June 28-July 4, 2013
All of us on the racing side at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs had been looking forward all season long to Sun Stakes Saturday, an extravaganza of racing featuring four huge stakes races with combined purses of $1.8 million. When it finally arrived last weekend, it was everything we possibly could have hoped for and a ton more.
It featured some surprising results, crazy weather, and incredible, record-smashing performances by horses long before we even got to the stakes portion of the evening. Once those stakes races came around, the fans on hand and watching at home got to witness some of the sport’s finest stars showing just why they’re considered so special.
The stakes races weren’t scheduled until races 9 through 12, but the transcendent performances got underway long before that. In the very first race of the night, a $25,000 Preferred Trot, 4-year-old superstar Uncle Peter out-trotted veteran Arch Madness in a thrilling stretch battle for a win in 1:50:3, the fastest time ever trotted not only at Pocono but at any 5/8-mile oval in the world. Just a few races down the road in the consolation for the Ben Franklin pace, Bolt The Duer became the first pacer in Pocono history to break the 1:48 barrier, winning in an unreal 1:47:4.
In the Max C. Hempt elimination, Beach Memories’ winning time of 1:48:3 set a new Pocono record for 3-year-old geldings on the pace. Perhaps the wildest of the night’s races was the $25,000 Preferred pace. In the midst of the race, the threatening skies finally opened up, drenching a huge crowd watching outside on the track apron and the patio as well as the horses competing in the race. Yet, in the midst of the downpour, Abelard Hanover managed to match a world record for aged pacing geldings on a 5/8-mile oval with a victory in 1:48.
The soaking rain ensured that the track and world records were done for the evening, but, even in the slop, the stakes races proved that the best horses rise to the occasion no matter what the circumstances or obstacles. First came the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial for 3-year-old fillies, a race which featured I Luv The Nitelife, who came in with four wins in five races on the year including a pair of six-figure stakes conquests. The #8 post didn’t scare the filly off from flashing her early speed. She managed to settle in the pocket and power home with a second move in the stretch with Tim Tetrick in the bike. The pride of the Chris Ryder barn picked up the win in 1:50.
The $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial pace is a 3-year-old Open event, which meant that it fell within the province of the sport’s preeminent superstar at this time, Captaintreacherous. The Tony Alagna-trained standout had already won 12 of 14 races in his career, including all four starts in 2013, heading into the race, yet the outside post he drew was a definite headache. Tetrick managed to find Captaintreacherous some cover on the outside though, and he survived a thrilling stretch battle with fast-closing Vegas Vacation. It was the kind of win where a horse just finds a way, like all winners do. Captaintreacherous paced the mile in 1:49:2.
Foiled Again came into the $500,000 Ben Franklin Free-For-All pace sitting at the precipice of a milestone no pacer in history had ever reached: $5 million earned in a career. The 9-year-old vet from the Rob Burke barn was coming off a record-setting win in the Franklin elimination, but his journey to the front in Saturday’s final was a tough first-over jaunt. No matter. Driver Yannick Gingras urged him home in a bang-bang finish to nose out Pet Rock in 1:49:2. Not only did it put him over that $5 million mark in style, it gave him 70 lifetime victories. And the scary thing is that he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
The way the night was going, with all of the biggest names coming up aces in the finals, it seemed like a good omen for Smiling Eli, the even-money favorite in the $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial trot who was unbeaten after four career races. Yet the #9 post proved a little too much for him; the effort he expended to get to the front caught up with him in the stretch. That’s when Corky, a 7-1 shot with David Miller in the bike for trainer Jimmy Takter, came rolling by first-over for the win in 1:54:3. That marks three straight wins for Corky, who may be rounding into shape as the top 3-year-old trotter on the planet.
What a night it was. We’ve got much more to come at Pocono in 2013, of course. There’s another jam-packed stakes Saturday coming up in August and The Breeders Crown awaits in October. They’ll be hard-pressed to top Sun Stakes Saturday though, a day when the Pocono faithful saw a little bit of everything and a whole lot of excitement.
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 28-July 4, 2013