Posts Tagged ‘Victor Kirby’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

April 29-May 5, 2017

For the past month, some excellent young horses have been battling it out at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in the Bobby Weiss late closer series. The series, named after the longtime Pocono track superintendent responsible for overseeing a track surface considered one of the fastest and safest around, pits horses of the same genders and gaits against one another in preliminary legs to determine which will make it to the finals.

Those finals began this past week, with three of the four divisions being decided. (One more is still to come: The male trotters, which we will detail in this space next week.) With $30,000 on the line in each of the final races, the competition was as rugged as you might expect. Let’s take a look at how those final races went down.

THREE AND FOUR-YEAR-OLD PACING COLTS, STALLIONS AND GELDINGS

One of the things that often happens during the Weiss is a horse dominates the preliminary legs when facing small fields but then struggles in the final with a full nine-horse field. Highalator, the even-money favorite in this Monday night final, certainly could have fallen victim to that. The three-year-old colt, trained by Jenny Bier, left from post position #4 with an eight-race winning streak on the line. When he briefly lost the lead on the front stretch, driver Victor Kirby decided that was unacceptable and sent Highalator right back out for the retake at the half-mile marker.

From there, he had to endure a stiff first-over challenge from Dakota Jack. At the top of the stretch, Dakota Jack, three-wide Rough Odds, and pocket horse Dash Of Danger all came up strong. Highalator responded pushing away from the pursuit. Rough Odds provided the staunchest test, closing to within a neck at the finish line but coming up short. Highaltor’s championship victory, and ninth win in a row, came in a new career mark of 1:51:1. It was a clutch performance by a horse who just refuses to lose these days.

THREE AND FOUR-YEAR-OLD PACING FILLIES AND MARES

Going into the Weiss distaff final on Sunday night, a four-year-old mare named Cousin Mary had clearly distinguished herself as the one to beat. Trained by Andrew Harris, she swept three preliminary legs, each time as an odds-on favorite. That was on the heels of winning the Petticoat series at Yonkers. She came into the final having won ten of twelve races on the season, and unsurprisingly was installed as the 1-5 favorite.

Nor was it surprising when driver Anthony Napolitano hustled Cousin Mary to the front end early. What was a bit of a shock was how A-Nap and the mare were able to get to the half-mile marker at the leisurely pace of 57:4. That meant that the mare could really burn it up in the second half of the mile and, despite a good effort from I Deal In Kisses, she was never really seriously threatened. Cousin Mary rolled home in front by 2 ¾ lengths, and her winning time of 1:51:4, a new career-best, included an incredible 54-second mark for the second half of the mile.

THREE AND FOUR-YEAR-OLD TROTTING FILLIES AND MARES

After Highalator and Cousin Mary delivered as favorites in their respective Weiss divisions, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Checkmate Time would do the same in the distaff trotting group. After all, he had won his lone Weiss preliminary appearance in a time a full two seconds faster than anyone else in the group. But the 1-9 shot made a break as he attempted a second-over move on the front stretch, throwing Monday night’s final into disarray.

Connie Jean set the pace but was hounded first-over by Sunrise Avenue. Whambamthankumaam entered the picture with a three-wide move around the final turn. But it was Abbie’s Celticlass, a 47-1 shot who had been last at the half-mile marker, who found the best stride late. Moving four-wide around the last turn with Matt Kakaley in the bike for trainer Ken Hess Jr., she chased down Whambamthankumaam to pull off a stunner by a half-length in a career-best 1:55:2. It was Kakaley’s first time driving the four-year-old mare, who stepped up when it counted the most for a memorable victory.

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

Monday, April 10th, 2017

April 1-7, 2017

We’re just a few weeks into the racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, but we’re already seeing some horses establishing themselves as ones to watch for the entire meet if they stick around. We’re also getting a good look at how the drivers and trainers’ standings might be shaking out this season. It’s just a small sample size, as they say in baseball, but the first few weeks definitely indicate we are in for one wild ride of a season at Pocono. Here are the Weekly Awards for the week gone by.

