April 12-18, 2014
Once again the weather was a wild ride this past week in Northeastern Pennsylvania, which obviously affected the racing wars at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. A gorgeous weekend led to the fastest times of the young season, but rain, snow, and bitter cold on Tuesday brought sloppy conditions. Nonetheless, the action stayed thrilling no matter what the track conditions or winning times were. Here is a look at the week’s best performers via another edition of the Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: DRIVE ALL NIGHT
It’s always fascinating to watch how excellent horses progress throughout their careers. They will often go through periods at their where they face the top classes, and then almost inevitably start to drop down in class as they age to face competition more suited to their talent level. But there are some that have a tendency to rise to the top of whatever class they inhabit.
Drive All Night certain falls into that category of horses that seem to find a groove no matter the caliber of horses they face. A few years back, he took on the pacers in the highest condition classes and even the Open pacers at Pocono, and he always acquitted himself well. These days the nine-year-old gelding is a denizen of the mid-priced claiming classes, and he has been cleaning up.
He came into Saturday night’s $20,000 claiming event with back-to-back front-pacing victories at Pocono with the $15,000 claimers. The step up in class didn’t bother him a bit, as driver Simon Allard sent the 9-year-old gelding trained by Marty Fine to the front end and guided him to a 2 ¼ length victory in 1:50:4. That gave the veteran 54 lifetime wins, and he’s showing no signs of slowing back down. In fact, with performances like that, he might just be ready to step back up to the face the whippersnappers in those top classes once again.
Other top pacers this week include: Abelard Hanover (Jonathan Roberts, Donald Billings), whose victory in Saturday night’s Preferred pace came in 1:48:4, the fastest time recorded at Pocono so far this season; Its Rock N Roll (Anthony Napolitano, John Barchi), who moved up in class and switched barns Saturday night and still picked up his second straight win at Pocono and his third straight overall, this one coming in a career-best 1:51:3; and American Shuttle (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), a mare who ripped off her second straight claiming win on Sunday night since arriving from Yonkers, matching her career-best of 1:53:3 in the process.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: WIND OF THE NORTH
Saturday night’s condition trot for non-winners of $23,500 in the last five starts felt like an Open considering the high caliber of the horses competing. Some of the standouts in the six-horse field included Meadowlands shippers Banker Volo and Jurgen Hanover, Imagine Hanover, who was fresh off a late closer sweep at The Meadows, and Money On My Mind, who finished second in Preferred company in his previous start.
With that kind of competition, it’s not surprising that folks were a little skeptical of Wind Of The North, the four-year-old gelding from the Clifton Green barn who was coming off back-to-back condition wins to start his 2014 season. He was moving up in class, so that’s probably why he was let go at 6-1, but this is a trotter who proved last year as a three-year-old he could compete in the toughest classes.
He proved it again and then some on Saturday night. With Mike Simons in the bike, Wind Of The North battled both Money On My Mind and Banker Volo in the stretch before prevailing in exciting fashion. It took his best effort, a career-best 1:53:4, to come out on top, but this third straight victory should go a long way in preventing anyone from underestimating this peaking trotter again.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Definitely Mamie (George Napolitano Jr., Brewer Adams), the accomplished mare who won a tough condition battle on Wednesday night in 1:55:4; Keystone Thomas (Andrew McCarthy, Joe Pavia Jr.), who rolled on the front end to a condition win on Wednesday in 1:55; and Smokin Dabra (Ron Pierce, Marty Fine), who moved up in class in style with a claiming handicap victory on Wednesday in 1:54, his third win in a row.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: WHIRL MONROE
Tuesday night’s sloppy track seemed conducive to long shots, and this condition pacer with Anthony Napolitano in the bike pulled off the night’s biggest shocker at 36-1, paying off $79.80 to win.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MARK MACDONALD
MacDonald has been spending more time at Pocono than ever before, and it’s paying off big dividends, like on Saturday night when he ripped off four victories.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: LOU PENA
Pena is always a major factor at Pocono, and he’s been making his presence felt again in the first few weeks of the 2014 season. On Saturday night, he scored three training wins.
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 12-18, 2014