May 10-16, 2014
For the past few years, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs has been the place to be if you wanted to witness world records being set. The combination of top-notch racing and a speedy track surface has torn the record books to shreds. It usually takes nice weather conditions for world records to fall, however, which is probably why the chilly first month-and-a-half of the meet didn’t produce any. But conditions were ripe on Saturday night, and, lo and behold, our first world record of the season fell. That stellar performance highlights the Weekly Awards.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: CLASSIC MARTINE
Trainer Chris Oakes is one of Pocono’s biggest success stories over the years, a local trainer whose horses compete on a national level in some of the biggest races of the country. Classic Martine, a four-year-old mare, is certainly one of those superstar performers. After a stellar 3-year-old season which included a dead heat win the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship with fellow Oakes trainee Frau Blucher, she started 2014 hot as well with a win at The Meadows in Preferred company on April 30.
On Saturday night, she took to the stage in a Preferred trot at Pocono, only this time she was facing the stallions and geldings instead of other mares. Still, she was made the 3-5 favorite based on her impressive history, and driver Brett Miller drove her aggressively and sent her to the lead on the front stretch. From there, she had to deal with relentless first-over pressure from Coraggioso.
That pressure led to sizzling fractions throughout the race, but Classic Martine rose to the challenge, speeding home three-quarters of a length in front of Coraggioso in an unbelievably fast 1:51:2. Not only did that break the world record for 4-year-old trotting mares of 1:51:4, it also set the mark for the fastest trotting time ever achieved by a female trotter on a 5/8-mile oval. That’s not bad for just her second start of the year. Who else wants to see what she can do the rest of the season?
Other top trotters this week include: DWs Jasmine (Jim Morrill Jr., Peter Pellegrino), a mare who moved up in class to the $10,000 claimers on Sunday night and came away with her second straight win in 1:56, matching her career-best time; Ibanez (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who shipped in from The Meadows and captured Tuesday night’s featured claiming handicap in 1:54:2, a new career mark; and Skyline Road (Jim Morrill Jr., Bill Mullin), who moved up in class but still reeled off his third straight condition win on Wednesday night in a career-best time of 1:52:4.
PACER OF THE WEEK: NITRO SEELSTER
Sunday night’s featured condition pace for colts, stallions, and geldings who were non-winners of four races was stacked with shippers from other tracks who had been impressive in their previous starts. When that occurs, sometimes the horses who had already been racing at Pocono are overlooked. Sometimes it’s justified, but other times, as in the case of Nitro Seelster, it’s a mistake.
Despite having won in the same class in his previous start in 1:51:3, the 4-year-old gelding from the barn of trainer Douglas Hamilton was let go at 10-1 odds. But driver Brett Miller drove him with confidence, sending him to the lead around the first turn and burning it up with imposing fractions. All of the talented shippers took their shots, but none could get by.
In the stretch, Nitro Seelster faced a determined bid from Rock Out but held up strong for the victory by three-quarters of a length. Tripping the line in 1:49 was extremely impressive, especially considering that the gelding didn’t start racing until this season, skipping his two and three-year-old campaigns. The bottom line is that this young pacer needs to be considered a force no matter where his composition originates.
Honorable mention on the pacing side goes to: Emeritus Maximus (Andrew McCarthy, Thomas Cancelliere), who fired up a late rally to win the week’s featured Preferred pace on Saturday night in 1:49:4; South Pacific (Andrew McCarthy, Thomas Cancelliere), who moved up in class on Tuesday night and scored his second straight victory in 1:51:1, which was the fastest in his career; and Ring Leda (George Napolitano Jr., Lou Pena),who survived an outside post to score his second straight claiming win on Wednesday night, matching his career-best of 1:51 in the process.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: PAINKILLER
This 3-year-old gelding with Tyler Buter in the bike snuck up the passing lane late on Tuesday night in a condition pace as a 24-1 shot and came home a winner, paying off $51.40 on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANDREW MCCARTHY
It seems like McCarthy becomes more of a force every year at Pocono, and he stepped it up this week with driving triples on Saturday and Tuesday.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: CHRIS OAKES
We mentioned Chris’ success with Classic Martine earlier in the article, but it was an all-around outstanding week for his barn, as he scored five training wins at Pocono.
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.
May 10-16, 2014