAL PACE for three-year-old pacers

The Brian Brown barn is blessed with two special three-year-olds. One of them, Downbytheseaside, was the star of the Hempt eliminations with a stupendous effort for a win. Meanwhile the other, Fear The Dragon, suffered his first loss of the season in his previous start, casting some doubts about his supremacy in the division. In the Hempt final, Downbytheseaside went after the lead from a #8 post, and the early fractions he set to get the engine were cumbersome. Fear The Dragon, on the other hand, saved ground early, found cover on the back stretch, and was in full gear out wide as the field rounded the final turn. With David Miller in the bike, Fear The Dragon took over the late lead and held off a game charge by Funknwaffles to win by three quarters of a length in 1:49:3, reasserting his dominance in the process.

BEN FRNAKLIN PACE for free-for-all pacers

This was the night’s emotional high point. Although the field was stacked with eight superb aged pacers, the two on the inside garnered the attention. Keystone Velocity, trained by Pocono’s leading trainer Rene Allard and driven by Pocono regular Simon Allard, had the inside post and watched as the 3-5 favorite Mel Mara set the pace. Although the fractions were zippy, they weren’t the kind that would cause a horse like Mel Mara to falter. But Keystone Velocity remained locked in at the pocket, eventually utilizing the passing lane in the stretch. The stretch provided a classic battle. Mel Mara wasn’t giving an inch, but Keystone Velocity was full of firepower on his inside. When the dust cleared, Keystone Velocity added to the incredible season he’s been putting together by heading out Mel Mara in 1:48:4. The emotion came from Simon Allard returning the horse to the Winner’s Circle while standing in the sulky, aping a classic moment from the career of the late, great Herve Filion.

EARL BEAL JR. MEMORIAL for three-year-old trotters

All eyes were on the Ariana G, the first filly to ever compete against the boys in the Beal. She went off as the favorite and had to deal with a tough #8 post position. Unable to make the lead early, she took on pacesetting Long Tom, who, like Ariana G, hadn’t lost in his first three starts this season, with a first-over charge. It looked for all the world like the top two choices would decide it in a stretch duel. But Devious Man had other ideas. The three-year-old colt trained by Julie Miller suffered his first loss of the season in the eliminations in upset fashion, but he wasn’t scared off by the competition in the Beal final, having won a stakes race earlier this season at Vernon that carried a $252,000 purse. Driver Andy Miller settled Devious Man in behind the speed duel between Long Tom and Ariana G. When the field reached the top of the lane, Devious Man had the passing lane all to himself, and he scooted by to beat Long Tom by 1 ¼ lengths in 1:52:4 as a 15-1 bomber.

That will do it for this week at Pocono, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com.

Sun Stakes Saturday July 1st – When the stars shine SO bright

Monday, June 26th, 2017

The stars will be out in full brilliance this Saturday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, which is proud to host the $2,169,500 Sun Stakes Saturday card, including a collection of four major races: the $500,000 Ben Franklin Championship for pacing free-for-allers, the $500,000 Earl Beal Championship for three-year-old trotters, the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Championship for three-year-old pacing colts, and the $300,000 James Lynch Championship for three-year-old pacing fillies.

The horses earned their way into these Championship by finishing in the top three in their elimination races last Saturday – a couple of highly-regarded horses did not make the cut, but many of those will be racing in the consolation races for the four events throughout the card. The draw for this Saturday’s Championship events was conducted as an open draw – which, as always, helped the chances of some and may be a hindrance to some others. There will be no betting-coupled entries.

The four Championships will be races nine through twelve on Saturday’s 14-race card. Below is a preview of each Championship as they are being held from front to back on the card, followed by the entire field by post with driver and trainer, and then a paragraph on its consolation race.

