May 25-31, 2013
There were only three racing nights in the week that was at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, and yet we were overflowing with standout performances in that span. In just a week, Pocono will be switching to a schedule of five nights per week, which means that it’s going to be even harder each week to decide who might be the best among the pacers and trotters competing at the track. With that in mind, here is the latest edition of the Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: C’MON BUZZ OFF
One of the most competitive classes at Pocono has been the $25,000 claimers for four and five-year-old pacers. It’s been hard for any single horse to gather up any momentum in the class due to the extreme competitiveness of the group, but C’Mon Buzz Off has been able to manage the feat. In fact, he came into Saturday night’s race having won three of his last four starts with his powerful, front-pacing style.
Such early speed usually favors a horse with an inside post position, but C’Mon Buzz Off had to deal with an extreme outside post on Saturday when he drew the #9 hole. In his first start for the Chris Oakes barn, the 4-year-old stallion didn’t change his style at all, as driver Jim Morrill Jr. sent him hurtling to the front end despite the outside post.
Once C’Mon Buzz Off stepped to the front end, his muscle memory took care of the rest. He held a solid group of claimers at bay and scored the win in 1:51:2, giving him three straight victories and four wins in his last five. He’ll be joining a new barn for his next start, but it doesn’t seem to matter what barn or post position this pacer is dealing with these days. He’s going to be hard to beat in any scenario.
Other top pacers this week include: Verdad (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who rumbled to his second straight high condition win on Saturday night and did so in a new career-best time of 1:50:1; Annieswesterncard (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who won the week’s featured Preferred pace on Saturday night in 1:49, which was a new career-mark and the fastest time posted at MSPD this week; and Duel Cheeks (George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes), a mare who took a significant jump in class on Wednesday night and still scored her second consecutive win, this one coming in 1:51:4.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: CLARISSA HALL
There hasn’t been a trotter any more consistent than this 6-year-old mare. Since she arrived from Freehold at the start of April, she has hit the board in five straight races at Pocono, including three straight wins heading into her $10,000 to $12,500 claiming handicap on Tuesday night.
Clarissa Hall has managed to move up in class during the winning streak, which began in the $7,500 claimers. In addition, she has done it despite changing barns for each and every one of those wins. Tuesday night was her first time in the Chris Oakes barn. Early on, driver George Napolitano Jr. settled her in the pocket, but a slow pace by the leader meant that a bunch of horses were close up in the stretch, making for a congested rush to the finish.
With horses on all sides of her, Clarissa Hall stayed strong to the line and came out on top in a tight finish in 1:58:1 on the sloppy track. Not only is that her fourth straight victory, but she also continued a streak of being in the money in every one of her 14 starts this season. She was claimed from the race; her next barn can rest assured knowing it is getting one tough trotter.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Blomkvist (Jim Morrill Jr., Chris Oakes), who powered his way to a victory against the highest-priced claiming handicappers on the grounds on Saturday night in 1:54:1, which is a new career-best; Lightning Storm (George Napolitano Jr., Lou Pena), whose victory in a condition trot on Saturday night came in a career-best 1:53:2; and Keystone Thomas (Andrew McCarthy, Joe Pavia Jr.), who won Wednesday night’s featured condition trot in 1:53:1, a new career-best and the fastest trotting time at Pocono this week.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: DAVE PANLONE
Using a pocket trip, this condition pacer surprised the faithful in the very first race on Tuesday night, rallying for the win at 17-1 in the slop for a win payout of $37.40 on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MIKE SIMONS
Year after year, Simons, a Pocono fixture, keeps delivering the goods. He’s been at it again in 2013, and he rolled through the slop on Tuesday night with three victories on the card.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: CHRIS OAKES
The Oakes barn is a factor on the national level, but Chris saves plenty of ammunition for his home track, as evidenced by a four-win night on Saturday and six wins overall this 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 25-31, 2013