Posts Tagged ‘Yannick Gingras’

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

September 2-8, 2017

Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championship day, which this year focused on the two-year-olds, was held at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono this past Monday. A lot of times you’ll hear people say that these freshmen horses are stars of the future. But considering these horses were racing for purses of $252,000 for each of the four finals, which culminate the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes series, it’s much more accurate to say that the 32 competitors in the four separate divisions were taking the track for what would likely be, for each, one of the most important races of its career.

Monday’s championships brought some of the finest two-year-old pacing and trotting talent in the country to Pocono in attempt to claim the title of best in the state. The races featured a little bit of everything, including dominant favorites, smart tactical driving, and a stunning long shot. Let’s take a look at how the two-year-old Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championships played out.

TWO-YEAR-OLD FILLY TROTTERS

This shaped up to be the biggest mismatch of the afternoon, and that’s exactly how it played. Manchego, trained by Jimmy Takter, came into Monday’s final with five wins in five career races. The highlight of that stretch came in an easy win in the $330,800 Doherty at The Meadowlands. Leaving as the #1-9 favorite from the #5 hole in the field of eight in the championship, she made the lead as they rounded the first turn by clearing S M S Princess. From there she opened up an insurmountable lead with driver Yannick Gingras never having to lift a finger to ask her for more. Manchego strolled home a winner in an effortless 1:54:2, beating her closest foe Hey Blondie by 4 ¼ lengths and leaving no doubt about who is the class of the freshmen distaff trotters.

TWO-YEAR-OLD COLTS AND GELDINGS PACERS

Pedro Hanover went off as the even-money favorite in the final. The colt trained by Andrew Harris had won his previous two races with a late-kicking style, sitting back in the pack early only to uncork just as other horses were tiring. But the Pocono track was severely favoring horses who left early for the engine on Monday night. So driver Andrew McCarthy decided that Pedro Hanover, who left from post position #7, would follow suit. The colt took the lead away from Dorsoduro Hanover with a move around the first turn and dared everyone else to come and get him. Although the fractions seemed a little steep, Pedro Hanover looked no worse for wear in the lane, holding off fast-closing Hayden Hanover to win it by a length in 1:51, which matched his career-best time.

TWO-YEAR-OLD FILLY PACERS

In their previous start, Rainbow Room had nipped Come See The Show by controlling matters on the front end. Rainbow Room enjoyed the inside post in that victory at Harrah’s, but, in Monday’s final, she was in the #7 post while Come See The Show was a spot to her inside. But driver David Miller didn’t make any changes with Rainbow Room, sending her to the front as the 4-5 favorite. Sure enough, Come See The Show blasted at her on the back stretch, but Rainbow Room rebuffed the challenge. In the home stretch, the filly from the Joe Holloway barn held together, holding off long shot Scuola Hanover to win by a length-and-a-half in 1:52:2. That gave Rainbow Room four victories in a row and five in her six career starts to date.

TWO-YEAR-OLD COLTS AND GELDINGS TROTTERS

After three straight favorites won on the front end, it seemed like that was the order of the evening for the Pennsylvania championships. But that trend ended with a thud in the male trotting division when the 9-5 favorite Whats The Word broke stride at the start. Scirocco Rob set the pace instead, but started to wither under pressure applied by Toast Of Lindy. As Toast Of Lindy took over, Fashionwoodchopper, who had won his previous Sire Stakes race at 15-1 and went off at 38-1 on Monday from an outside post, was following stealthily behind. In the stretch, David Miller spun Fashionwoodchopper off the cover and rallied him for the victory by a length over closing Lawmaker in 1:57. The huge underdog was the second longest shot on the board.

With that big upset, so ended the championships and the Sire Stakes portion of the 2017 schedule at Pocono. After that fantastic finish, we can’t wait for it to get started all over again next season.

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.

Sun Stakes Saturday Eliminations a preview of the July 1st stellar card

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

June 24-30, 2017

The preliminaries are out of the way. This Saturday, July 1, the faithful at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono will get to witness the main event. Or events, as the case may be, as Sun Stakes Saturday will feature four races with huge stakes attached to them, pushing the night’s purses well over $2 million total.

This past Saturday, the eliminations were held, and it was an interesting set of races. Drivers on the top horses had to decide how much effort they asked from their charges. On the one hand, a tired horse in the final is no good to anyone. On the other, a horse that’s held back and then doesn’t make the final is a disappointment.

Here is how the eliminations played out, followed by a primer on what to expect on Saturday night. The outcomes may be unknowable until the races are run, but we can say for sure that it will be an exceptional night of racing.

