April 5-11, 2014
Although the weather wasn’t always balmy in the past week at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, at least it was dry on live racing nights. That led to our first week of exclusively fast tracks, and, as you might imagine, the action had a little extra spice because of it. There were a lot of thrilling races and some extraordinary performances, the best of which we’ll now honor by handing out the Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: DOVUTO HANOVER
Saturday night marked the first time this season that we’ve had a Preferred race on the pacing side, and the $25,000 purse brought out an excellent field of six. Among those, Sparky Mark and Blatantly Good had already established themselves at Pocono with three condition wins between them in the meet, and, with inside posts, figured to be strong contenders. Add in Dovuto Hanover, who came in with wins in two of his last three against tough company at The Meadowlands, and it figured to be quite the battle.
It’s always nice when a race lives up to the expectations. Sparky Mark went out and set the pace, but faced a stiff first-over test from Blatantly Good on the back stretch. Dovuto Hanover, the 4-5 favorite from the Darran Cassar barn, followed the cover of Blatantly Good on the outside before kicking out three-wide on the final turn.
That meant all three horses were in prime spots at the top of the stretch, setting up a thrilling battle. For a moment, it appeared that Sparky Mark would cling to his lead all the way home, as Dovuto Hanover’s momentum seemed to be stilled. Yet driver Tyler Buter coaxed a sudden burst of energy from the favorite, and the 4-year-old gelding came up in the nick of time by a nose in 1:50:4. Great horse, great finish, and a great representation of how the Preferred pacers will compete at Pocono in the upcoming season.
Other top pacers this week include: Drive All Night (Anthony Napolitano, Rene Allard), the veteran pacer who scored his second straight $15,000 claiming victory on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:51:3; Donna Party (Brett Miller-Kent Sherman), a mare who scored her third straight win in a tight claiming handicap battle on Wednesday in 1:53; and Cypress Hill Suds (George Napolitano Jr., Lou Pena), who picked up a win against the $10,000 claiming mares on Wednesday, her second straight victory, in a career-best 1:52:3.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: FIRST AQUA
There hasn’t been a trotter on the Pocono grounds anywhere near as dominant so far in the meet as this seven-year-old gelding. Arriving from Freehold on March 25, he immediately scorched a claiming group by seven lengths in 1:53:3. He followed that up by moving up in class the following week to handle the $20,000-$25,000 claiming handicap group, again by a comfortable margin, in 1:54.
By that time the secret was out, and First Aqua was claimed from that race. He went from one hot trainer (Gilberto Garcia-Herrera) to another (Rene Allard) in the exchange, but he kept George Napolitano Jr. as his driver to face off with that same top claiming group on Wednesday night as a heavy 1-5 favorite.
First Aqua made the same swooping move to take over the lead on the front stretch as he did in his previous two wins. This time out he got a decent challenge from pocket horse Maravich, but he was more than up to that challenge, holding him off to win by a length-and-a-quarter. And although the margin of victory was the smallest of his winning streak, the time of 1:53:2 set a new career mark for First Aqua. That proves he’s still getting better, which is a scary thought for his future competition to entertain.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Smokin Dabra (Brett Miller, Brewer Adams), who rolled on the front end on Tuesday night to his second straight $10,000 claiming victory, this one in 1:54:4; P L Fantastic (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who took a huge step up in class and won his second straight condition trot at Pocono and his third straight overall, posting a winning time of 1:53:1; and My Leap Of Faith (Simon Allard, Brian Seidel), who rallied late for a condition win on Wednesday night in 1:54:4.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: LATE NIGHT JOKE
Driver Andrew McCarthy has a way with the long shots, and he showed it by rallying this claiming pacer to an improbable victory Saturday night at 35-1 for a $73.60 win payout on a $2 ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MARCUS MILLER
Young drivers sometimes struggle to find a place at Pocono, but Miller showed this week that he belongs, scoring driving doubles on Sunday and Tuesday.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: BREWER ADAMS
He’s been a consistent force for several seasons at Pocono, and Adams scored big this week with five training wins, including doubles on Sunday and Tuesday.
That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com.
April 5-11, 2014