Posts Tagged ‘Wild Honey’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

October 24-30, 2015

As we head into the final month of the 2015 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, it’s fun to look back and contemplate what an assemblage of equine talent we were lucky to see this year. As Pocono has ascended in the past decade to become one of the finest tracks in the country, the world’s top standardbreds often make the track an important part of their racing itineraries.

This past Saturday at Woodbine in Canada, the Breeders Crown races, which Pocono has hosted twice before and which serve as the unofficial yearend championships for harness racing’s various divisions, were held. And several of the big winners also spent a little time at MSPD this year, with varying levels of success.

Four of the twelve Breeders Crown champions from Saturday night raced at Pocono at some point this past year. (Two others, Open pacing champ Always B Miki and 2-year-old pacing colt Boston Red Rocks qualified here but never raced under the lights.) So let’s turn our focus to that quartet of big winners, particularly in the context of their 2015 performances at Pocono.

We start with Pure Country, who added an exclamation point to a wondrous debut racing season with her two-year-old pacing win at the Breeders Crown. The Jimmy Takter trainee has won every one of her ten career starts, so she’s been impossible to beat no matter what tracks she frequents. Still there’s a sentimental connection to Pocono, because it was here that she made her racing debut on June 30 in a Pennsylvania All Stars race.

Needless to say, she won that race. She returned in August to pick up another victory, this time against Pennsylvania Sire Stakes competition. This unbelievable unbeaten streak seems likely to continue into her three-year-old campaign next year, at which point we can only hope she returns to the scene of her introduction to the racing public.

Another Jimmy Takter trainee who made his mark at Pocono before busting onto the larger scene is The Bank. For much of the season, this 3-year-old colt came up short behind his more highly-touted stablemate Pinkman. This included his first Pocono appearance on August 22, when he finished 2nd in the $500,000 Colonial behind a typically brilliant Pinkman performance.

But two weeks later it was The Bank’s turn to take the spotlight in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. With Pinkman not in the field, The Bank went from understudy to star that night, scoring a decisive win in 1:53:1. And maybe that was all the confidence he needed, because he outtrotted his old buddy Pinkman to pull off the upset victory on Saturday.

Wild Honey has had some of the finest moments of her racing career at Pocono oval. The 3-year-old filly won the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship at the track as a 2-year-old in 2014, then defended her title this year with a rallying win. That more than made up for a loss as a 1-9 favorite to Smokin Mambo in a preliminary leg of the Sire Stakes at Pocono in June.

But then again, Wild Honey knows a thing or two about atoning for losses. Last year she was the dominant 2-year-old filly in the division but she broke stride in the Breeders Crown, an unfortunate blemish on an otherwise brilliant season. Her three-year-old year has been brilliant as well, but she was the second choice behind Mission Brief in the Breeders Crown finals on Saturday. This time it was Mission Brief going off stride, leaving Wild Honey to pick up the title that eluded her a year ago.

The example of Divine Caroline, a three-year-old pacing filly from the barn of trainer Joe Holloway, shows how fortunes can change, even within the relatively short span of a racing season. The filly raced at Pocono twice in June. In the James M Lynch Memorial elimination, she finished second. She followed that up the next week by finishing sixth in the final won by Bettor Be Steppin.

But the month of October has belonged to her, with four straight victories. The last of those victories came in the Breeders Crown final on Saturday, as she handled a field that included Bettor Be Steppin and a few others who competed in the Lynch way back when, a complete turnaround from the way it all worked out for her in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

So maybe Divine Caroline doesn’t have the fondest memories of the Pocono oval. By contrast, the Pocono faithful can look back happily at these four champions and know that the road to harness racing immortality went right through their backyard.

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, September 21st, 2015

September 4-10, 2015

The Pennsylvania Sire Stakes series is one of the highlights of any racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, showcasing some of the best young horses not just in the state, but often in the entire country. The preliminary legs are held throughout the spring and summer, and although they boast pretty big purses themselves, the other lure of these prelims is that horses who wish to reach the state championships need to perform well in them.

