Posts Tagged ‘Van Rose Memorial’

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, May 10th, 2017

May 6-12, 2017

It was a particularly busy week of racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Due to the doubleheader on Kentucky Derby day, we enjoyed five racing cards in a four-day stretch. That means that we have even more candidates for the Weekly Awards than usual. As it turns out, though, picking the top two horses of the week was an easy matter, as it came down to the winners of the week’s two biggest purses. Here now are the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: BARIMAH A

In Saturday night’s Van Rose Memorial pace, which carried a purse of $50,000, Barimah A, a seven-year-old gelding from the Scott DiDomenico barn, went off at 14-1. This was despite the fact that he won the previous week’s featured pace at Pocono in a career-best 1:50 and despite his drawing the inside post. The betting attention, understandably, went to some of the millionaires in the field, horses like Sunfire Blue Chip, Somewhere in L A and McWicked who were coming in from the rugged early-season races at Yonkers.

The sloppy track did not dissuade the superstars in the field from going for the engine with reckless abandon. Three different horses led in the first three-eighths of a mile, and the fractions created by the speed duel were ruthless: 25:4; 53:1, and 1:20:4. At the top of the stretch Somewhere in L A was on top, Mach It So was hounding him first-over, and favorite Sunfire Blue Chip overcame some tiring cover on the back stretch to rally again in the passing lane.

All of those horses were very close to the blistering pace for much of the mile. The difference for Barimah A was that driver Pat Berry kept him back early, only asking for some kick on the back stretch. As they rounded the final turn, Barimah A was firing on all cylinders, and he eventually outpaced Sunfire Blue Chip in the final strides to get up for the victory by a head. His winning time of 1:50 matched the career-mark he set in the win the previous week, although it was even more impressive this time around because of the sloppy conditions.

Other top pacers this week include: Brickman (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who switched barns and still scored his third straight victory over $25,000 claimers on Saturday night, winning in the slop in 1:53:1; Inspiration View (Jim Marohn Jr., Ron Burke), who moved up the ladder to win a second consecutive condition race on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:52:1 in the slop; and Tempus Seelster (Jim Marohn Jr., Tony Dinges), a mare who picked up her third straight victory, two of which have come at Pocono, with a condition victory on Tuesday night in a career-best 1:50:1.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: OOH RAH

On Tuesday night, the last of the Bobby Weiss late closer series finals was held. In this case, it was the three and four-year-old trotting colts, stallions and geldings going at it for the $30,000 purse. The preliminary legs had seen several horses step up with solid performances, but Ooh Rah, a four-year-old gelding trained by Kathleen La Montagne, stamped himself as the favorite by winning three of his four starts in the series.

In the final, Ooh Rah left from post position #3 in a field of nine as the 3-5 betting favorite. After sitting third early, driver George Napolitano Jr. decided he wanted to be in charge with the favorite. Ooh Rah swooped past Hilarious Hero on the front stretch to take over the lead. Although Uncle Leroy made a first-over brush, the leader never seemed to feel the pressure and was able to cut out the mile at a relatively leisurely pace.

That came into play late, when Hilarious Hero popped out of the pocket in the stretch ready for a fight. Ooh Rah had energy to spare, powering home to hold off Hilarious Hero by a length. The winning time of 1:55 was faster than any horse had been able to post in any of the previous Weiss legs in this group, and it also marked a career-best for Ooh Rah, a deserving and dominant champ of the division.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Tuonoblu Rex (Andy Miller, Julie Miller) who followed up a win at The Meadowlands in his U.S. debut with an easy victory in the slop on Sunday at Pocono over a tough condition field in 1:53:1, easily the fastest trotting time of the week; Andy Ray (Marcus Miller, Jim Campbell), who rallied on Saturday night for a condition win in the slop in 1:57, giving him victories in the last three starts he’s made at Pocono; and Meme Hanover (Charlie Norris trainer and driver), a colt who followed up his maiden victory with a condition win on Monday night in 1:56:1, matching his career-best time.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: OOH DEAR SAM

With Anthony Morgan in the bike, this veteran pacer surprised a field of claimers on Saturday night to the tune of 26-1, paying out $54.80 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: JIM MAROHN JR.

Marohn seemed to enjoy the daylight hours on Saturday, winning four out of ten races on the matinee card before returning for another victory on Saturday night.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: TONY DINGES

The Dinges barn was all about efficiency on Tuesday night, sending out three starters and earning victories in every one of those races.