BEN FRANKLIN PACE for aged pacers

The only favorite to win out of the three eliminations was Mel Mara, who paced the fastest time of the night on the front end in 1:48:4. There were surprises in the other two divisions. While Freaky Feet Pete faded from the lead in his first start of the year and race favorite McWicked was boxed in, Keystone Velocity, trained by Rene Allard and driven by Simon Allard, both Pocono regulars, rallied for the victory. Dealt A Winner was a convincing winner in the remaining elimination, beating heavy favorite Boston Red Rocks by 3 ½ lengths. At least Boston Red Rocks is headed to the final; big names like Freaky Feet Pete, Luck Be Withyou, and McWicked all failed to qualify.

EARL BEAL JR. MEMORIAL TROT for three-year-old trotters

The big news here is that Ariana G, the only filly competing against the male trotters, easily won her split as a 1-9 favorite. Meadowlands invader Long Tom also won as the favorite in his split, meaning that he and Ariana G will compete in the final as 2017 unbeatens, both three-for-three this year. Although Driver Yannick Gingras will likely stick with Ariana G in the final, he also pulled off a surprise in the remaining division with Perfect Spirit, who staged a furious rally on the inside to upend favorite Devious Man at 23-1.

MAX C. HEMPT MEMORIAL PACE for three-year-old pacers

Fear The Dragon received all the betting attention in his elimination, which was understandable considering he hadn’t lost in six races this year and was coming off a win in the North American Cup at Mohawk. But Miso Fast, with Matt Kakaley in the bike for Ron Burke, had other ideas and blitzed Fear The Dragon with a first-over move to win at 11-1. Although Fear The Dragon reaches the final, he goes in knowing that his archrival Downbytheseaside put in perhaps the most impressive performance of the evening. Despite being parked around two turns, the colt trained by Brian Brown battled his way to a victory in a sizzling 1:49:2 with Brain Sears in the bike. The remaining division belonged to the longshots, with 21-1 Santafe’s Coach, driven by Pocono regular Anthony Napolitano, picking up a late-kicking win over 29-1 Ozone Blue Chip in second.

JAMES M. LYNCH MEMORIAL PACE for three-year-old pacing fillies

This was the one set of races where form held, as favorites won all three splits, all on the front end. Tequila Monday, trained by Chris Oakes, bounced back from a disappointing loss in the Fan Hanover Stakes at Mohawk by delivering on the front end in 1:50:4, the fastest of the three winning times from the Lynch eliminations. Meanwhile Bettor’s Up, who had pulled off the upset win in the Fan Hanover, settled for second on Saturday night behind Agent Q, the filly she nosed out for the win in Canada. Brazuca, driven by Corey Callahan for trainer Tom Cancelliere, stayed unbeaten in three starts this year with a rock-solid win in her split.

What to look for in the finals:

BEN FRANKLIN: Mel Mara might be the one to beat but will need a good post for his front-pacing style. He’ll have some powerful competition, especially from Keystone Velocity, who is once again showing the form that made him the Levy champion at Yonkers this year.

EARL BEAL: Ariana G is far and away the best trotting filly in the land, so she’s seeking out the boys for a true challenge. She’ll get just that from Long Tom.

MAX HEMPT: Will Downbytheseaside be in less than top form after his huge effort on Saturday? Can Fear The Dragon shake off his first loss? Is Miso Fast for real and at the same level as the other two?

JAMES LYNCH: Tequila Monday was favored in the Fan Hanover and will have the chance to exact revenge on Bettor’s Up and Agent Q, the two fillies who beat her in that race. Meanwhile Brazuca looks for her fourth consecutive win against the toughest competition she’s yet faced.

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.

Sun Stakes Saturday July 1st – When the stars shine SO bright

Monday, June 26th, 2017

The stars will be out in full brilliance this Saturday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, which is proud to host the $2,169,500 Sun Stakes Saturday card, including a collection of four major races: the $500,000 Ben Franklin Championship for pacing free-for-allers, the $500,000 Earl Beal Championship for three-year-old trotters, the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Championship for three-year-old pacing colts, and the $300,000 James Lynch Championship for three-year-old pacing fillies.

The horses earned their way into these Championship by finishing in the top three in their elimination races last Saturday – a couple of highly-regarded horses did not make the cut, but many of those will be racing in the consolation races for the four events throughout the card. The draw for this Saturday’s Championship events was conducted as an open draw – which, as always, helped the chances of some and may be a hindrance to some others. There will be no betting-coupled entries.

