Posts Tagged ‘Sunshine Beach’

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

October 19-25, 2013

The 30th Breeders Crown took place on Saturday at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, and it was everything a racing fan could have possibly hoped for and more. Events as hyped as this rarely live up to their billing, but, if anything, at the end of the night it seemed like no amount of build-up could have prepared the folks who were at Pocono and the thousands all over the world who watched at simulcast sites and on television for what they saw.

Each one of the twelve races deserves an article of their own, so I’ll inevitably have to leave out some of the champions, both of the equine and human variety, that graced our stage. Since those details have been well-reported elsewhere, I thought I’d just give some of my final impressions on the finest single night of racing I’ve ever witnessed.

I had the opportunity to watch all the action from the announcer’s booth, where I called the races in tandem with my buddy Sam McKee of The Meadowlands. It was a good thing there were two of us in the booth, because I don’t think either one of us alone could have handled all that craziness. It seemed that after every race, we would stare at each other mouths agape in either shock or awe at what had just transpired on the track.

With such big money on the line, it made sense that the sport’s finest drivers were entrusted with the reins. Only five different drivers captured victories on the night: Tim Tetrick had three, David Miller, Ron Pierce, and Yannick Gingras had two each, and Brian Sears picked up one. One could say that those are the top five drivers in the sport right now and it would be hard to argue against it. Their choices were almost universally fine on Saturday night, especially Tetrick’s brilliant weaving drive aboard Market Share in the Open Trot.

For all of the brilliance that quintet of drivers displayed throughout, this night was about the horses. The night was marketed on the backs of several superstar horses. For the most part, they all came through, with the exception of  Anndrovette, whose bid for a third straight win in the Open Mares pace came up short in 3rd behind David Miller and Shelliscape.

While most of these big names delivered on their promise, what differed about them was how they accomplished this. Some were simply too good for the rest, like 2-year-old trotter Father Patrick, who dominated his group on the front end, and the sublime Bee A Magician, who stayed unbeaten after 15 starts in her 3-year-old season by beating the sophomore trotting fillies without seeming to break a sweat. I Luv The Nitelife, a 3-year-old pacing filly who lost just once this year in 14 races despite a brutally tough schedule, trailed for much of her race, only to explode in the stretch and leave everybody in the dust.

Yet maybe the two most impressive command performances on the night were two that produced unbearably narrow margins of victory. Captaintreacherous is one of the most celebrated 3-year-old pacers in the history of the sport, but he was out to avenge his only loss this season, a heartbreaking photo finish defeat to Sunshine Beach at Pocono in August. The two hooked up to battle once again in the 3-year-old Colts and Geldings Pace, and for several moments it appeared that Sunshine Beach had the favorite’s number. But what makes the Captain special, as Sam McKee pointed out on race night, is his heart, and he showed every bit of it by digging in to win by a neck.

In the final race of the night, Foiled Again presented a worthy encore to the Captain’s showstopper in the Open Pace. Considering that he’d earned more money that any pacer in North American history coming into the race, anything that the 9-year-old warrior from the Ron Burke barn could give in the final was pure gravy. But one thing that had eluded Foiled Again was the Breeders Crown, so he was all-in for this one.

Driver Yannick Gingras sent Foiled Again to the front past the half-mile marker, but the fractions seemed too steep for him to carry, especially on a sloppy track. Foiled Again gave everything he had to stay on top, only to have a rallying Pet Rock pull up alongside at the line for a photo finish. For a tantalizing minute or so the photo sign stayed up until it disappeared to reveal that Foiled Again was the winner. The normally reserved Gingras gave a euphoric fist pump as the horse returned to the winner’s circle for the perfect exclamation point to the evening.

The Breeders Crown was a simply spectacular event, one that not even the windy and rainy weather could dampen. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity to call another one, but, as far as I’m concerned, I was just part of the best one ever, so it would be pretty hard to top anyway.

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

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

September 13-19, 2013

With only about a month until the Breeders Crown on Saturday, October 19 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, it’s as good a time as any to start looking ahead to how some of the top competitors shape up. Because of the increase in the number of stakes races at Pocono, many more of the North America’s best horses have already traveled over the oval this season than at the same point three years ago when the Breeders Crown was last held at MSPD.