$300,000 JAMES LYNCH CHAMPIONSHIP for three-year-old pacing fillies – race 9

The three elimination winners all drew in the middle of the gate or inside that, with the two most likely to draw attention, Tequila Monday and Agent Q, starting from posts one and four respectively. The American Ideal filly Tequila Monday, who won her elimination by a nose over Idyllic Beach in the elims’ fastest time of 1:50.4, may again try to go wire-to-wire from the pole as she did last week for driver Brian Sears, trainer Chris Oakes, and owners Susan Oakes and Chuck Pompey. Agent Q also favors speedy tactics, and went wire-to-wire last week in 1:51.1 for driver David Miller and trainer Aaron Lambert; Martin Scharf shares ownership in the Western Terror filly with Rochetti Cassar Racing and Robert Muscara.

Idyllic Beach, last year’s North American divisional champion and just shaded by Tequila Monday in the fastest elim last week, had a major monkey wrench thrown into her plans for victory when she drew the outside post nine; driver Yannick Gingras will need both sulky creativity and racing luck to overcome this tough starting slot.

The $300,000 JAMES LYNCH CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD: 1, Tequila Monday, Brian Sears, Chris Oakes; 2, Big City Betty, Jim Marohn Jr., Steve Salerno; 3, Inverse Hanover, Tim Tetrick, Nifty Norman; 4, Agent Q, David Miller, Aaron Lambert; 5, Brazuca, Corey Callahan, Tom Cancelliere; 6, Bettor’s Up, Doug McNair, Scott Mceneny; 7, Misqued, Steve Smith, John Balzer; 8, Caviart Ally, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley; 9, Idyllic Beach, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter.

$50,000 Lynch Consolation (race 2): Roaring To Go, 2-1 in the elim won by Brazuca, was used in a 26.1 opening quarter and could only manage a dead-heat for fourth; the rail gives her a good chance to race well-placed throughout. The fastest clocking of all the Lynch consolation entrants from last week, 1:51.4 by YS Tallia, will find that fourth-place finisher starting from post five here.

$500,000 MAX C. HEMPT CHAMPIONSHIP for three-year-old pacing colts – race 10

The two superstar colts from the Brian Brown stable – Fear The Dragon and Downbytheseaside – find themselves sharing the headliners’ spotlight with Miso Fast, who halted the 2017 undefeated string of the “Dragon” with a powerful victory last week.

Fear The Dragon had been put on the lead in his elimination, but driver Matt Kakaley got an instantaneous burst from the Roll With Joe colt Miso Fast when he asked him off the second turn, smoking his personal third quarter in 26.2 to open up a big lead, then having enough to come home in 26.4 to post the victory in 1:49.2 for trainer Ron Burke and the ownership of Burke Racing Stable LLC, Our Horse Cents Stables, and J&T Silva Stables LLC. Miso Fast starts from post four Saturday as he tries to put together a repeat performance.

Fear The Dragon, #1 in the North American Top Ten poll of harness horses going into the race, was certainly not disgraced in the mile – in fact, he came his last quarter in 26.2, faster than did Miso Fast, and regained all but 1½ lengths of Miso Fast’s huge advantage. The Dragon Again colt drew the rail in the Hempt Championship for driver David Miller and the Emerald Highlands Farm.

The other Brown sophomore star, Downbytheseaside, also posted a 1:49.2 clocking in winning his elimination, showing determination with horses charging at him late. Downbytheseaside had his chances hurt a bit when he drew post eight, but he figures to work his way into the mix for “Team Brian”’s other partner, driver Brian Sears, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame the next day.

The $500,000 MAX C. HEMPT CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD: 1, Fear The Dragon, David Miller, Brian Brown; 2, Santafe’s Coach, Anthony Napolitano, Leo Iordan; 3, Funknwaffles, Corey Callahan, John Butenschoen; 4, Miso Fast, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 5, Boogie Shuffle, Scott Zeron, Mark Harder; 6, Ozone Blue Chip, Brett Miller, Ron Coyne Jr.; 7, Donttellmeagain, Tim Tetrick, Jo Ann Looney-King; 8, Downbytheseaside, Brian Sears, Brian Brown; 9, Eddard Hanover, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke.