The four Championships will be races nine through twelve on Saturday’s 14-race card. Below is a preview of each Championship as they are being held from front to back on the card, followed by the entire field by post with driver and trainer, and then a paragraph on its consolation race.

$300,000 JAMES LYNCH CHAMPIONSHIP for three-year-old pacing fillies – race 9

The three elimination winners all drew in the middle of the gate or inside that, with the two most likely to draw attention, Tequila Monday and Agent Q, starting from posts one and four respectively. The American Ideal filly Tequila Monday, who won her elimination by a nose over Idyllic Beach in the elims’ fastest time of 1:50.4, may again try to go wire-to-wire from the pole as she did last week for driver Brian Sears, trainer Chris Oakes, and owners Susan Oakes and Chuck Pompey. Agent Q also favors speedy tactics, and went wire-to-wire last week in 1:51.1 for driver David Miller and trainer Aaron Lambert; Martin Scharf shares ownership in the Western Terror filly with Rochetti Cassar Racing and Robert Muscara.

Idyllic Beach, last year’s North American divisional champion and just shaded by Tequila Monday in the fastest elim last week, had a major monkey wrench thrown into her plans for victory when she drew the outside post nine; driver Yannick Gingras will need both sulky creativity and racing luck to overcome this tough starting slot.

The $300,000 JAMES LYNCH CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD: 1, Tequila Monday, Brian Sears, Chris Oakes; 2, Big City Betty, Jim Marohn Jr., Steve Salerno; 3, Inverse Hanover, Tim Tetrick, Nifty Norman; 4, Agent Q, David Miller, Aaron Lambert; 5, Brazuca, Corey Callahan, Tom Cancelliere; 6, Bettor’s Up, Doug McNair, Scott Mceneny; 7, Misqued, Steve Smith, John Balzer; 8, Caviart Ally, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley; 9, Idyllic Beach, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter.

$50,000 Lynch Consolation (race 2): Roaring To Go, 2-1 in the elim won by Brazuca, was used in a 26.1 opening quarter and could only manage a dead-heat for fourth; the rail gives her a good chance to race well-placed throughout. The fastest clocking of all the Lynch consolation entrants from last week, 1:51.4 by YS Tallia, will find that fourth-place finisher starting from post five here.

$500,000 MAX C. HEMPT CHAMPIONSHIP for three-year-old pacing colts – race 10

The two superstar colts from the Brian Brown stable – Fear The Dragon and Downbytheseaside – find themselves sharing the headliners’ spotlight with Miso Fast, who halted the 2017 undefeated string of the “Dragon” with a powerful victory last week.

Fear The Dragon had been put on the lead in his elimination, but driver Matt Kakaley got an instantaneous burst from the Roll With Joe colt Miso Fast when he asked him off the second turn, smoking his personal third quarter in 26.2 to open up a big lead, then having enough to come home in 26.4 to post the victory in 1:49.2 for trainer Ron Burke and the ownership of Burke Racing Stable LLC, Our Horse Cents Stables, and J&T Silva Stables LLC. Miso Fast starts from post four Saturday as he tries to put together a repeat performance.

Fear The Dragon, #1 in the North American Top Ten poll of harness horses going into the race, was certainly not disgraced in the mile – in fact, he came his last quarter in 26.2, faster than did Miso Fast, and regained all but 1½ lengths of Miso Fast’s huge advantage. The Dragon Again colt drew the rail in the Hempt Championship for driver David Miller and the Emerald Highlands Farm.

The other Brown sophomore star, Downbytheseaside, also posted a 1:49.2 clocking in winning his elimination, showing determination with horses charging at him late. Downbytheseaside had his chances hurt a bit when he drew post eight, but he figures to work his way into the mix for “Team Brian”’s other partner, driver Brian Sears, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame the next day.

The $500,000 MAX C. HEMPT CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD: 1, Fear The Dragon, David Miller, Brian Brown; 2, Santafe’s Coach, Anthony Napolitano, Leo Iordan; 3, Funknwaffles, Corey Callahan, John Butenschoen; 4, Miso Fast, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 5, Boogie Shuffle, Scott Zeron, Mark Harder; 6, Ozone Blue Chip, Brett Miller, Ron Coyne Jr.; 7, Donttellmeagain, Tim Tetrick, Jo Ann Looney-King; 8, Downbytheseaside, Brian Sears, Brian Brown; 9, Eddard Hanover, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke.

