August 1-7, 2013
The month of August started out without the sizzling temperatures that are the norm for this time of year in Northeastern Pennsylvania. It’s a good thing then that plenty of heat was generated on the track at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs this past racing week. It’s gets harder and harder to narrow down the very best of the outstanding performances we see each and every night at Pocono, but that’s what we’ll try to do right now by handing out the Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: MATTADOR D
It’s not easy to jump even a little bit in class in the harness racing wars at Pocono and have any bit of success. To make a big jump and see immediate results is a rare accomplishment indeed because of the extremely competitiveness of the scene. Yet Mattador D took a pretty daunting leap up the claiming ladder on Saturday night and handled it impressively.
It certainly helped that the 5-year-old gelding came into the race on a hot streak. He beat a group of $10,000 claimers on July 20 in 1:52:1, then followed it up the next week with a victory over the $12,500 claimers in 1:51:4. Still, those winning times didn’t figure to hack it on Saturday night against the $20,000 claimers. In his first start for trainer Lou Pena, Mattador D would have to step his game.
The gelding answered that challenge in sterling fashion. With George Napolitano Jr. in the bike, he hustled to the front end early and had to face severe pressure throughout the mile. Yet he sustained and came out on top in a career-best 1:50:2. It should be fun to watch Mattador D keep climbing that ladder and see how high he can get before someone slows his rapid ascent.
Other top pacers this week include: B N Bad (George Napolitano Jr., Peter Pellegrino), who powered to a condition pacing win on Saturday night in a career-best 1:49:2, which was the fastest time posted all week long at Pocono; Allamerican Daddy (Eric Carlson, Eddie Nickle), who staged a furious rally to win his second straight $10,000 claimer on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:51:4; and Audreys Dream (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who won Saturday night’s featured condition pace in 1:50.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: LIGHTNING STORM
While Mattador D provided a good example of a horse hot enough to move up in class, our Trotter of the Week this week is one who needed to drop down to find the groove. There’s no shame in such a move, since it doesn’t make any sense for an owner to keep sending a horse over and over into a class that he can’t handle. It’s better for the horse to find a group in which he can do damage.
Lightning Storm, a 4-year-old stallion from the Lou Pena barn, had success early in the meet in some rugged condition trots and then moved up into the Preferred trots in the month of June, taking on the best trotters on the grounds. He seemed overmatched with that class, finishing way up the track from the winners in three straight races.
It was only when he dropped back into the non-winners of $16,000 condition trots on July 19 that he found his stride again, winning that night in a career-best 1:53:2. On Friday night he was back at in the same class, and he once again controlled the action, winning in 1:54:3 this time around with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike. Now that he’s built up his confidence again, this might be the right time for Lightning Storm to try it again with some heavier hitters.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: CDs Eldorado (Joe Pavia Jr., Jason Robinson), whose victory over the $10,000 claimers in a career-best 1:55:2 on Tuesday night gave him wins in three straight and four of his last five; Biltmore (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), whose romping victory in a condition trot on Wednesday night in 1:55:1 was his third win in his last four races; and In Your Room (Mike Simons, Gail Wrubel), who rolled to a condition win on Wednesday night in 1:53, the fastest trotting time of the week at MSPD.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: HYANNIS HANOVER
This 2-year-old trotter had quite the memorable debut on Wednesday night, rallying from way back for driver Bret Brittingham to score at 90-1, paying off $182.60 on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.
It took a little while, but George has ascended to his usual position atop the drivers’ standings at Pocono. He was especially lethal last weekend, picking up seven combined wins on Friday and Saturday.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: DOUGLAS BERKELEY
Berkeley has been a force at Pocono for the past few seasons, and he made his presence felt this week with a pair of training victories.
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.
August 1-7, 2013