November 7-13, 2015
As we approach the close of another racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, it’s time to look back and assess the season that was. All year long in this space we’ve been handing out awards to the top performers of each racing week. Now it’s time to crown season-long achievement by handing out awards to Pocono’s Horses of the Year.
Selecting these horses is never an easy task and it gets harder each year as the racing gets more and more competitive. I collaborated with my buddies Terri Phalen and Jennifer Starr to make the choices, and, although we probably left out horses worthy of acclaim, I think the horses we ultimately selected certainly represent well for this special 50th anniversary season.
So, without further ado, here are the 2015 Pocono Horses of the Year:
3-YEAR-OLD OF THE YEAR: K RYAN BLUE CHIP
This gelding from the Joe Pavia Jr. barn finished fourth on April 8 in a maiden race at MSPD in what was his first start of the 2015 season. As it turns out, it would be the only time he’d have a view of horses crossing the finish line in front of him at Pocono all season. K Ryan Blue Chip raced five more times at Pocono this season and won them all. None of his winning times were slower than 1:51:1, topping out with a career-best 1:50:2 in a September victory.
CLAIMER OF THE YEAR: R GAUWITZ HANOVER
Even before he arrived at Pocono in May, this 6-year-old gelding was already a big winner in 2015, racking up six victories in New York. But it was here that he achieved his greatest success, winning nine of his 14 races at MSPD, all while moving up in class from the $10,000 claimers to the $25,000 claiming handicaps. He won several races from outside posts, had victories for seven different trainers here, and managed a career-best mile of 1:49 as part of his unforgettable 2015 campaign at Pocono.
MARE OF THE YEAR: KIDDIE MCCARDLE
This mare has performed for several different barns at Pocono this season but always finds a way to be a factor. She picked up eight wins this season here, including a 1:51:1 mile which set a career-mark for her at age seven. What’s also been impressive is how, like R Gauwitz Hanover, she’s been such a tough customer despite the fact that she’s often faced with brutal post positions in claiming handicaps. And she’s been competitive of late since moving over to face condition pacing mares.
PACER OF THE YEAR: LUCK BE WITHYOU
This four-year-old stallion had the win of the year at Pocono when he topped some of the world’s best pacers to win the $500,000 Ben Franklin pace on July 4 in 1:49, going gate-to-wire from an outside post to do so. But that win wasn’t a shot in the dark. He also scored in the Franklin elimination the week prior to the main event and then returned from a stint in Canada to rip off three straight condition wins for trainer Chris Oakes in September and October.
TROTTER OF THE YEAR: PROUD MOMENT
It’s not typical for a trotter to have the best year of his career at age nine, but that’s exactly what this veteran warrior did in 2015. All six of his wins came at Pocono, and when he wasn’t winning, he was often hitting the board. He beat claimers and conditioners, did it from the outside and the inside, and won his six races for five different trainers. The high point of his outstanding year was a three-race winning streak in July and August that included his career-best mile of 1:52:2.
As I said earlier, there were many horses this season deserving of consideration. It’s a testament to just how intense the racing wars at Pocono are that these selections are such a close call, and I have a feeling that the awards races will only get tighter in the years to come.
Next week in this space, we’ll wrap up the 2015 racing season. We’ll take a look at the top drivers and trainers of the year. And we’ll also take a broad look back at what’s been a special anniversary season at Pocono.
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.
November 7-13, 2015