Posts Tagged ‘Woodbine’

Familiar faces make their way back to the track for opening night

Monday, March 21st, 2016

The opening night card of the 2016 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono saw some familiar trainers and drivers revisiting the winners circle, and the Holiday Road gelding Its Huw You Know capturing the featured $15,500 second race trot in 1:55.2.

Jim Morrill Jr., with a UDR of over .600 starting the season at Buffalo, completed a sweep of the Daily Double with Its Huw You Know, huw who, as opposed to his win in his last start at The Meadowlands where he came from behind, made a quarter-move to the top in front of the stands, stole a 30 second third quarter, then went on to win over My Love Bi (George Napolitano Jr.). For trainer Ron Burke, it was his sixth win of the day in Pennsylvania after capturing five at The Meadows in the afternoon, with his Burke Racing owning a piece of all six and main partners Weaver / Bruscemi also listed on five winners including this one.

The Morrill – George Napoiltano Jr. finish was a repeat of the season’s curtainraiser, one of three $14,000 cofeatures, this one for high-end claiming handicap pacers. Forego The Cigar, coming from Northfield with a 6-3-3-0 recent tally, added a win at Pocono to that fine record when Morrill also used quarter-moving tactics with the Western Terror in defeating Cotton Eyed Joe (“GNap”) in 1:52.4 for trainer Dale Loney and owner Amy Loney. (Not surprisingly for Pocono, the 1-2 finishers were claimed out of the race, at a track where Saturday night claims usually ran into the double digits the last couple years.)

The $14,000 conditioned actually went considerably fastest than the feature, as Zooming returned to the track where he took his 1:51 mark two years ago and won here for defending driver champion George Napoitano Jr., going 1:53.3 with the temperatures near 40 degrees. Zooming had to go the hard uncovered trip against pacesetting P L Houdini (guided by George’s brother Anthony), but despite the rough journey the Classic Photo gelding had more than enough to get by for trainer Amber Buter and owners Steve Oldford, Gene Oldford Farms LLC, and Tyler Buter.

Eric Carlson completed a consecutive double when he drove Star Cover to a win 1:51 engine triumph in the other $14,000 feature, a high-level conditioned pace. The altered son of Royal Mattjesty had posted three seconds in as many recent starts between Woodbine and The Meadows, but he found the famous Pocono surface just the right answer for trainer Brewer Adams and Owner Joseph Trice.

Just as the fastest trotting time did not come in the biggest purse event, so too did the quickest pacing triumph come outside the twin features for that gait. UF Rockin Dragon, a Rocknroll Hanover gelding handled by Anthony Napolitano, lowered his lifetime mark to 1:50.2 in a $12,500 conditioned pace, with the engine score tacking on a 27.3 kicker to leave little doubt for trainer Mark Ford and owners Up Front Racing LLC.

Pocono races on a Saturday-Tuesday schedule in March, with 16 races slated for this Tuesday at 6:30. The mountain oval adds Sundays on April 3 (with a new Sunday starting time of 7:30), and Mondays on April 11th, racing these four days most of the 2016 campaign.

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

Stars ready for Sire Stakes on Saturday

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Harness racing’s “glamour division,” the three-year-old pacing colts, will open the 2014 Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Pennsylvania Sire Stakes season this Saturday night, with four divisions of sophomores contesting the $266,252 event. 

Captaintreacherous, 2013’s Pacer of the Year, opened his 3YO campaign in this same event 52 weeks ago with a victory, and many of this year’s stars in the sophomore colt pacing crop will be seeing early-season action this Saturday at the lightning-fast mountain oval.

 The first division opens the evening’s 15-race card, with Sometimes Said accorded 5-2 early favoritism starting from post two for Hall of Fame driver John Campbell (who must think a lot of the colt trained by his brother Jim, since this is his only Pocono drive of the night; he’ll head right to The Meadowlands afterwards for other stakes competition). Sometimes Said was first or second in 8 of 10 freshman starts, including seconds in his PA Sires Championship and the Breeders Crown, and he started his 2014 campaign in very photogenic style with a 1:51 / 53.2 / 26.2 front-end triumph at Pocono last week. 

Also highly-regarded in the first cut are Tellitlikeitis (3-1, post four, driver Brett Miller), debuting in 2014 for the all-conquering Jimmy Takter barn after a devastating 1:50.1 qualifier in which he paced his own last quarter in 25.2, and Limelight Beach (7-2, post six, David Miller), a double winner in Grand Circuit action at Lexington last year. 

Race 4 will gather the PA colts for the second time, with the early 5-2 chalk being Maxi Bon (post four, driver Dave Palone). Maxi Bon is a late-developing colt, but he showed his promise by winning his seasonal debut in 1:49.4 despite being parked to the half. Cammikey (3-1, post one, Brain Zendt) seems the major danger here after opening his 2014 campaign with five victories, including a 1:51.1 / 26.4 triumph at The Meadows last start. 

Race 6’s third cut finds the early pick to be Somestarsomewhere, at 5-2 from post six for the top team of trainer Ron Burke and driver Matt Kakaley. Somestarsomewhere set a world record of 1:49.4f for 2PC in his Breeders Crown elim last year, then was third in the Crown Championship. This will be his seasonal debut off of three qualifiers. Rated next 3-1 is Somewhere in L A (post four, driver Mark MacDonald, fresh off a win in the Diplomat Series Championship at Woodbine. 

Race 8 rounds out the Sire Stakes action, with McWicked the 5-2 choice off a McWicked 2014 debut at Pocono last Sunday, overcoming post nine and an overland trip to tally in 1:51. Simon Allard will have the sulky duty from post six. Allstar Partner is rated next at 3-1 for driver George Napolitano Jr., but last year’s PA Sire Stakes champ for this division will have to overcome the outside post eight.

