May 11-17, 2012
The action at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs has been great all season long, but the last few weeks have been particularly fine, highlighted by the first track records of the season. With the first Sire Stakes of the season in the offing, the racing is bound to get even hotter in the weeks to come. In the meantime, let’s dive into this edition of the Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: TRANSCENDING
This 8-year-old stallion from the Ron Burke barn has been a top performer for several years. Consistency is the name of his game, as he has hit the board in more than half of his 156 career starts, most of which came against the finest pacing competition at Pocono and other Eastern tracks. His effort Saturday night, however, is one that will stand out in his illustrious career.
Facing an excellent field of condition pacers, Transcending worked out an excellent trip behind a raging speed duel between American Rage and Mickey Hanover. As the fractions got faster and faster, Matt Kakaley sat tight with the stallion, waiting for his opportunity to explode.
That opportunity came in the stretch, as he battled American Rage through the lane right to the finish line. When the dust cleared, Transcending was on top by a nose in a ridiculous time in 1:48:2. That was not only his new career-best, but it matched the Pocono track mark for aged stallions on the pace, previously set by Vlos in October of 2010.
Other top pacers this week include: Hurrikane Scotty J (Joe Pavia Jr., Chris Oakes), who stepped up in class on Saturday night to conquer the $20,000 claimers, his third straight win, in a new career-best time of 1:51:1; Fearlesss Diablo (Andrew McCarthy, Dylan Davis), who kept his winning streak alive after returning from Harrah’s with a condition victory on Saturday night, his third straight, in 1:51:3; and Billmar Scooter (Tyler Buter, Amber Buter), who beat the best mares on the grounds for a second straight week on Tuesday in 1:51.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: KEYSTONE TORCH
Many times in this column, the Pacers and Trotters of the Week come from the highest ranks of the conditions and claimers. Every once in a while, a horse from some of the more modest ranks puts together a string of racing that just can’t be ignored. Such is the excellent stretch of racing that Keystone Torch has assembled the past month.
Even at age 11, this gelding has been impossible to beat in the $7,500 claimers since arriving at Pocono from Harrah’s. He reeled off three straight wins for trainer Jennifer Sabot as soon as he hit the MSPD racing surface, only to be claimed following his win on May 4. That meant that Friday night he was heading to a gate for a new trainer, Chris Oakes.
None of that mattered once the gate sped away and Keystone Torch got to the front end. Nobody could get to him and driver George Napolitano Jr., and he coasted to the victory by 1 ¼ lengths in 1:57:1. That makes 4 in a row for the veteran, the longest winning streak at Pocono so far in the 2012 meet.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Fox Valley Iliad (Tom Jackson, Kimberly Asher), who, after winning Trotter of the Week honors for setting a track record last week, went even faster in his victory in the week’s featured trot on Saturday night, setting a mark of 1:52, which is a new world record for 4-year-old stallions on the trot; Marion Miss Julie (Eric Carlson, Neal Ehrhart), who switched barns and had to deal with the far outside post but still scored his second straight claiming handicap win on Saturday night in 1:54:3; and Bayside Volo (Matt Kakaley, Chris Oakes), who once again moved up in class and switched barns but still won his third straight on Tuesday night in 1:54:4.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: LOCO FOR COCOA
He’s got a great name, and the colt had the game to match on Tuesday night, picking up his maiden win with John Kakaley in the bike at 26-1, paying off $54.60 on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ERIC CARLSON
It seems like every year a new driver breaks into the Pocono driving colony and makes a splash. Carlson seems to be fitting that bill for 2012 after five driving wins last weekend.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: CHRIS OAKES
Once again, Oakes is among the best trainers at Pocono. He’s been red hot early in the season, and he knocked out a training double on Saturday night on his way to a five-win week.
That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 11-17, 2012