April 19-25, 2014
The Weekly Awards take a hiatus for this week as we stop to focus on the finals of the Bobby Weiss late closer series, which took place the past three racing nights. For those who have been paying attention to Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in the first month of the season, you’ve likely noticed the preliminary Weiss races sprinkled through each night’s card, a chance for younger horses to go head-to-head for solid purses.
The big attraction of the preliminary legs was the opportunity for the combatants to earn enough points to reach the finals, each of which carried a purse of $30,000. That’s a pretty penny for horses early in the season, so it makes sense that some top-notch talent arrived at Pocono at the start of the season for the series named after our longtime track superintendent.
Over the past four weeks, we’ve had the chance to see some budding stars establish themselves in the preliminaries. But who would step up and capture the big-money finals? Read on and find out.
THREE AND FOUR-YEAR-OLD PACING COLTS, STALLIONS, AND GELDINGS
The first of the four finals, held on Saturday night in excellent racing conditions, featured the most wide-open division. The wins in the preliminaries were divided pretty evenly. Only Getitoffyourchest managed three preliminary wins, and he finished seventh in his final leg.
One horse in the final group of nine seemed to be peaking, but he was saddled with a brutal #9 post. Yet A Stitch in Time, driven by George Napolitano Jr. for the Lou Pena barn, didn’t seem to mind. The 4-year-old gelding hustled to the front end, set unconscious fractions, and still was burning it up in the lane. A Stitch In Time ended up comfortably in front by 1 ¾ lengths and set a career-best time of 1:48:3, proving that when a great horse in on his game, even an outside post can’t deter him.
THREE AND FOUR-YEAR-OLD PACING FILLIES AND MARES
Envious Hanover came into the final with three wins in four preliminary legs. With the inside post, she was made the 3-2 favorite. But Prima Dragon, who had won her previous two starts, including a victory in 1:52:1 that represented the fastest winning time achieved in this group in the preliminaries, left right alongside of Envious Hanover, setting up an inevitable showdown.
The difference was in the trip. While Envious Hanover did the work on the lead and had to fight off outside pressure, Prima Dragon sat the pocket trip to save energy. In the stretch, she uncorked her best move in the passing lane to beat the favorite by a 1 ¼ lengths in 1:52:1. Brett Miller did the driving for trainer Michael Dowdall, as Prima Dragon won the tightest of the four Finals.
THREE AND FOUR-YEAR-OLD TROTTING COLTS, STALLIONS, AND GELDINGS
Each time Ray Hall lined up for a Weiss race, he was made an odds-on favorite. And each time, he delivered on that promise with Tim Tetrick in the bike. Still, this final was far from a foregone conclusion, or at least it seemed so after Time To Quit battled Ray Hall to the end in the last preliminary, losing by only a neck. The final on Tuesday had the potential to be a donnybrook.
Instead, Ray Hall was completely dominant. The four-year-old gelding from the Mark Harder barn had the lead by the first turn and controlled matters from that point, once again with Tetrick doing the driving. In the stretch, he kicked away from his listing foes to win by 2 ¾ lengths, adding the exclamation point with a career-best mile of 1:53:2. That made him the only horse to complete a sweep of all four legs and the final.
THREE AND FOUR-YEAR-OLD TROTTING FILLIES AND MARES
In many ways, this race was over once the entries were set. In the preliminaries, Perfect Alliance and Take The Money, a pair of standout mares from the Julie Miller barn, went a combined six-for-six, winning all of those races with ease. Once it was determined that Take The Money would sit this one out, Perfect Alliance immediately became the prohibitive favorite.
Of course, anything can happen in a harness race, but this final always had the feel of a foregone conclusion. Sure enough, with Yannick Gingras doing the driving, Perfect Alliance handled the field without any problems. Her win in 1:53:3 by 1 ¼ lengths gave her nine consecutive victories to start the season, including five at The Meadowlands and four at Pocono. Living up to her name, she made for the perfect way to conclude the Bobby Weiss series for 2014.
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.
April 19-25, 2014