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

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

May 2-8, 2015

We’re coming a fun week of racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, featuring five racing cards in four calendar dates thanks to a doubleheader card on Kentucky Derby. We also had the first appearance of the always-thrilling Pennsylvania All Stars races and our first major invitational race of the season, the $50,000 Van Rose Memorial on Saturday night. So let’s take a look at this heady week of action by handing out some Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: DOMETHATAGAIN

Held each year in honor of a local sportswriter who did an amazing job highlighting the action at Pocono over his long career, the Van Rose Memorial drew an especially impressive group of pacers for the 2015 edition. The favorite was understandably Domethatagain, a six-year-old stallion who was not only coming off a win in the prestigious Levy at Yonkers, but also boasted the driver/trainer combination of Simon Allard and Rene Allard, who have been dominating Saturday night action at Pocono.

Yet despite the half-million dollar race he just bagged and the hot connections, Domethatagain was a somewhat tepid 2-1 choice on the board. Part of that was due to the balance of the field, and maybe part was based on the notion that he had lucked out in the Levy with a great trip. But there’s a skill in the ability to find that pocket, and Domethatagain did it again in the Rose on Saturday night, tucking in early behind pacesetting Bandolito.

Bandoilito had to go hard on the back stretch to hold off the first-over pressure of Dancin Yankee, leaving him ripe for someone coming from behind. Since Domethatagain was sitting only a length back, he didn’t have far to come in the passing lane to get past. Simon Allard asked and the stallion responded, blowing by to win a length in 1:49, fastest time of the 2015 meet at Pocono so far. If he keeps winning against the best of the best, no matter how he does it, you won’t be able to get such favorable odds on Domethatagain anytime soon.

Other top pacers this week include: Rocky Mountain Guy (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who picked up his second straight condition win on Saturday afternoon and did so in a career-best time of 1:50:4; Caviart Shelly (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), a mare who rolled to her second straight condition win on Tuesday night, this time in a career-best 1:51:4; and Arodasi (Joe Pavia Jr. driver and trainer), who moved up in class and won her second straight condition race for mares on Wednesday night, this one in 1:52:1.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SIM BROWN

His name sounds like a computerized approximation of the former Cleveland Brown running back Jim Brown. And this 7-year-old gelding has been racing lately with the same kind of bruising authority. In his start in April 25, he handled a tough condition group on the front end in 1:54:4 for trainer Carmen Auciello. On Saturday night, he moved up in class to face the non-winners of $20,000 in the last five starts for a purse of $22,000.

With Wisenheimer setting a furious pace, Sim Brown stayed third on the inside early. Driver George Napolitano Jr. took a chance that there would be racing room for his horse late, which seemed doubtful for a while as the outer flow moved up alongside him. But Wisenheimer’s quick numbers caused the outside horses to falter, allowing Sim Brown room to roam at the top of the stretch.

Sim Brown may have had the racing luck break his way, but he had to have the goods to take advantage of it. Napolitano called for late kick and he responded by zipping by the leaders with a powerful brush. He ended up winning by a length-and-a-half over Bouncing Bax in 1:53, a new career mark and the fastest trotting time of the week. With two straight winning efforts, this talented trotter is living up to his Hall-of-Fame name.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Upfront Billy (George Napolitano Jr., Mark Ford), who powered to an easy condition victory on Saturday, his second straight, in 1:54; Oh My Darlin (Ake Svanstedt driver and trainer), a filly who followed up her maiden win with a condition victory on Tuesday night in a new career mark of 1:55:3; and Ali De Vie (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), whose claiming handicap victory on Wednesday night in 1:55:1 was his second straight overall and his fourth straight when racing at Pocono.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: DAVID ON ICE

This condition pacer came from way off the pace with Marcus Miller to surprise in Saturday night’s last race, scoring at 21-1 for a $45.80 payout on a $2 win bet.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANTHONY NAPOLITANO

Anthony scored wins in all five of our racing cards this past week, and was especially fine under the bright lights on Saturday night with three victories.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: KEVIN LARE

Lare has been very effective in the early part of the season at Pocono, and this week he scored a pair of winners on Saturday night and one more on Sunday.

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, June 3rd, 2014

May 17-23, 2014

In this space, we usually hand out the Weekly Awards. But every now and again, we deviate from our formula due to something special taking place at the track. In this case, it was Saturday night’s racing card, which featured the first appearance of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, a world-record performance, and a young driver who nearly stole the show from everybody.

Regular watchers know just how fantastic the racing is Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs has become over the past few years. But nights like Saturday evening that go a little above and beyond are always special. Let’s take a look at some of the spectacular moments from the night.

If you’ve been to the track enough, you’ll hear the phrase that a horse “needs a start” from handicappers. What it means is that a horse is coming off a long layoff and isn’t expected to perform at its peak the first time back. While that might have been a good rule in the past, I find it to be less and less reliable as time passes.

