June 14-20, 2014
We are in the thick of the most exciting time of the season at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Over the next few weekends we’ll be seeing some of the finest standardbreds in the world competing for some huge stakes. We’ve also been blessed with Sire Stakes and Stallion Series races just about every night of late. Through all of that, our overnight races continue to produce outstanding performances. It’s not easy to choose the very best out of such a wealth of talent, but that’s what we’ll try to do as we hand out the Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: FATEFUL CHOICE
When a horse is a part of a barn as successful as that of trainer Chris Oakes and it isn’t winning with regularity, it can almost seem like an underachiever. In the case of 4-year-old gelding Fateful Choice, it may just have been a case early this year of running up against top competition while not quite on his best game. The result was just a single win in ten races to start the 2014 season.
A drop down in class on June 3 to the non-winners of $7,000 in the last five starts did the trick though, as Fateful Choice found his confidence and his stride in a big way, blowing the field away by 4 ¼ lengths in 1:49:2, a new career-best. Bouyed by the victory, he moved up to take on a tougher group of non-winners of $12,500 in the last five starts on Saturday night.
Driver Anthony Napolitano stayed aggressive with Fateful Choice, sending him to the front end, then rated him very well to the half. At that point, the gelding was a powerhouse and scorched the dirt on his way to his second sub-1:50 victory, this one coming in 1:49:4. All of a sudden, Fateful Choice has the look of so many other of his stablemates. In other words, he looks awful tough to beat.
Other top pacers this week include: Bushwacker (George Napolitano Jr., Chris Ryder), who moved to two-for-two on the season with another impressive condition win on Sunday night, this one coming in 1:51; Colossal Cruiser (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who took a huge step up in class Saturday night to the $20,000 claimers and still picked up his second straight victory, doing so in a career-best 1:50; and Bolt The Duer (Mark MacDonald, Peter Foley), who tuned up in anticipation of the Ben Franklin pace at Pocono by dominating a Preferred group on Saturday night in the week’s fastest time of 1:48:2.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: IL MAGO
This 5-year-old stallion from the Mark Harder barn has been exceptional since arriving at Pocono for a condition trot on June 4. That was just his second start following a layoff of two months, but there was no rust evident whatsoever as he took the lead on the front stretch and then gutted out a tough stretch drive to win by a neck in 1:53:3.
On Tuesday night, Il Mago was back at it against the non-winners of $12,500 in the last five starts once again, albeit this time in a slightly tougher post on the outer half of the field. Andrew McCarthy was still able to fire the stallion out of the gate and reach the front end before the quarter-pole. He was also able to slow the pace down with fractions almost identical to Il Mago’s previous win.
In the stretch, a couple horses drew to within striking distance, but McCarthy called on the afterburners and Il Mago responded. The result was a second straight victory with the same time of 1:53:3 from the previous week. That kind of consistent excellence is the stuff of long winning streaks, so watch out for this talented trotted in the weeks to come even if he moves up in class.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Not Afraid (Jim Morrill Jr., Jimmy Takter), who followed up a win at the Meadowlands with a Preferred win on Saturday night at Pocono in a new career mark of 1:51:4, which was also fastest trotting time of the week at MSPD; Bikini So Teeny (Charlie Norris trainer and driver, who won her second straight on Wednesday night, this one coming in Stallion Series company in a career-best 1:55; and Designed To Be (Brian Sears, Julie Miller), whose Sire Stakes win on Wednesday night matched a world record for 3-year-old trotting fillies on a 5/8-mile oval with a winning time of 1:51:3.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: ROYAL ENGAGEMENT
Despite being laid off since a May 2nd victory in California, this mare with Andrew McCarthy in the bike rallied for a claiming pacing win on Sunday night at 23-1 for a $48.40 payout on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANTHHON NAPOLITANO
A-Nap looks poised for his best season ever at Pocono, especially after a week in which he had mutilple wins in three of the four racing nights.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JULIE MILLER
Miller had a wonderful night at the Sire Stakes on Wednesday, sweeping both divisions of the 3-year-old trotting fillies with her trainees Take The Money and Designed To Be.
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.
June 14-20, 2014