 Also on the Pocono card is a super $25,000 Preferred handicap pace, featuring the likes of Dancin Yankee, winner of the Van Rose Memorial here in 1:49 on a good track on Kentucky Derby Day; Emeritus Maximus, gritty as he can be taking last week’s feature here; and Clear Vision, winner of the Levy Consolation. 

Post time for the 15-race card at Pocono on Saturday is slotted for 6:30, though that may be delayed a few minutes dependent on a thoroughbred race in Baltimore immediately previously.

Sweet Lou Doesn’t Disappoint in 2012 Debut at Pocono

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

May 19, 2012

Anyone wondering if Sweet Lou still has the magic that carried him to a record-setting 2011 season as a 2-year-old probably had their questions answered on Saturday night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.

Making his 2012 debut, the pride of the Burke barn coasted to a win in a $106,113 division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes for 3-year-old colts and geldings on the pace. Sweet Lou romped by 3 ¾ lengths in 1:49:3 without breaking a sweat.

Driver Dave Palone sent the son of Yankee Cruiser to the front of the pack at the 3/8-mile marker and he was never seriously challenged from that point. Palone kept him under wraps for most of the mile, cutting Sweet Lou loose in the stretch to close in 26:4 just to show his fellow competitors they never had a chance. Hillbilly Hanover finished 2nd and Mc Attaboy got the show.

The win makes it 11 victories in 13 career starts for Sweet Lou, who won the Breeders Crown championship at Woodbine in October in World Record time to cap his amazing 2-year-old campaign. The winner’s share of the purse puts his career earnings at $739,703.

In other Sire Stakes action, Mcerlean parlayed a pocket trip and the passing lane into a victory in the first division. Dave Palone did the driving for trainer John Berger, as Mcerlean, making his second start of the 2012, upended pacesetting favorite Easy Again in the stretch to win by a half-length in a career-best 1:50:1. All Week finished 3rd.

In  the second split, Dapper Dude, who won at Woodbine in his 2012 debut, followed that up with a late-kicking Sire Stakes victory. John Campbell was in the bike for trainer Robert McIntosh, as Dapper Dude won by a half-length in 1:49:4. Shady Breeze finished second and Cold Hearted Shark gained the show.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review Oct. 28-Nov. 3, 2011

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

October 28-November 3, 2011

We are just a few racing nights away from closing night here at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Next week, I’ll use this article to give a general overview of the season that was. But for this week, it’s time to honor the 2011 Pocono Horses of the Year. These were the transcendent performers that shone the brightest throughout the 2011 season, and although they weren’t easy choices, I think we’ve got the cream of the crop. Much thanks to Terri Phalen and Jennifer Starr for their help in making these selections.


The stallion has been a major factor at Pocono for several seasons, but he has been especially fine in 2011, both in terms of durability and productivity. Trained by Robert Horowitz, Drop Red won all the way back on March 25 at Pocono, on his way to 5 wins in his first 9 races in the meet. After a little summer slump, he’s been roaring again, winning his last three starts. What’s most impressive is that he has done the majority of his work against some of the best condition and Open pacers on the grounds and has been no worse the wear for it.


This standout from the Walter Carroll barn cut short his season in August, but what a season it was up to that point. Much of the damage he did came at MSPD, and all of it came against the best of the best. In 7 races at Pocono, all against Open company, the stallion hit the board every single time and notched three victories. The standout performance for Winning Mister came on June 10, when, with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike, he scorched the track with a victory in 1:52, setting a new lifetime mark and a Pocono track record in the process.


Charlie Norris trains this standout distaff pacer and often drove her as well in her magnificent 2011 campaign. Again, this was a case of a horse not ducking any foes, facing the very best mares on the grounds week in and week out. The results were hard to deny. She arrived from The Meadows in April and began winning not long after. 6 victories in 15 races is a pretty good batting average, and she has ramped up the intensity as the season has begun to wane, notching four wins in her last five races. Among her Pocono wins this season was a career-best mile of 1:50:3.


There were plenty of claimers this year that ran off dazzling winning streaks, made big jumps in class, and won a ton of races overall. Segundo Hanover managed to do all three of those things, and he did so under the tutelage of seven different trainers during the season. All 13 of his victories this season were at the friendly confines of Pocono, and he had two winning streaks of at least three races. In addition, he doubled his claiming price along the way from $7,500 to $15,000.


Known for being a bit ornery, this veteran mare took out all of her aggression on her distaff competition this season. She has won more races (10) and earned more money ($107,072) than in any season in her career. Eight of those victories came at Pocono, and she hit the board often even when she didn’t find the winner’s circle. That’s not too bad considering that she is now 10 years old, and she even earned a career-best mile of 1:52 during the 2011 campaign.


This has been a breakthrough season for the gelding, as he has won half of his 18 starts in 2011. 7 of his 9 wins came after arriving at Pocono from The Meadows in July. Even more impressive is the fact that he was able to step up out of the claiming handicap trotting group for a win over the winners of over $25,000 conditioners, which is just a notch below the Open trotters. Pembrook Street also churned out a career-best victory at Pocono in 2011 in 1:52:4.


The pride of the Chris Oakes barn, who was just crowned the 2-year-old distaff pacing champ of North America following her win in the Breeders Crown at Woodbine, made just three starts at Pocono this season, but they turned out pretty well. Economy Terror won her debut at Pocono back in July, followed that up with a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes win here in August, and sealed the deal with a win in the Pennsylvania Championships for 2-year-old pacing fillies in September in 1:51:1, shattering a track record.

Next week, we’ll wrap things up with our review of the 2011 season. Until then, we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at