$75,000 Hempt Consolation (race 7): Every Way Out and Blood Brother were 6-5 and 2-1 respectively in their elimination last week, but both broke stride. Every Way Out will get a chance for redemption in the consolation, starting from post four; that possibility of redemption is extremely low for Blood Brother, as he became the AE1 in the draw and will not race unless there is a scratch in the Championship or the consolation.

$500,000 BEN FRANKLIN CHAMPIONSHIP for free-for-all pacers – race 11:

Two of the Franklin elimination winners, Keystone Velocity and Mel Mara, drew posts one and two, respectively, and a victory would make either one a career millionaire. The other elim winner, Dealt A Winner, was dealt post seven at the pill shake, and he shows only one call in eight racelines better than third at the quarter, meaning he may be staring at a difficult trip for David Miller. (Another numerological shudder for Dealt A Winner: should he triumph, his earnings would stand at $999,290.)

Keystone Velocity went a tick faster than did Mel Mara in winning his elim, 1:48.3 vs. 1:48.4, but Keystone Velocity was rallying off of a 1:20.3 ¾ time put up by Freaky Feet Pete, and just made the lead in the shadow of the wire, while Mel Mara showed a powerful early rush, went to the half in 53 under his own steam, and then drew away in the stretch to a 3½-length victory for driver Corey Callahan. With three wins and a second in four seasonal races, the son of Lis Mara will certainly be one of if not the favorite to win the Franklin jackpot for trainer Dylan Davis and owners Robert Cooper Stables LLC and J&T Silva Stables LLC.

The $500,000 BEN FRANKLIN CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD: 1, Keystone Velocity, Simon Allard, Rene Allard; 2, Mel Mara, Corey Callahan, Dylan Davis; 3, All Bets Off, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 4, Rockin Ron, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 5, Mach It So, Tim Tetrick, Jeff Bamond Jr., 6, Rock N’ Roll World, Brian Sears, Jeff Cullipher; 7, Dealt A Winner, David Miller, Mark Silva; 8, Boston Red Rocks, Tim Tetrick also listed, Steve Elliott; 9, Shamballa, Scott Zeron, Rick Zeron.

$75,000 Franklin consolation (race 8): The two biggest surprises from the elims missing out on the final were McWicked and Freaky Feet Pete. McWicked did not even enter into the consolation event, but Freaky Feet did, though he’ll have to deal with the outside post nine. In his elim, he rolled to the ¾ in 1:20.3 in his seasonal debut before tiring; he certainly can be tighter here.

$500,000 EARL BEAL CHAMPIONSHIP, for three-year-old trotters – race 12

The three Beal elimination winners drew posts one, two, and eight.

The filly got post eight.

Ariana G, a superstar sophomore trotting filly challenging the colts in the Beal, won her elimination race in hand, finishing out her 1:53.4 victory in 27.3 without drawing a labored breath. There may be a labored breath or two required this week from the tough starting slot, although the Muscle Hill filly, who won in 1:51.1 at The Meadowlands two starts ago, must still be rated the favorite to give driver Yannick Gingras his fourth straight win in the Beal (Father Patrick, Pinkman, Southwind Frank) as he steers for trainer Jimmy Takter and the partnership of breeders Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld.

Long Tom took his elim in 1:52.3 and may provide the main opposition to Ariana G for driver Tim Tetrick and trainer Marcus Melander, while Perfect Spirit, who scooted up the far inside to post a 23-1 upset in 1:54.1, has already had her trainer Åke Svanstedt read the writing on the wall and list David Miller as his candidate to replace his filly’s driver from last week – Gingras.

The $500,000 EARL BEAL CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD: 1, Long Tom, Tim Tetrick, Marcus Melander; 2, Perfect Spirit, David Miller, Åke Svanstedt; 3, Sortie, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley; 4, Moonshiner Hanover, Scott Zeron, Christopher Beaver; 5, Bill’s Man, Corey Callahan; 6, Lucky Matter, David Miller also listed, Christopher Beaver; 7, Devious Man, Andy Miller, Julie Miller; 8, Ariana G (*filly), Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 9, Dover Dan, Brett Miller, John Butenschoen.

