2014 Season Review
Turkeys wearing camouflage. Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel 24 hours a day. My light cool sweatpants replaced by my warm heavy sweatpants.
All these signs, including the bitingly cold weather, make it clear the winter is just about upon us. And that means that another racing season at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs is just about to wrap up. Luckily for all those who follow Pocono racing, it has been a marvelous season, one that witnessed is share of superstar performances, incredible finishes, and shocking long shots. About the only constants from night to night were the uniformly competitive and exciting races.
In 2014, we were graced, as usual, by the presence of some of the finest drivers and trainers in the country. Some familiar faces to Pocono fans took home the highest honors for the season. On the training side, Rene Allard and Chris Oakes repeated as the leaders in training wins and training percentage, respectively. And George Napolitano Jr. continued his incredible run atop the leaderboard among the drivers, sweeping the titles for driving wins and percentage with plenty of room to spare in both categories.
Yet those three men were really only just a part of the story in terms of the driving and training community. Four other drivers (Simon Allard, Matt Kakaley, Andrew McCarthy, and Anthony Napolitano) besides George Nap managed 100 wins in the Pocono meet, while a dozen picked up at least fifty. On the training side, five men (Allard, Oakes, Ron Burke, Lou Pena, Gilberto Garcia-Herrera) churned out at least 50 victories. Balance was the name of the game with the trainers and drivers, as more and more of the top horsemen in North America made Pocono a regular part of their racing schedule.
Of course, what really makes Pocono racing such a special entity is the quality of the horses who come to race. Last week in this space we honored our horses of the year, but there were so many wonderful equine performers who made their way to MSPD that it was impossible to honor them all, even with over thirty sets of Weekly Award and honorable mentions given out by yours truly in 2014.
One easy way to check the impact of a particular season is to look at the track records page in the beginning of the program. You’ll notice that a big portion of the dates on that page indicate that those records were set here this year. In all, there were twelve records either set or matched at Pocono this season, with the vast majority of those going for world records on a 5/8-mile oval. And who can forget that in 2014, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs hosted the fastest pace ever on a 5/8-mile oval (a scorching 1:47 by Sweet Lou) and the fastest trot at any track size anywhere (an incredible 1:49 by Sebastian K.)
As I said above, there are really too many memorable moments to squeeze into this humble little retrospective. One of the neat things about harness racing is that every single night, it seems like something happens that you’ve never seen before. And you never know when that unpredictable bolt out of the blue will happen. It might happen in the feature race with the finest horses on the grounds, but it can also happen with maiden trotters. As the caliber of racing has continued its steady uphill climb at Pocono, these special moments seem to take place more and more often.
We’ve spent this time looking back, but before we call it a season, we should think about what’s to come in 2015. It will be an extremely special campaign at Pocono, as it marks the 50th season of racing at the track. In addition to the usual schedule of thrilling stakes races and competitive overnight races, 2015 is going to feel like one big celebration.
For the fans who have been with us for many of those 50 years, next season will probably feel pretty special, a milestone at the track. As someone who has worked at Pocono for 17 years, I feel really honored to be playing a small part of it. Even as we put another incredible season to bed, it’s hard to feel anything but anticipation for what’s to come.
As always, I’d like to thank everyone who checked out my articles this past year or tuned in to my race calls, and thanks to all of my wonderful co-workers in the racing department who do such amazing work night in and night out.
I hope everyone has a wonderful winter and Happy Holidays. We’ll see you at the track in 2015.
If you have any questions or concerns over the break, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2014 Season Review