For example, take Saturday night’s Pennsylvania Sire Stakes action for 3-year-old colts and geldings on the pace. In the first split of the night, Tellitlikeitis, a big earner as a 2-year-old for the Jimmy Takter barn, was making his first start since September. Two outstanding qualifiers must have prepared him enough though, because driver Brett Miller positioned him in the pocket and then blew by pacesetter Limelight Beach in the stretch to score in a scorching 1:49:1, the first of many sizzling times achieved on the night.

Ironically, the horse that finished second behind Tellitlikeitis in one of those qualifiers at The Meadowlands was Somestarsomewhere, and he proved to be ready for his close-up as well. With Matt Kakaley in the bike for trainer Ron Burke, the colt, who hadn’t raced since finishing third in the Breeders Crown in October, won a thrilling stretch battle in his Sire Stakes division in 1:50:3.

The other two Sire Stakes winners had good stories as well. At Press Time, another one guided by Burke and Kakaley, bounced back from a 4th-place finish in an overnight race at Pocono in his last start to pull off a 10-1 upset in his division in 1:49:1. And the night’s most dominant performance was turned in by Let’s Drink On It, who arrived from Indiana and rolled to a convincing win in the night’s fastest Sire Stakes time of 1:49. Tyler Smith did the driving for trainer Joe Seekman.

If Smith seems like an unfamiliar name, it’s because the 21-year-old driver, who usually does his racing in Indiana, was making his first appearance at Pocono. And what a debut it was. In addition to the win aboard Let’s Drink On It, Smith also picked up wins aboard McMarvel at 21-1 and Arsenal at 11-1. He had five starts on the night and picked up three victories and a show, and if you bet the horses he drove $2 across the board all night, you would have walked away with a profit of $88.90. The bettors are probably hoping Smith comes back soon; I’m not so sure if the other drivers will be as anxious to see him again.

For all of the drama and excitement of the Sire Stakes, Dancin Yankee had something even better in store for the faithful in the $25,000 Preferred pace. Last seen winning the Van Rose Memorial at Pocono two weeks previous to Saturday night, he returned to action with a performance for the ages. He took the lead with an incredibly fast brush in the front stretch, reaching the half in 52:2 to give an indication that this race could be one for the record books.

The 6-year-old stallion from the Josh Green barn had to fight off a first-over charge from Mach It So on the back stretch, which seemed like it might leave him vulnerable to pocket horse Clear Vision coming home. But driver Brett Miller asked Dancin Yankee for a little more and he gave a lot, holding off Clear Vision by a neck in 1:47:2. Not only was that the fastest time ever posted at Pocono, it matched the speediest time ever recorded on a 5/8-mile oval.

Dancin Yankee’s performance thrilled about everyone in attendance, with the possible exception of Anderlecht. The 9-year-old stallion won the 13th race in an eye-popping 1:48. That time would have set the track record for aged stallions on the pace at the start of the night. But, alas, Dancin Yankee beat him to it with a time that was three-fifths of a second faster.

The moral of the story is that, on a night as stellar as Saturday night at Pocono, even the extraordinary can seem just OK.

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.

 

Dancin Yankee Matches World Record at Pocono

Friday, May 30th, 2014

May 17, 2014

Dancin Yankee won the $25,000 Preferred pace on Saturday night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, but the real story was his time, which was the fastest ever at Pocono and matched the world record for fastest pace on a 5/8-mile oval.

Fresh off a win in the Van Rose Memorial pace at Pocono in his previous start, Dancin Yankee (Yankee Cruiser-Dancewiththebest), the 4-5 favorite from an outside post in a field of six, took over the lead with a blinding burst of speed on the front stretch. With Brett Miller in the bike, the 6-year-old stallion from the Josh Green barn had to endure a first-over challenge on the back stretch from Mach It So  and a home stretch battle from pocket horse Clear Vision, eventually prevailing over the latter by a neck with Feel Like A Fool finishing third.

The fractional times for the mile were :26, :52:2, 1:20:1, and 1:47:2. That winning time broke Pocono’s all-time mark of 1:47:4, which was accomplished three times in 2013. It also matched the fastest mile ever paced on a 5/8-mile oval, which was first set last year by Pet Rock at Scioto Downs. In addition, Dancin Yankee sets a new world record for aged stallions on the pace with the winning time.

Dancin Yankee, owned by Baron Racing Stable and Richard Lombardo, won for the 8th time in 14 races this season. He now has 32 lifetime victories and career earnings of $778,922.