$75,000 Beal consolation (race 5): One of the likely favorites would have been Rubio, who went offstride in his elim, but like Blood Brother, he drew AE1 and will not race unless there is a scratch in either of the Beal events. Giveitgasandgo, the 2016 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champion, sat right behind Long Tom much of last week, but could only finish fourth; despite PP8 he should get attention in a balanced grouping.

FINISHING LINES – The sixth race, a $25,000 winners-over handicap pace, is named the Herve Filion Memorial, in honor of the incomparable Hall of Fame sulky wizard and former Pocono regular who passed away last week at age 77 … The first race on the huge Saturday card lists a 6:30 post time.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

June 17-23, 2017

Next week in this space we’ll be detailing all of the action from the Sun Stakes eliminations, which take place on Saturday night, June 24. On that night, the sport’s superstars will be congregating at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono to battle it out in an effort to reach the high-stakes finals the following week. In the meantime, we witnessed an excellent four nights of racing just past, the best of which will be highlighted now in the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: ONE TO DRAW TO

For the second straight week, this award goes to a claimer on an impressive winning streak. Last week, it was Tell Us More, who, by the way, added another win on Saturday night to make it five in a row. This week the honors go to One To Draw To, a five-year-old gelding who came into Saturday night’s $25,000 claiming pace for four and five-year-olds with two consecutive wins in that class in front-pacing fashion.

Hot claimers are subject to switch barns, and One To Draw To was indeed claimed from his victory on June 10, leaving the Rene Allard barn and joining Steve Salerno’s contingent of racers. His first start for the new barn looked a lot like the previous two for the old barn. Leaving from post position #1 in a field of nine as a 7-5 favorite, the gelding quickly took control of the pace with Anthony Napolitano doing the driving. The fractions he set were merciless, even faster than he had in his previous two victories.

Anyone hoping that those quick early times would lead to a late comeuppance had another thing coming. Despite pressure from Next Success, a formidable presence who won this award earlier in the meet, One To Draw To held string through the lane, winning by 1 ¾ lengths. The winning time was a real eye-popper, as the gelding came home in 1:49:3, a new career-mark and the fastest pacing time laid down this past week at Pocono.

Other top pacers include: Baby Kitty (Simon Allard, Eric Foster), who moved up the condition ladder to win his second straight at Pocono on Saturday night, this one coming in a career-best 1:50:1; Art Of Illusion (Jim Marohn Jr., James Guagliardo), who scored his second straight victory over the $15,000 claimers on Saturday night, doing so in a career-best 1:50:4; and Deerfield Beach (Corey Callahan, Dylan Davis), whose victory on Sunday night in a condition pace on a sloppy track in 1:51:4 gave the three-year-old gelding wins in four of his last five races.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: TIRADE HANOVER

This seven-year-old gelding trained by Rene Allard has put together an accomplished career, with earnings pushing near $800,000. But he had been in a little bit of a slump until managing a big effort from the #9 post to win a condition trot on June 5 in 1:54:4. That proved to be the impetus for a step up in class, as Saturday night Tirade Hanover jumped up a couple notches on the condition ladder to face off against a $14,000 group.

Although he won his previous start on the front end, Tirade Hanover raced toward the back of the back early on this time around. It proved to be a good choice by driver Simon Allard, because a raging speed duel between Madhatter Bluechip and Armor Hanover created unsustainable fractions. Allard chose a three-wide path on the back stretch for his charge, and the horse picked off the foes in front of him until he took the lead rounding the final turn.