On Saturday, September 5, Pocono hosted the 3-year-old championships. Each of the four races held a purse of $350,000, which, in many cases, is the last time these horses will have the chance to go for a score that big. As always seems to be the case on Sire Stakes championships night, we saw a little bit of everything. Here is a look back at the four title races and the horses who can call themselves a state champion.

THREE-YEAR-OLD TROTTING FILLIES

Despite the fact that she was crowned the Hambletonian Oaks champ just two starts ago, Wild Honey went off as a 5-2 second choice on Saturday night in her final. That was partly due to the fact that she was saddled with the outside post in the race, and partly because she showed a worrisome break of stride in her previous start. Livininthefastlane instead went off as an odds-on favorite. But Wild Honey, trained by Jimmy Takter, fought hard to overcome the outside post, making the lead shy of the half despite getting parked around the first turn. Driver Dave Palone opened up a nice lead from there, and a furious rally from Bright Baby Blues came up a length short of Wild Honey, who trotted the mile in 1:53. Adding the 3-year-old title to the 2-year-old crown she won a year ago, the filly went over $1 million in lifetime earnings and set a record for most money earned in two Pennsylvania Sire Stakes campaigns.

THREE-YEAR-OLD PACING FILLIES

Momas Got A Gun, a consistent performer from the Virgil Morgan Jr. barn, was the even-money favorite in this field, but there seemed to be solid choices up and down the lineup. One exception appeared to be Safe From Terror, who, despite being the second-biggest earner in the field in 2015, went off as a 45-1 long shot for trainer Ron Burke. She also had an outside post, and, with the exception of back-to-back wins at the Meadows in the middle of the summer, had slumped since a fast start to the year. Imagine Dragon set the pace in the race, Momas Got A Gun was in a prime pocket spot, and Safe From Terror seemed hopelessly buried on the inside at the back of the back. Yet in the stretch, driver Tim Tetrick found some room for her at the very edge of the pylons, and she uncorked some serious late kick to speed by Momas Got A Gun and pull off the stunning upset by a head in 1:51:3.

THREE-YEAR-OLD TROTTING COLTS AND GELDINGS

It’s easy to be overlooked when you’re a young trotter in the barn of Jimmy Takter, simply because he always has a bunch of great ones for every division. The Bank faced just such a fate for much of the season, overshadowed by Hambletonian champ Pinkman and even Uncle Lasse, another Takter trainee who went off as the favorite on Saturday. The Bank, with the exception of a win in the Dancer at The Meadowlands, had been stuck with a lot of near-misses in big races. But the colt set out to change that in a big way on Saturday night, moving first-over aggressively with Jim Morrill Jr. in the bike to make a up a ton of ground after starting in the middle of the pack. At the top of the stretch, it seemed like anybody’s race, with Uncle Lasse, Wicker Havover, and Honor And Serve all in good position. But it was The Bank who trotted by them all by a length in 1:53:1, earning the signature win of his career.

THREE-YEAR-OLD PACING COLTS AND GELDINGS

Speaking of overshadowed, Wakizashi Hanover knows that feeling well. The gelding from the barn of trainer Joann Looney-King has spent most of the summer battling it out with superstar Wiggle It Jiggleit and often coming up just short. Since his main rival wasn’t a part of Saturday night’s field, it seemed like it was Wakizashi Hanover’s time to shine, and he went off as a 1-9 favorite. Lost For Words set a screaming pace early, trying to pace away and hide from the competition. But driver Tim Tetrick didn’t panic, finding a spot in the pocket for the heavy favorite and staying close to the pacesetter. In the stretch, Wakizashi Hanover was ready to pounce on a tiring Lost for Words. He took over the lead and had to withstand a late challenge from closing My Hero Ron, holding on by a half-length. The winning time of 1:48:1 was the fastest ever in Pennsylvania championship history, a fitting way to close out another scintillating Sire Stakes season at Pocono.

