June 1-7, 2012
Even though the summer weather didn’t quite arrive with it, the month of June brought hot racing action to Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. In fact, it was the first week of our new five-night-a-week summer schedule. All of those races mean that the battle for the Weekly Awards was extremely competitive. Let’s see who gets the nod.
PACER OF THE WEEK: OL’ MAN RIVER
This 7-year-old gelding has a name that suggests a slow and steady kind of pacer. Yet he has been anything but that at Pocono the past few weeks. He won back-to-back condition paces on May 16 and May 25, the latter coming in a career-best 1:50:1. Trainer and driver Matt Romano decided to change the scenery for Ol’ Man River and try him out against our toughest claimers for an $18,000 purse on Saturday night.
What has been impressive in the winning streak for Ol’ Man River has been his ability to win in different ways. His versatility has allowed him to win on the front end and from the pocket, and on Saturday night he was forced to sit back off the pace due to blistering early fractions. Romano found some cover for him on the outside, allowing him a clear shot in the stretch.
Ol’ Man River wasn’t about to blow that opportunity. He zipped by his cover to pick up the win in another sizzling mile of 1:50:3. That makes three in a row, meaning that Ol’ Man River is certainly rolling along, albeit in much faster fashion than his name might imply.
Other top pacers this week include: Cinderella Guy (Eric Carlson, Ken Rucker), whose condition win on Saturday night was his third victory in his last four and came in the week’s fastest pacing time of 1:49:3; Ahead Ofthe Curve (Eric Carlson, Paul Holzman), who moved up in class to beat a group of $15,000 claimers on Saturday night, which was his third straight win and came in a career-best time of 1:50:4; and Kel’s Return (George Napolitano Jr., Pierre Paradis), who churned out his third straight claiming win on Sunday night, a victory over $7,500 claimers in 1:51:4.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: BIG RIGS
Each week the best trotters on the Pocono grounds go toe-to-toe in a condition for winners of over $25,000 lifetime. It’s always quite a battle, and the horses pegged to be the favorites often find the target on their backs to be a bit daunting. In this week’s contest, held on Sunday night, the favorite’s mantle was hung on shipper Big Rigs.
The 4-year-old stallion from the barn of trainer Kelly O’Donnell was a top competitor in Open competition at Harrah’s earlier this year and recently finished 4th against a knockout field at the Meadowlands in the $210,000 Cutler Stakes. As a 1-5 favorite on Sunday night, Big Rigs found himself having to come from off the pace and go out wide in the stretch.
Even with those concerns, the stallion was ready to roll once the field straightened out in the stretch. Showing some serious late kick, Big Rigs rolled on by the leaders, winning by a half-length in 1:52:4, easily the fastest trotting time of the week. The win was his 11th career victory, which might not seem like much until you see that his lifetime earnings now stand at $634,436.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Decolletage (Tom Jackson, Fred Grant), a mare who knocked off the boys in a Friday condition trot and overcame an off-track to post a career-best time of 1:55:1; Four Starz Conway (Brandon Simpson, Peter Pellegrino), who followed up a win at Monticello with a victory at Pocono against the $7,500 claimers in 1:58:4; and Mama Made Me Blue (Brandon Simpson trainer and driver), who moved up in class and matched his career best of 1:54:4 in his second straight condition trotting win on Wednesday night.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: K SLATER
This shipper from Yonkers was overlooked in a condition pace on Saturday night to the tune of 23-1, but, with Howard Parker in the bike, he rallied late for the upset, paying off $48.40 on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: TOM JACKSON
Jackson has been a factor at Pocono for the better part of a decade, and he’s heating up in 2012, picking up 7 wins this week, including doubles on Friday, Sunday, and Tuesday.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: PAUL HOLZMAN
Holzman is a relatively new face on the Pocono scene, but that hasn’t stopped him from racking up the wins, including three more this week with a training double on Saturday night.
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.
June 1-7, 2012