$75,000 Hempt Consolation (race 7): Every Way Out and Blood Brother were 6-5 and 2-1 respectively in their elimination last week, but both broke stride. Every Way Out will get a chance for redemption in the consolation, starting from post four; that possibility of redemption is extremely low for Blood Brother, as he became the AE1 in the draw and will not race unless there is a scratch in the Championship or the consolation.

$500,000 BEN FRANKLIN CHAMPIONSHIP for free-for-all pacers – race 11:

Two of the Franklin elimination winners, Keystone Velocity and Mel Mara, drew posts one and two, respectively, and a victory would make either one a career millionaire. The other elim winner, Dealt A Winner, was dealt post seven at the pill shake, and he shows only one call in eight racelines better than third at the quarter, meaning he may be staring at a difficult trip for David Miller. (Another numerological shudder for Dealt A Winner: should he triumph, his earnings would stand at $999,290.)

Keystone Velocity went a tick faster than did Mel Mara in winning his elim, 1:48.3 vs. 1:48.4, but Keystone Velocity was rallying off of a 1:20.3 ¾ time put up by Freaky Feet Pete, and just made the lead in the shadow of the wire, while Mel Mara showed a powerful early rush, went to the half in 53 under his own steam, and then drew away in the stretch to a 3½-length victory for driver Corey Callahan. With three wins and a second in four seasonal races, the son of Lis Mara will certainly be one of if not the favorite to win the Franklin jackpot for trainer Dylan Davis and owners Robert Cooper Stables LLC and J&T Silva Stables LLC.

The $500,000 BEN FRANKLIN CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD: 1, Keystone Velocity, Simon Allard, Rene Allard; 2, Mel Mara, Corey Callahan, Dylan Davis; 3, All Bets Off, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 4, Rockin Ron, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 5, Mach It So, Tim Tetrick, Jeff Bamond Jr., 6, Rock N’ Roll World, Brian Sears, Jeff Cullipher; 7, Dealt A Winner, David Miller, Mark Silva; 8, Boston Red Rocks, Tim Tetrick also listed, Steve Elliott; 9, Shamballa, Scott Zeron, Rick Zeron.

$75,000 Franklin consolation (race 8): The two biggest surprises from the elims missing out on the final were McWicked and Freaky Feet Pete. McWicked did not even enter into the consolation event, but Freaky Feet did, though he’ll have to deal with the outside post nine. In his elim, he rolled to the ¾ in 1:20.3 in his seasonal debut before tiring; he certainly can be tighter here.

$500,000 EARL BEAL CHAMPIONSHIP, for three-year-old trotters – race 12

The three Beal elimination winners drew posts one, two, and eight.

The filly got post eight.

Ariana G, a superstar sophomore trotting filly challenging the colts in the Beal, won her elimination race in hand, finishing out her 1:53.4 victory in 27.3 without drawing a labored breath. There may be a labored breath or two required this week from the tough starting slot, although the Muscle Hill filly, who won in 1:51.1 at The Meadowlands two starts ago, must still be rated the favorite to give driver Yannick Gingras his fourth straight win in the Beal (Father Patrick, Pinkman, Southwind Frank) as he steers for trainer Jimmy Takter and the partnership of breeders Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld.

Long Tom took his elim in 1:52.3 and may provide the main opposition to Ariana G for driver Tim Tetrick and trainer Marcus Melander, while Perfect Spirit, who scooted up the far inside to post a 23-1 upset in 1:54.1, has already had her trainer Åke Svanstedt read the writing on the wall and list David Miller as his candidate to replace his filly’s driver from last week – Gingras.

The $500,000 EARL BEAL CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD: 1, Long Tom, Tim Tetrick, Marcus Melander; 2, Perfect Spirit, David Miller, Åke Svanstedt; 3, Sortie, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley; 4, Moonshiner Hanover, Scott Zeron, Christopher Beaver; 5, Bill’s Man, Corey Callahan; 6, Lucky Matter, David Miller also listed, Christopher Beaver; 7, Devious Man, Andy Miller, Julie Miller; 8, Ariana G (*filly), Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 9, Dover Dan, Brett Miller, John Butenschoen.

$75,000 Beal consolation (race 5): One of the likely favorites would have been Rubio, who went offstride in his elim, but like Blood Brother, he drew AE1 and will not race unless there is a scratch in either of the Beal events. Giveitgasandgo, the 2016 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champion, sat right behind Long Tom much of last week, but could only finish fourth; despite PP8 he should get attention in a balanced grouping.