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.

$1.7 Million PA Sire Stakes Championship Night Saturday 9/5/15

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

The richest Sire Stakes Championship series begins Saturday night, September 5th,  at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono will host four $350,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championship for three-year-olds. Each of the four divisions will also have a $60,000 Consolation race; the total program on Saturday at Pocono will distribute purses of $1,770,000.

COLT PACERS

$350,000 Championship – race 12

$60,000 Consolation – race 5

Championship record: 1:48.4, McWicked, 2014 (fastest Championship in PA history)

Defending champion from 2YO year: Yankee Bounty

Leading pointwinner in four preliminaries: Lost For Words

Most of the attention in the “glamour division” will be focused on Wakizashi Hanover, already a winner of over $840,000 this year, including the North America Cup Final, and regarded as second-best on the North American scene to the amazing Wiggle It Jiggleit. Wakizashi has driven post five for the Championship, and as usual trainer Joann Looney-King has tapped Tim Tetrick to drive the altered son of Dragon Again for the Tri County Stable of Nova Scotia. The sophomore has experience over the track, winning a Hempt elimination and then finished fourth from a difficult draw, and following that outing up with a second to “Wiggle” in the Battle of the Brandywine.

It’s unusual to see a defending champion and a leading prelim pointswinner regarded as “outsiders” in the field, but Yankee Bounty and Lost For Words, respectively, are not only figurative outsiders, but the literal outsiders as well in the field of eight – Yankee Bounty, starting from post seven for all-time Sire Stakes driving champion Dave Palone,does come off a 1:49.3 win in a Sire Stakes prelim, while Lost For Words (post eight, David Miller) was the only three-time winner in the Sires prelims.

COLT TROTTERS

$350,000 Championship – race 11

$60,000 Consolation – race 4

Championship record: 1:52.4, Father Patrick, 2014

Defending champion from 2YO year: Billy Flynn (the only 3YO who did not qualify for these finals)

Leading pointwinner in four preliminaries: Wicker Hanover

Wicker Hanover and Uncle Lasse were both three-time Sires prelim winners. Wicker Hanover, an Explosive Matter colt who has done well on or off the pace, will start from post six for driver Andrew McCarthy, trainer Ross Croghan, and the Christer Haggstorm Racing Stable Inc., while the Donato Hanover colt Uncle Lasse, third in both the Hambletonian Final and the Colonial, drew post two for driver David Miller, trainer Jimmy Takter, and owners Solveig’s Racing Partners and Goran Falk.

A horse conspicuous by his absence is Pinkman, #2 in the prelim pointstandings while achieving three victories, but when he won the Hambletonian trainer Takter chose the Triple Crown road for him, and he goes Saturday night at Yonkers in the Yonkers Trot, the second Crown leg. But even with two recent losses to Crazy Wow, in the Colonial and Yonkers Trot elim, Pinkman likely would have been a big favorite here, and using the “glass is half full” theory, the race is much more competitive this way.

FILLY PACERS

$350,000 Championship – race 10

$60,000 Consolation – race 3

Championship record: 1:49, Economy Terror

Defending champion from 2YO year: Southwind Roulette

Leading pointwinner in four preliminaries: Somewhere Sweet

Perhaps the best testimony to the contentiousness of this division all year, and in theory here Saturday, is the fact that prelim pointleader Somewhere Sweet won only once in the prelims. But the daughter of Somebeachsomewhere, trained by Brian Brown for Miller’s Stable, has been a very consistent miss, winning half her ten seasonal starts and never finishing worse than fourth, and she draws the favorable post two for driver David Miller.

There were two two-time prelim winners in this division, but for Saturday they had the misfortune of drawing the two outside spots on the gate: Serious Filly (PP7, also trained by Brown, Tim Tetrick listed) and Safe From Terror (PP8, trainer Ron Burke, also listing Tetrick on the early sheet).

