May 24-30, 2014
It was another extraordinary week of harness racing at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, one that featured a world record performance and some exciting Grand Circuit races. But the two horses that won the major honors this week are a pair of veterans who appear to be peaking at a time when most others are either winding down their careers or already retired. Let’s take a look at their exploits as we hand out the Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: ANDERLECHT
While it’s not unusual for a nine-year-old pacer to be winning races, most of those veterans do so in the lower claiming ranks. Since arriving from Yonkers, this stallion has taken on some top-flight condition pacers and showed them how it’s done. On May 17, he absolutely blitzed a group of non-winners of $15,000 in the last five races with a monster mile of 1:48, which would have been a track record were it not of Dancin Yankee beating him to the punch a few races earlier with a 1:47:2 mile.
After a mile like that, it was obvious that he would be the favorite facing the same condition group on Saturday night. Yet the concern for Anderlecht, trained by JD Lewis, was that the ripping time from the previous week would leave him a bit winded this time out. When Getitoffyourchest made an aggressive move past him on the back stretch, it looked like maybe those fears would be realized.
Driver Simon Allard didn’t panic though, biding his time until the stretch when he cut loose Anderlecht for another move. He rallied past Getitoffyourchest to win by a 1 ½ lengths, posting another scorching winning time of 1:49:1. Can this veteran move up in class off these two wins and beat even more accomplished pacers? Based on these performances, it seems like horses of all ages and classes should be wary.
Other top pacers this week include: Somwherovrarainbow (Tim Tetrick, Joe Holloway), whose win in a Preferred pace for mares on Sunday night came in 1:48, the fastest time ever posted by a female pacer on a 5/8-mile oval; Stanhope (Anthony Napolitano, Steve Salerno), who moved up in class to win his second straight condition pace on Sunday night, this one coming in 1:51:4; and Ella’s Twin (George Napolitano Jr., John Barchi), a mare who churned her way to her third straight claiming win on Wednesday night, this one in 1:54:3.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: CHERRY TREE NICOLE
For a trotter to be a consistent winner week after week, it generally has to have a decent amount of getaway speed. Being close to the early lead takes a lot of variables out of a race, so the horses that can fire out of the gate well every race usually give themselves a good chance to win. Cherry Tree Nicole has virtually no leaving speed, yet the mare has been one of the most consistent winners since arriving from California in April.
The pattern for her races has been pretty much identical. She tends to start slowly, out-pacing just a couple horses in the large field around the first turn. On the back stretch, the mare starts to make steady advancement, and, in the stretch, she blows by everyone. That strategy led her to victories in three of her first four races at Pocono. Tuesday night was a tougher test because she was moving up in class to the $10,000 claimers. Plus, she was switching barns, racing for the first time under the banner of trainer Steve Salerno.
Yet for all the changes, the results turned out to be strikingly similar. Cherry Tree Nicole, an eight-year-old mare with an impressive 65 career wins coming into the race, started in her usual lethargic way. When it counted though, driver Matt Kakaley had her in gear, and she coasted by the tiring leaders for a win in 1:57:2. Who said you can’t come from off the pace and win consistently? This gritty mare will have none of that nonsense.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Stitch In Time (Tyler Buter, Amber Buter), who captured Tuesday night’s featured condition trot with a flying rally in a career-best 1:54:4; A Crown For Lindy (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who picked up his second straight claiming win on Wednesday night with a victory in 1:55; and Broadway Socks (Dan Rawlings, David Wade), who followed up a Stallion Series win at The Meadows with a victory here on Sunday night against other three-year-old fillies in the Historic Series, posting a career-best 1:55 in the process.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: PRINT IT
After winning at 22-1 on April 26, this 12-year-old pacer did it again on Saturday night with Tyler Buter in the bike, defeating a claiming group at 32-1 for a $66 payout on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: TYLER BUTER
One of a seemingly endless cadre of excellent drivers plying their trade at Pocono, Buter was hot this week, racking up five wins including a three-bagger on Saturday.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: STEVE SALERNO
Year in and year out, Salerno is a force at Pocono, and he’s been picking up steam of late, including a training double on Sunday night and three wins for the week.
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 24-30, 2014