July 5-11, 2013
I had originally intended this week’s article to only recap the Pennsylvania All Stars races that highlighted Grand Circuit at the week. Yet sometimes things happen at the track that demand attention, and I would say that four consecutive nights of track and world records at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs would definitely qualify as one of those special events that merit a change of plans.
Fans of racing at Pocono know that the track boasts perhaps the fastest racing surface in the country. Just a few weeks ago on Sun Stakes Saturday, the proof of that speed came from the fact that the fastest trot and fastest pace in the history of racing on 5/8-mile ovals both took place at MSPD. That momentum carried over into this week, leaving us all agape at the blistering action that we witnessed.
The explosive action began last Wednesday night, July 3, which was only fitting since a giant fireworks display was scheduled for immediately after the completion of racing. There were five Pennsylvania All Stars races that evening for 2-year-old colts and geldings. Perhaps the most vulnerable record in the Pocono book coming into the week was the 1:56:3 mark of Sand Violent Blu for 2-year-old geldings on the trot. Sure enough, in the very first race of the night, gelding Amped Up Hanover, with Marcus Miller in the bike for John Butenschoen, shattered that mark with a 1:55:4 mile in a win. Later on that same night, Yannick Gingras drove the Steve Schoeffel-trained gelding Ravenclaw to a win in that same record time of 1:55:4.
On Friday night, much of the racing attention was paid to the eight divisions of 2-year-old All Stars races for 2-year-old trotting fillies. While there were some excellent performances in that class, none were able to break into the record book. In a condition trot, however, Summer Indian, driven by Matt Kakaley for trainer Ron Burke, put on a show with a win in 1:51:1. That blasted the 5-year-old Pocono record for 4-year-old trotting geldings of 1:52, set by Macho Lindy back in 2008, which was also the world mark for that age group on a 5/8-mile oval.
Saturday night was our biggest night of Pennsylvania All-Stars action, with 12 straight races featuring 3-year-olds kicking off the card. In a division of the All Stars for 3-year-old trotting colts and geldings, Its Complicated, with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike for trainer Kris Hite, was a powerhouse on the front end and won in 1:52:4. That matched the track and world record for 3-year-old geldings on the trot.
When the All Stars races ended that night, things really started to heat up. First up was Live On, driven by Eric Carlson for trainer Tom Fanning, who matched a world record for 4-year-old geldings on the pace with a mile of 1:48:1 in a romping condition victory. Just a race later, the track record for trotting geldings five years and up was matched, as Zooming, with Jim Morrill Jr. in the bike for trainer Amber Buter, came on for a condition win in 1:51.
On Sunday night, many of the overnight races that got pushed back by all of the Pennsylvania All Stars races were scheduled, which meant that some of our older horses would have their chances to assault the record books. In a $25,000 Preferred trot, Sevruga took his opportunity and did something really special.
The 5-year-old gelding from the Julie Miller barn came into the race with wins in 7 of his 13 races this season, despite the fact that he was up against some of the top trotters on the grounds of each of the different tracks where he competed. Driver Andy Miller pretty much cut Sevruga loose to see what he what he could do, and the results were staggering. The gelding won the race by 5 ½ lengths over an excellent field and tripped the timer in 1:50:3. That matched the world record for fastest mile ever trotted on a 5/8 oval that had been set just eight days previous at Pocono by Uncle Peter. It also established the world mark for aged geldings on the trot.
Those are a lot of broken records in a four-night span. When you count all the marks that fell on Sun Stakes Saturday, almost half of the Pocono record book has changed around in a stretch of a little more than a week. So what gives? Well, you have a perfect storm of incredible talent, in terms of horses and horsemen, making MSPD a destination instead of a stopover, hot weather, and a perfectly manicured track. Suddenly Pocono is like the Bonneville Salt Flats of the harness racing world. Don’t blink or you literally might miss another record being set.
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.
July 5-11, 2013