May 3-9, 2014
On Kentucky Derby day at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, we held our annual doubleheader, bookending thoroughbred’s most famous race with a pair of harness racing cards for the overflow crowd. That means we had even more racing action than usual at Pocono this past week. And that, in turn, means that it was even tougher than usual choosing from among the best performances. Yet that’s what we’ve attempted to do with this edition of the Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: DANCIN YANKEE
The feature event on Saturday night and of the entire week at Pocono was The Van Rose Memorial, a $50,000 invitational pace held in honor of the longtime area sportswriter and great friend to the sport of harness racing in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Van certainly would have loved Saturday night’s race, considering the stellar field it contained and the outstanding performance of Dancin Yankee.
Dancin Yankee, a 6-year-old stallion from the Josh Green barn, was fresh off the rugged Levy series at Yonkers, where he finished 5th in the $567,000 final. As the 3-1 second choice in the Rose, he stayed back from a blistering early pace which produced fractions that were unsustainable even for the caliber of pacers in the race. On the back stretch, driver Brett Miller sensed his chance and sent Dancin Yankee first-over to easily take the lead.
From there, he kept extending his advantage until it was just about insurmountable at the top of the stretch. Even with closers like the race favorite Dovuto Hanover attempting to rally, Dancin Yankee stayed strong and came home in front by 3 ¼ lengths, an eye-opening margin considering the quality of the field. Even more impressive was his winning time of 1:49, a new career mark despite the fact that the track had been downgraded to good condition due to rainy weather.
Other top pacers this week include: Codey Shark (George Napolitano Jr., Lou Pena), whose condition victory on Saturday afternoon in 1:52:3 was his third straight; Sky Desperado (Anthony Napolitano, Steve Salerno), who switched barns but still managed his second straight $25,000 claiming win on Saturday night and matched his career-best time of 1:51:1 in the process; and Dealmaker (Ron Pierce, Joseph Poliseno), who picked up his second straight $15,000 claiming win on Wednesday night and did it in a new career-best of 1:50:4.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: HARBOR POINT
There wasn’t an Open or Preferred trot on the schedule this past week at Pocono. Instead, the highest trotting purse of the week was the $21,000 up for grabs in a condition trot on Saturday night pitting non-winners of $27,500 in their last four starts against each other. As a result, the top trotters on the grounds jammed into this field, many either dropping down in class or shipping in from other tracks for the race.
Yet the horse who was made the 3-5 favorite was one who was actually moving up in class. Harbor Point had faced a lower condition field in his previous start but scored in such convincing fashion in a sizzling 1:53:2 that it was impossible for the bettors to ignore him, even in such heady company. Driver Ron Pierce raced him like the best in the field, gunning him to the front end early.
Pierce did an excellent job rating the speed on the front end, so that Harbor Point was plenty strong enough to hold off any late challengers. Even with the move up in class, the 5-year-old gelding from the Mark Ford barn picked up his second consecutive win in 1:54 on a good track. This trotter is on a roll and seems ready to take on all comers as long as this hot streak persists.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Frenchmen (Simon Allard, Pierre Paradis), who picked up his second straight front-trotting win on Sunday night over the $7,500 claimers, this one coming in a new career mark of 1:56:4; Skyline Road (Jim Morrill Jr., William Mullin), who took a big step up the condition ladder on Wednesday night but still scored his second straight win, this one coming in a career-best 1:53:3; and Affirmed Action (Mike Simons, John Grasso), who went gate-to-wire to win Wednesday night’s featured condition trot in 1:53:4.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: HUMILITY
This pacer had been up the track in his previous two $25,000 claimers, but he reversed that trend on Saturday night with Marcus Miller in the bike at 36-1 for a $74.60 win payout on a $2 ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.
George is a candidate to win this award every single week at Pocono. This week he picked up multiple wins in four out of the five racing cards that were held.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: RON BURKE
Burke, as always, is in the hunt to be the top trainer in the Pocono standings, and he helped his cause on Saturday night by scoring three training victories.
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.
May 3-9, 2014