With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at the Top 10 horses in the most recent Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown and see just how well they’ve done this year at Pocono. We’ll count them down in descending order, just like this really good Bob Dylan book I heard about lately.

10. SEVRUGA: This 5-year-old trotting gelding from the Julie Miller barn has won nine of 19 starts this year with earnings of close to $500,000. His first start at Pocono this season was a memorable one, as he ripped off a victory in an Invitational trot in 1:50:3, a new-world record for aged geldings on a 5/8-mile oval. He was upset, however, by Wishing Stone in his last Pocono appearance on Super Stakes Saturday.

9. MAVEN: This 4-year-old trotting gelding is one of the few in the Top 10 who has yet to make an appearance at Pocono in 2013, although fans with longer memories may remember him as a solid performer in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes action at the track as a two and three-year-old. Maven’s biggest success this season has been in Canada, where he in unbeaten in four races for trainer Jonas Czernyson.

8. PET ROCK: A four-year-old pacing stallion from the Virgil Morgan Jr. barn, Pet Rock has had an outstanding season once again in 2013 with earnings north of $600,000. But his story at Pocono has been one of near misses. He finished 3rd and 2nd in the Ben Franklin pace elimination and final in June, then came up just short behind A Rocknroll Dance on Super Stakes Saturday.

7. VEGAS VACATION: Most people have conceded the 3-year-old pacing division to Captaintreacherous, but this gelding trained by Casie Coleman pushed the super-horse to the limit in their last meeting on the Pocono oval, finishing just a nose behind him in the slop in the Max Hempt. He’s been building confidence since then, scoring big-money victories at Tioga and Mohawk.

6. A ROCKNROLL DANCE: Trainer Jim Mulinix hopes the old phrase “horses for courses” applies come Breeders Crown time, because the last two starts this 4-year-old pacer had at Pocono were memorable. In 2012, he turned around a floundering season with a win in the Max Hempt Memorial. His lone start here this season was a win on Super Stakes Saturday in 1:47:4, matching the fastest ever at the track.

5. ROYALTY FOR LIFE: As the Hambletonian winner as well as a victor in several other big stakes races, 2013 has been a great year for Royalty For Life, trained by George Ducharme. Except at Pocono. Back in June, the 3-year-old trotter broke stride in both the elimination and the final for the Earl Beal Jr. In August, he got caught up in a speed duel and faded to 7th as the favorite in the Colonial.

4. FATHER PATRICK: The most celebrated 2-year-old in the country, Father Patrick made his trotting debut at Pocono in July in Pennsylvania All Stars action with a seven-length victory. He returned a few weeks later for another easy score in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. With seven wins in eight races so far for trainer Jimmy Takter, you get the feeling he’ll be tough no matter what track hosts him.

3. I LUV THE NITELIFE: With just one loss in 11 races this season, the pride of the Chris Ryder barn has been without a doubt the class of the 3-year-old pacing fillies division. She has been especially fine at Pocono, winning all three of her races here this year. Included among those were big stakes wins in the James Lynch and the Valley Forge, the latter coming in a world record for her age group of 1:48:4.

2. CAPTAINTREACHEROUS: It took a world-record performance from Sunshine Beach to spoil his unbeaten season at Pocono in the Battle of the Brandywine, and even then it was only in a photo finish. Before that, the Captain overcame a treacherous trip, if you will, to win the Hempt in June. Will the 3-year-old  pacing colt from the Tony Alagna barn step up on Breeders Crown day? Time will tell.

1. BEE A MAGICIAN: The number-one horse in the poll is a relative unknown to Pocono fans, since she’s the only one on this list to have never raced at MSPD. The 3-year-old trotting filly from the Nifty Norman barn has done most of her damage in Canada, but she did stop at The Meadowlands this year to win the Hambletonian Oaks as part of her record of twelve wins in twelve races in 2013.

Those are just some of the horses to watch come October at Pocono. With all of that firepower on display, it should be an amazing 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.