FILLY TROTTERS

$350,000 Championship – race 9

$60,000 Consolation – race 14

Championship record: 1:51.3, Check Me Out, 2012 (fastest trot Champion ever)

Defending champion from 2YO year: Wild Honey

Leading pointwinner in four preliminaries: Sarcy (not entered), Smokinmombo #2

Last year’s divisional champion Wild Honey has come back sharply in 2015, with a win in the Hambletonian Oaks Final and two Sire Stakes wins. The Cantab Hall filly is likely to be held as the horse to beat despite drawing post eight for driver Dave Palone, trainer Jimmy Takter, and the ownership combine of Takter, Fielding, Liverman, and Fielding.

Jimmy Takter is also the trainer of Sarcy, who was #1 in the prelim points, but that filly has not raced since finishing fifth in the Oaks Final on August 8 and has not won since June 25, so she is not entered in the Championship. But Wild Honey is certainly a fine “backup plan.”

FINISHING LINES – Dave Palone has 38 career wins in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championships, and the driver in second needs a telescope to see him even though winning five Championships last year – Yannick Gingras, with a total of 12. We know Yannick will not duplicate that output in 2015, as he will be driving Pinkman at Yonkers on Saturday. Palone, however, has a call in three of the four Championships, and there are two to-be-resolved double calls in the race he currently is not listed.

Filly trotters take center stage in Stallion and Sire Stakes action

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

PA-sired three-year-old trotting fillies provide the early week features at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, as the misses will compete in second leg action of a $100,000 Stallion Series event on Tuesday, June 16th,  and a $222,867 Sire Stakes contest on Wednesday, June 17th.  All of the races have drawn full fields of nine.

The Stallion Series races will find three of the five first leg winners returning, including two from the ubiquitous, unavoidable Team of Top Trotting, Team Takter. Kirsi Hanover, who won her first Stallion start despite suffering broken equipment, drew the inside in the sixth race fourth division, with Jimmy Takter himself also to drive, while Speak To Me, beginning from post seven in the tenth race last cut, will be handled by Scott Zeron. Manhattan Miss, the other filly looking to make it two straight in the Stallion Series, has the rail for driver Mike Wilder and trainer Marty Wollam in the third race second division; the other Stallion Series races are slotted for races one and four.

In Wednesday’s Sire Stakes action, Trotting Team Ubiquitous had two of the four first leg winners, and Takter has them both back in at Pocono. Sarcy will be out first of the pair in the ninth race second division, with Yannick Gingras down to drive, but she will be facing the two non-Takter winners at The Meadows: Livininthefastlane (post five, driver Andy Miller for trainer/wife Julie), the fastest of the four winners in western PA at 1:53, and Magic Marker, who will begin from post seven for driver David Miller and trainer Nifty Norman.

The other Sires winner to date, Wild Honey, begins from post four for Takter and Gingras in the tenth race third division. Wild Honey was rated by many as the second-best filly nationally in 2014 behind the brilliant but mercurial Mission Brief, and she will look to add to her impressive record of 11 wins in 13 career starts.

In the seventh race first division, Takter may again have a favorite in Smexi, who was a neck behind Livininthefastlane in the first leg and has since taken a division of the Curries And Ives Filly stake. But driver Corey Callahan will have to overcome both the outermost post nine and Blessings Counted (post eight, driver Dan Rawlings for trainer Rick Beinhauer), also second, to Magic Marker, in the first Sire Stakes round.

Both nights feature 14-race cards beginning at 6:30 p.m.

PA Sire Stakes Championship Night brings out the best of the Freshman stars

Monday, September 8th, 2014

The best Pennsylvania-sired 2YOs gathered at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs on Saturday night for their $1,240,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championships Night. Each of the Championship events went for a $260,000 bounty; all consolations for the Sire Stakes divisions went for purses of $50,000. 

Here’s a recap of the action, division by division, along with a writeup on the two $50,000 Invitationals also scheduled on the blockbuster card. (The track was rated “fast” for the two baby trotter consolations; rain later forced the condition downward to “good.”)

