August 15-21, 2014
This week’s racing was filled with the thrilling action we’ve come to expect of Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. And, to spice things up even further, the Pocono faithful witnessed the matching of a track and world record this week. That record-setting performance kicks off our attempt to sum up all of the action at Pocono this week by handing out the Weekly Awards.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: FRAU BLUCHER
This four-year-old mare named after Cloris Leachman’s character in Young Frankenstein had scared up a lot of success in the first two years, earning over $900,000 combined in her two and three-year-old seasons. Yet this standout from the Chris Oakes barn went winless in her first five starts this year, including a second against the non-winners of over $10,000 in the last five starts condition at Pocono on August 12 when she was heavily favored.
On Tuesday night, she went up against that same condition group, once again as a solid favorite at 4-5. Only this time around, the mare was ready to show her class and then some. Driver George Napolitano Jr. sent her to the lead with a brush on the front stretch. From there, Frau Blucher kept extending her lead until the rest of the field was a distant memory. She was 8 ¼ lengths in front at the line, with the only suspense at that point being how fast she actually went in the victory.
The timer showed a ridiculous 1:51:2, which matched the world record on a 5/8-mile oval for four-year-old trotting mares. The horse who set that record back in May at Pocono, Classic Martine, is also trained by Chris Oakes. So that proves that the Oakes barn has a whole lot of talent. But it also proves that Frau Blucher is back on top of her game, so elite trotters all over the country best take heed.
Other top trotters this week include: Mistery Woman (Ron Pierce, Jonas Czernyson), a Meadowlands shipper who captured Saturday night’s featured condition pace in a career-best 1:52; DC’s Piggy Bank (Matt Kakaley, Peter Pellegrino), who picked up his second straight claiming win on Sunday night in 1:56:2; and Inside Broadway (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who powered his way to his second straight claiming victory on Wednesday night, this one in a career-best 1:54:2.
PACER OF THE WEEK: LYONS JOHNNY
While there were no track records coming from this 6-year-old gelding, he certainly has impressed since August dawned. Considering that he had slumped to back-to-back seventh-place finishes in his last two starts of July, such rejuvenation seemed extremely unlikely at the time. It took a drop down the condition ladder and a barn change to get him in gear again.
On August 3, his first start in the Amber Buter barn, Lyons Johnny dominated that lower condition group by 4 ¼ lengths in a career-best 1:50:1. Buoyed by that fine effort, he moved back up in class to face the non-winners of $7,000 in the last five races on Tuesday night. Faced with the prospect of an outside post and a tougher field with several horses sporting solid back class, it seemed like a tough test.
With George Napolitano Jr. in the bike, Lyons Johnny aggressively took over the lead with a front stretch move. Although the fractions were quick, he stayed strong up front and sped clear of some late pressure for his second straight win, this one coming in 1:50:3. Another move up in class could be in the near future for this suddenly red-hot pacer.
Honorable mention on the pacing side goes to: Victorydazewillwin (Simon Allard, Daniel Munson), who notched his second straight win over the $15,000 claimers on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:50:4; It’s That Time (Anthony Napolitano, Kevin Lare), whose victory in a claiming handicap on Saturday night came in 1:49:2, a new career-best and the fastest pacing time of the week at MSPD; and All Fired Up (George Napolitano Jr., Lou Pena), who sprung from the pocket for his second straight claiming handicap victory on Wednesday night, doing it in a career-best time of 1:51:3.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: GUANTANAMO BAY
2-year-olds are some of the most unpredictable horses, as this freshman pacer with Kevin Wallis in the bike showed on Sunday, winning at 30-1 for a $62.80 payout on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: KEVIN WALLIS
The veteran driver has been finding his rhythm of late at Pocono, as evidenced by four wins this week, two of which came with horses at odds of longer than 15-1.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: TONY ALAGNA
Alagna has won a high percentage of his races this season at Pocono, and Sunday night he picked up wins with two of the three horses he sent to the gate.
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.
August 15-21, 2014