April 11-17, 2015
Next week in this space we’ll be talking about the finals of our Bobby Weiss late closer series, races which will be taking place over the next few racing nights at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The Weiss preliminary legs have featured some of the most exciting younger horses in the country, so the finals should be filled with great performances. In the meantime, we’ve got the best of this week’s overnight action on display with this edition of the Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: BUSHWACKER
It’s always interesting to watch four-year-old horses make the transition from facing horses their own age to competing with older foes. Those who make that transition smoothly are often the ones who end up battling it out in the upper conditions and Opens at their respective tracks. Bushwacker, a talented 4-year-old gelding, is already making that transition at Pocono even as he has only just started his 2015 campaign.
At ages two and three, Bushwacker, trained by Chris Ryder, performed very well, earning over $200,000 combined in those seasons by facing tough competition. He kicked off his 4-year-old season extremely well, winning against non-winners of five on a sloppy track at Pocono in 1:52:3 on March 31. The field he faced on Saturday night, a condition for non-winners of $15,500 in the last starts, featured only one other four-year-old; everybody else in the field was at least a year older.
Yet Bushwacker didn’t seem at all stressed out by the step up in class. With Jim Morrill Jr. in the bike, he took a tough first-over path but managed to take over the lead late. From there he stayed strong, holding on to win by a length in a sharp 1:51. That makes him two-for-two in the young season and puts all of the top pacers at Pocono, even the veterans, on notice that Bushwacker is ready to roll at any level.
Other top pacers this week include: Always Wanna (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who changed barns but still rolled to his third consecutive victory over the $12,500 claimers on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:53:2; Mustang Art (Jim Morrill Jr., James McGuire), whose win in Saturday night’s featured condition pace came in 1:50, fastest time of the meet up to that point; and Major Deagan (Jim Morrill Jr., Tracy Brainard), a 17-1 shot who rallied to win a condition pace on Tuesday night in a career-best 1:50, matching the standard set by Mustang Art three nights before.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: TAMASIN HALL
A five-year-old mare from the barn of Bill Mullin, Tamasin Hall has proven in the past her ability to put together a big mile on the Pocono oval. Like many trotters, she occasionally struggles with breaking stride, but when she’s flat she’s dangerous. She showed that in her first start of the 2015 meet at Pocono when she rallied to beat a condition trotting field on March 31 in 1:56:3.
Her next start, against the same class, resulted in only a fifth-place finish, but that one could be written off somewhat by the fact that she had to deal with the dreaded #9 post position. She came back to face the same group of non-winners $12,500 in the last five starts on Tuesday night, and though her #7 post position was no pleasure cruise, it gave her a better chance to flash some early speed. With Jim Morrill Jr. in the bike, she worked her way to the front end on the front stretch.
From there she rebuffed all those who tried to take the lead away. Morrill urged her home in the stretch to win by a length over You Rock My World in an impressive winning time in 1:53:2. That was a pretty good performance, especially considering she got away as a 6-1 shot. With two wins in three starts so far in the 2015 Pocono meet, it looks like Tamasin Hall will be a hot trotter once again this season.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Chocoholic (Andrew McCarthy, James Quinn), who matched a career-best she knocked off a rugged condition group on Tuesday in 1:55; Buffalino Hanover (Andy Miller, Todd Schadel), who toughed out a first-over move to win a condition trot on Tuesday night in 1:54:2; and GJ Photo Victory (Jim Morrill Jr., Marcus Marashian), whose claiming victory on Wednesday night in 1:54:3 was his fourth straight, the last two of which came at Pocono.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: DIVINATION
On Sunday night this mare driven by Anthony Napolitano snuck out of the pocket late to surprise a field of condition pacers at 34-1, paying off $71 on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: SIMON ALLARD
Simon did some serious damage on Saturday night in conjunction with his brother Rene (see below), ripping off seven driving victories, a personal best for him here at Pocono.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: RENE ALLARD
The two-time defending champion in training wins made his first big splash of 2015 on Saturday night by teaming with his brother Simon for seven wins on the 14-race program.
That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com.
April 11-17, 2015