 TWO-YEAR-OLD FILLY PACE 

Southwind Roulette headed a 1-2-3 sweep for trainer Ron Burke by winning her Sire Stakes Championship for two-year-old pacing filllies. She won in 1:52.3 over “good” going to become the richest pacer in one season of Sire Stakes competition, with $269,248 in her races for Keystone State-sired company.

 Southwind Roulette, described as “a very professional filly – she’ll do just what you ask her to do” by driver Yannick Gingras – tucked third early as her Burke stablemates Well Hello There and Kay’s Dragon Lady argued through the 27 quarter, then was moved to the fore past the latter well before the 56.2 half. Southwind Roulette opened up at the 1:24.3 3/4s and had a good-sized lead in the stretch, with Kay’s Dragon Lady closing well late but not really threatening, with Well Hello There salvaging the show. 

The daughter of Somebeachsomewhere, owned by Bradley Grant and Howard Taylor, went 4-3-0-1 in her Sires prelims, the three triumphs in her last three starts, and this victory boosted her money total to the record Sire Stakes mark for pacers, ahead of the $245,615 season sophomore filly Charisma Hanover put together last year. 2TC Dontyouforgetit holds the all-time one season record in the Pennsylvania program, with $275,553 in 2012.

 2YO Filly Pace Consolation—Pacesetting Macarena Mama was determined late to hold off inside-shooting Safe From Terror to win this section’s consolation in 1:53.1, a personal best. Corey Callahan was sulkysitting behind the daughter of McArdle for trainer Blake Macintosh, who also co-owns with Susan Hall, Anne Campbell, and Stephen Waldman. 

 TWO-YEAR-OLD FILLY TROT

 A race after the 2PF Championship, driver Yannick Gingras came right back with “another professional filly, a real sweetheart,” Wild Honey, who set a stakes record of 1:54.2 despite the good going, completing a “sweep” of her division — wins in all four legs and the Championship, following in the footsteps of only Coulantine (2004) and Fashion Feline (2009).

 The daughter of Cantab Hall went straight to the front in the 28.1 opener, but in front of the stands Speak To Me made a bold brush and wrested the racetrack away from Wild Honey before the 56.4 half. Gingras seemed unperturbed though, and past the 1:25.1 3/4s he moved Wild Honey out in front of the advancing Jersey Strong and went straight to command, holding off that rival with ease to knock a tick off the stakes record shared by Sand Violent Blu (2011) and Designed To Be (2013). Like the winner a member of the Jimmy Takter barn, Smexi, finished third.

 2YO Filly Trot Consolation—If you need proof that “times have changed” in harness racing, consider this: Pius Soehnlen campaigned the iron-tough FFA trotter Dream Of Glory in the mid-70s, and that horse took a mark of 1:57.2. Tonight Soehnlen as owner won this consolation event with Matter Hatter, a daughter of Explosive Matter who also rallied from far back to tally over Bright Bay Blues for driver David Miller and trainer Jeff Cox. The lifetime for her second lifetime victory? 1:55.2 (when the track was still fast)– two seconds faster than Dream Of Glory’s lifetime mark!   

TWO-YEAR-OLD COLT TROT

 Sire Cantab Hall completed a Championship double, and another horse joined the select club of being a Sire Stakes “sweeper,” when Billy Flynn roared off cover to win in 1:55.2 in the off going for driver Brett Miller and trainer Staffan Lind. 

Billy Flynn raced atypically off the pace tonight, with Walter White on top at the 27.3 quarter, then yielding to Hurrikane Jonny K as that one put up middle splits of 57 and 1:26.1. Piercewave Hanover provided cover from first-over, and when Billy Flynn tipped off that cover, “he was great tonight – he felt great,” noted driver Miller, the colt not showing any of his previous bearing-out tendencies. Off-the-pace tactics proved best in this event, as Honor And Serve and Ralph R closed strongly for second and third, respectively.