In the stretch, Tirade Hanover had to deal with a late move from 3-5 favorite Wilberforce, but he proved ready for the challenge, holding him off by a length for the win. His winning time of 1:53:1 was a personal best for the 2017 season to date, and he also provided nice value for his backers at 5-1. With a two-race winning streak that was achieved with two extremely different strategies, Tirade Hanover has proven to be as versatile as he is quick.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Top Dollar (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who ripped off his second straight condition win on Saturday night, achieving a new career-best time of 1:53:1 in the process; Treviso (Charlie Norris driver and trainer), who stayed a perfect four-for-four in 2017 with a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes win against other three-year-old fillies on Sunday night in 1:54:2; and Overdraft Volo (Andy Miller, Julie Miller), a filly who followed up a Sire Stakes win at Chester with another at Pocono Sunday night, getting it done in a career-best 1:54:3.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: ABOUT THE BENJAMINS

With Marcus Miller in the bike, this condition pacer sprung a surprise on Sunday night with a rallying win at 16-1, paying off $34.20 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MARCUS MILLER

Miller not only scored wins on every racing night this past week and had multiple victories on three of those nights for his best stretch of the meet thus far.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: DOUG HAMILTON

Monday was a good night at the Stallion Series for three-year-old trotting fillies for the Hamilton barn, as Itsgoodtobequeen won at 13-1 and Out Of Luck picked up a victory at 10-1.

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 Take 2 for the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

The Standardbred trotters and pacers will begin their 52nd season of pari-mutuel harness racing in northeast Pennsylvania this Tuesday evening, March 21, as The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono will present the first of 135 cards of the sulky sport scheduled for 2017, with Tuesday’s first race marked for 6:30 p.m.

The racing was set to begin on Saturday night the 18th, but two feet of snow at the mountain oval this past Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by high winds that caused considerable drifting in places, put paid to that idea, as for the safety of the horses and horsemen it was imperative to do a thorough job of track preparation, and thus the opener was pushed back until Tuesday.

The highlight of the 2017 Pocono season will come on Saturday, July 1, with the $2 million+ Sun Stakes Saturday card, which annually draws the sport’s best horses over several of the major categories. It was recently announced that Wiggle It Jiggleit, 2015 Harness Horse of the Year at age three and the fierce seasonlong rival of 2016 Harness Horse of the Year Always B Miki, will make his debut for the year in the Franklin Pace elimination races, to be held on Saturday, June 24.

And speaking of Wiggle It Jiggleit – the very first race of the 2017 racing season at Pocono, a $14,000 pace for “non-winners of three races or $30,000 lifetime,” is likely to have as its chalk, starting from post three, a stablemate to “Wiggle,” from the Bergstein/Proximity Award-winning Team Teague of owner George, driver Montrell, and trainer Clyde Francis. This three-year-old Delmarvalous gelding – who is 3 for 4 in his brief career – is named Nine Ways (nine is of course three times three), and his fastest win is in 1:53. (That’s a lot of coincidental numerology.)

The fifth race companion “nw 3” trotting event to the opener finds the sophomore filly Gin’s Tonic drawing the rail as she makes her first start of the year for local trainer Neal Ehrhart. The daughter of Muscle Massive had only one victory at two, but she picked a fine spot to notch it – in a division of the Keystone Classic at The Meadows, where she earned a mark of 1:56.3.

Older campaigners will be spotlighted in a pair of $12,500 events. The ninth race trot finds veterans ABC Muscles Boy and My Love Bi, who both took their 2016 marks of 1:53.3 at Pocono, coming into this race off promising early-season form, while the tenth race mares pace sports no fewer than six distaffs who have won since February 1, all of them in 1:54.1 or better in all kinds of wintry conditions.

Pocono’s all-time driving champion George Napolitano Jr. will be on the scene from opening night, coming up from Florida, where he already has shown himself in “midseason form” with a 27% win rate; his brother Anthony, second in the standings last year, will also have a full driving schedule from the word “go.”

The basic racing schedule at Pocono follows a Saturday through Tuesday basis, with first post at 6:30 except on Sundays, when the action starts an hour later. After Tuesday the 21st, Pocono is scheduled to race on Saturday-Sunday-Tuesday of the “following racing week” (March 25-28), with Mondays joining the mix on April 10.

A press conference/luncheon will be held at the track at 12 noon on Monday, with Pocono officials and horsemen on hand to take part in a preview of what should be a quality season of racing at The Downs. Pocono’s person of contact for media is Jennifer Starr, 570.831.2195.