May 17-23, 2014
In this space, we usually hand out the Weekly Awards. But every now and again, we deviate from our formula due to something special taking place at the track. In this case, it was Saturday night’s racing card, which featured the first appearance of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, a world-record performance, and a young driver who nearly stole the show from everybody.
Regular watchers know just how fantastic the racing is Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs has become over the past few years. But nights like Saturday evening that go a little above and beyond are always special. Let’s take a look at some of the spectacular moments from the night.
If you’ve been to the track enough, you’ll hear the phrase that a horse “needs a start” from handicappers. What it means is that a horse is coming off a long layoff and isn’t expected to perform at its peak the first time back. While that might have been a good rule in the past, I find it to be less and less reliable as time passes.
For example, take Saturday night’s Pennsylvania Sire Stakes action for 3-year-old colts and geldings on the pace. In the first split of the night, Tellitlikeitis, a big earner as a 2-year-old for the Jimmy Takter barn, was making his first start since September. Two outstanding qualifiers must have prepared him enough though, because driver Brett Miller positioned him in the pocket and then blew by pacesetter Limelight Beach in the stretch to score in a scorching 1:49:1, the first of many sizzling times achieved on the night.
Ironically, the horse that finished second behind Tellitlikeitis in one of those qualifiers at The Meadowlands was Somestarsomewhere, and he proved to be ready for his close-up as well. With Matt Kakaley in the bike for trainer Ron Burke, the colt, who hadn’t raced since finishing third in the Breeders Crown in October, won a thrilling stretch battle in his Sire Stakes division in 1:50:3.
The other two Sire Stakes winners had good stories as well. At Press Time, another one guided by Burke and Kakaley, bounced back from a 4th-place finish in an overnight race at Pocono in his last start to pull off a 10-1 upset in his division in 1:49:1. And the night’s most dominant performance was turned in by Let’s Drink On It, who arrived from Indiana and rolled to a convincing win in the night’s fastest Sire Stakes time of 1:49. Tyler Smith did the driving for trainer Joe Seekman.
If Smith seems like an unfamiliar name, it’s because the 21-year-old driver, who usually does his racing in Indiana, was making his first appearance at Pocono. And what a debut it was. In addition to the win aboard Let’s Drink On It, Smith also picked up wins aboard McMarvel at 21-1 and Arsenal at 11-1. He had five starts on the night and picked up three victories and a show, and if you bet the horses he drove $2 across the board all night, you would have walked away with a profit of $88.90. The bettors are probably hoping Smith comes back soon; I’m not so sure if the other drivers will be as anxious to see him again.
For all of the drama and excitement of the Sire Stakes, Dancin Yankee had something even better in store for the faithful in the $25,000 Preferred pace. Last seen winning the Van Rose Memorial at Pocono two weeks previous to Saturday night, he returned to action with a performance for the ages. He took the lead with an incredibly fast brush in the front stretch, reaching the half in 52:2 to give an indication that this race could be one for the record books.
The 6-year-old stallion from the Josh Green barn had to fight off a first-over charge from Mach It So on the back stretch, which seemed like it might leave him vulnerable to pocket horse Clear Vision coming home. But driver Brett Miller asked Dancin Yankee for a little more and he gave a lot, holding off Clear Vision by a neck in 1:47:2. Not only was that the fastest time ever posted at Pocono, it matched the speediest time ever recorded on a 5/8-mile oval.
Dancin Yankee’s performance thrilled about everyone in attendance, with the possible exception of Anderlecht. The 9-year-old stallion won the 13th race in an eye-popping 1:48. That time would have set the track record for aged stallions on the pace at the start of the night. But, alas, Dancin Yankee beat him to it with a time that was three-fifths of a second faster.
The moral of the story is that, on a night as stellar as Saturday night at Pocono, even the extraordinary can seem just OK.
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 17-23, 2014