PACER OF THE WEEK: CRAFTY MASTER

It’s not very often that we see a horse make the jump from the claiming ranks onto the highest rungs of the condition ladder and have success. Then again, the way things have been going in the first few weeks of the meet for trainer Rene Allard and driver Simon Allard, everything is on the table. So when Crafty Master stepped up to face the featured $15,500 condition pacers on Saturday night, the 6-year-old stallion received respect from the windows and went off as a 9-5 second betting choice.

Crafty Master was coming off back-to-back wins, one in Canada and then on March 25 at Pocono in his first start for the Allard barn against a claiming group. On Saturday night, the stallion sat in the middle of the pack behind a blistering pace set by Lean On You. Simon Allard set him motion first over in the back stretch, but he was unable to corral the lead quickly, meaning that he was parked on the outside all the way around the final turn.

It looked like Ontario Success, the 6-5 favorite who had the excellent pocket trip going behind Lean On You, might be the horse to watch in the stretch. But Crafty Master kept after it despite the extra effort around that last turn. He eventually poked ahead and kept on right on striving until he was 1 ½ lengths ahead of Ontario Success. The winning time for Crafty Master of 1:50:2 was the fastest of the season to date at Pocono and a new career mark, proving that he belongs in the upper echelons of Pocono racing in the early going.

Other top pacers this week include: Next Success (Jim Morrill Jr., Les Givens), who now has three straight wins, the last two at Pocono, after handling a $25,000 claiming field Saturday night in 1:53:1; Dash Of Danger (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), whose victory in the first division of the Bobby Weiss series for pacing colts, stallions and geldings on Sunday night was his second straight at Pocono and came in a new career-best mark of 1:51:4; and Cheap N Easy (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), a mare who moved up the ladder to score her second consecutive win on Tuesday night, this one in 1:53:4.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SWISHNFLICK

It was that kind of week for the Allards; Simon and Rene were in charge of both horses of the week, and those two winners were really just the tip of the iceberg concerning their hot streak at Pocono. Swishnflick, a seven-year-old mare, arrived from Yonkers on March 25, having faced rugged condition competition throughout the early part of the season in New York. She immediately reminded the Pocono faithful of her talent with a front-trotting win in 1:54:1 against a $14,000 condition group.

The mare was back at it on Saturday night, only this time she went up against the $15,500 conditioners and was the only distaff trotter in the field. Leaving from post position #4 in a field of eight as a 5-2 second choice, she immediately settled in behind pacesetting Skates N Plates. The leader was able to get away with relatively soft fractions for the first three-quarters of a mile, meaning that, even from the pocket spot, Swishnflick might have issues rallying.

In the stretch, it was essentially a match race between Skates N Plates and Swishnflick. Simon Allard guided the mare to the inside passing lane, where she found her best stride and powered up past a game Skates N Plates. The mare came across the line a half-length in front in 1:55:4. That gives Swishnflick two straight wins and some serious momentum in the early part of the 2017 campaign.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: ABC Muscles Boy (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), whose condition victory on Saturday night came in 1:54:1, fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono; What A Peach (Simon Allard, Frank Kamine), who, with a claiming handicap win on Sunday night, now has three victories in his last four races; and Hot Mess Hanover (Andrew McCarthy, Joe Pavia Jr.), whose Bobby Weiss series win in the distaff trotters class came in 1:56:3, a new career mark and the fastest split of the group on Tuesday night.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: THREEUPTHREEDOWN

Sunday night got off to a wild start, as this gelding driven by Matt Kakaley overcame the #9 post and rallied furiously for a Race 1 condition trotting victory at 55-1, paying off $119.20 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: VICTOR KIRBY

Kirby made the most of his Sunday night appearance, scoring a pair of victories in the Bobby Weiss series with Highalator and Rewind Again, his only two drives of the evening.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: RENE ALLARD

Allard has really asserted his dominance in the early part of the meet, following up a big first week by scoring a combined eight training victories on Saturday and Sunday 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