 Billy Flynn joins Stormin Normand (2011) as the only freshman colt trotters to notch the “4+1” Sire Stakes  season. Bender Sweden Inc own the emerging star, who is now undefeated in seven starts. 

2YO Colt Trot Consolation –Not many horses break their maiden by missing their divisional world record by 2/5 of a second, but that’s what the Broadway Hall gelding On The Sly did in winning his consolation event in 1:55.2. Hinting at promise with a second, a third, and a fourth in Sires preliminaries, On The Sly finally put it all together, swinging wide from third-over behind contested fractions and overhauling frontstepping Pierre late for driver Brett Miller, trainer Morgan McInnis, and the Revocable Trust of Barbara Boese. The 1:55.2 time over the still-”fast” track was just short of Correctamundo’s world standard, and only a tick shy of the local mark of It Really Matters. 

 TWO-YEAR-OLD COLT PACE 

Billy Flynn and Yankee Bounty are both now seven for seven in their careers, and both completed Sire Stakes “4+1” sweeps.

 That’s where the similarities end. 

Whereas Billy Flynn came off the pace to win easily, Yankee Bounty made an early move to take the lead near the 55.1 half (Dragon Eddy had insisted on the early lead in an astounding 26 before yielding), then fought off a nose-to-nose challenge from Lost For Words by and past the 1:22.2 3/4s. 

Maybe it’s good Yankee Bounty had the practice in winning a hotly-contested duel – because another determined foe soon loomed in the Pocono Pike in the form of Tomy Terror. The two geldings battled on even terms much of the stretch, with Yankee Bounty showing great heart to put his nose over first in 1:50.3 – a Pocono track record for 2PG, and just a tick behind the stakes mark of One More Laugh, whom Yankee Terror now joins in the 2PC Sire Stakes sweeping ranks. 

The victory made Yannick Gingras a three-time SS winner on the card, giving him 10 in his career and moving him to (a distant) second behind Dave Palone (34) on the career list. Two of those victories came for trainer Ron Burke, who recently engineered the new ownership combine of Yankee Bounty Partnership and Frank Chick.  

2YO Colt Pace Consolation—McCito yielded the early lead to favored Talking Points, then came back in the lane to nip that rival late and take a new mark of 1:52. The McArdle gelding, driven by Andrew McCarthy for C&G Racing Stable, comes from the red-hot barn of Aaron Lambert, who seems to be sending out nothing but winners the last couple weeks. 

 INVITATIONALS 

The FFA trot was named the “Modern Family Trot” after the late Pocono-based world-class trotter, with Pocono-based trainer Daryl Bier and the horse’s connections on hand for winners circle ceremonies. 

Modern Family, always a game horse, would have admired the stretch tenacity of his frequent foe Wishing Stone, who raced third on the rail and cleared “about three strides before the wire” according to his driver (with a combination grin/grimace) to edge out Not Afraid in 1:52.4 for Wishing Stone Syndicate. That driver, by the way, was Yannick Gingras, who along with trainer Ron Burke was in Pocono’s winners circle for the fifth time on the night. Wishing Stone also “saved” the 1-5 betting entry, as the more fancied horse, Market Share, made a break early.

 The ”Adieu to the Almost Summer” Pace saw Sunfire Blue Chip make a quarter-move, then say “adieu” to the field with a 26.4 last quarter in driving rain for a 1:49.2 win for driver Yannick Gingras, trainer Jimmy Takter, and the ownership combine of Takter, Fielding, Fielding, Brixton Medical AB and R A W Equine Inc. Perhaps “adieu” was just the right name for a race taken by the son of American Ideal, as the winner of four straight, at four different tracks,  is the early favorite for the $200,000 Prix d’Ete, to be revived as a four-year-old event in two weeks at Hippodrome 3R in Quebec (Gingras’ base before coming Stateside; Takter confirmed that race was on his horse’s schedule.)