FINISHING LINES – The sixth race, a $25,000 winners-over handicap pace, is named the Herve Filion Memorial, in honor of the incomparable Hall of Fame sulky wizard and former Pocono regular who passed away last week at age 77 … The first race on the huge Saturday card lists a 6:30 post time.

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 – Sun Stakes Saturday stars shine!

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

July 2-8, 2016

I’ve had the opportunity to call two Breeders Crowns during my time as track announcer at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, and yet I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a race as highly anticipated as the Ben Franklin pace that was contested last Saturday at Pocono as part of Sun Stakes Saturday. Three of the sport’s most talented horses at the absolute peak of their powers battled it out in a race that justified every bit of the hype. And although the result doesn’t technically prove anything but who was the best on that given night, the victory is a great feather in the cap of Always B Miki, who won the three-way dance. After all, the opportunity for he and Freaky Feet Pete and Wiggle It Jiggleit to converge on the same night at the same track in the same race might be a long time coming, if it ever happens again at all, so bragging rights might last a while.

Before we talk about exactly how the Franklin played out, there is the not-so-small matter of the three other huge stakes races that took place on Sun Stakes Saturday. In each of those races, the prohibitive favorite silenced any doubters that he or she might have faced coming into the race with a definitive performance. These performances may have removed some of the suspense from the proceedings, but they also solidified the greatness of the horses that delivered them.

In the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial pace for 3-year-old fillies, Pure Country came in looking to recapture the mantle of invincibility she possessed as a 2-year-old when she went unbeaten in ten races. She had won half of her six starts in 2016 coming into the Lynch, losing twice to Darlinonthebeach, who was in the Lynch field as well. But Pure Country, trained by Jimmy Takter, dusted that one by brushing by her in the front stretch, then held off a game Blue Moon Stride in the stretch by a half-length in a career-best 1:49:2.

Driver Brett Miller was aboard for Pure Country, and he continued his big night by piloting Racing Hill, who rolled to victory in the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial pace for 3-year-olds. Racing Hill is the lone Sun Stakes champion who can’t really claim divisional supremacy, considering that Betting Line swept through him and several other Hempt competitors in the North American Cup in Canada and didn’t make his way to Pennsylvania for this race. But Racing Hill, trained by Tony Alagna, still earns credit for handling the Hempt field with such ease on the front end, winning by a comfortable 2 ½ lengths in a career-best time of 1:49.

The $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial Trot for 3-year-olds seemed to be a perfect place for Southwind Frank to continue his dominance of the sophomore trotting division, at least until he was upset at 1-9 in the elimination by Bar Hopping. A #7 post in the final seemed like an invitation to more problems. But Yannick Gingras never sweated the trip, guiding Southwind Frank to the lead on the front stretch, rating him expertly, and then coasting home for a two-length victory in 1:52:4. Suddenly the loss in the elimination seems like a blip, and the career record of 14 wins in 16 races looms large as Southwind Frank heads toward the Hambletonian hype.

Back to the Franklin, which carried a purse of $500,000. For those who might have forgotten, the three main competitors were Wiggle It JiggleIt, defending horse of the year and one of the most popular stars the sport has seen in years; Freaky Feet Pete, a four-year-old counterpart of Wiggle It JiggleIt with a record almost as gaudy despite coming from humble origins in the Midwest; and Always B Miki, whose world record-matching victory in the Franklin eliminations was the latest in a series of jaw-dropping victories for the 5-year-old stallion.

As if so often the case, these big races never go exactly according to plan. Most people expected several horses to be winging it toward the front end and a sturdy outer flow to develop. Certainly that’s what driver David Miller expected when he sent Always B Miki to the outside on the first turn. But instead he cruised to the front of the pack and past Freaky Feet Pete for the lead at the 3/8-mile marker.

It was by no means easy after that, as Wiggle it Jiggleit came hard at him first-over on the back stretch. Once that charge was repelled, Always B Miki, trained by Jimmy Takter, had to summon more energy to hold off Freaky Feet Pete in the pocket. But after a trip in the eliminations in which he was parked for two turns, Saturday night must have seemed like a breeze for Always B Miki. He fended off Freaky Feet Pete by a length, once again pacing the mile in 1:47 to match his world-record time from the previous week.

The enthusiasm and excitement generated by both the Franklin and all of the big races on Sun Stakes Saturday demonstrate just how much the fans of this sport care for it. They want to see greatness, and they had that chance on Saturday night. Let’s hope that fate provides even more opportunities for the harness racing stars to align in such a manner in the very near future.

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.