2016 Season Preview

2016-03-16

2016 Season Preview
Hello again, everyone! It’s wonderful to be back, writing to the Pocono faithful on the eve of another amazing racing season. Once again I’ll be with you in this column every week, giving you the goods on all the finest performances, shocking long shots, and outstanding action taking place at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in this 2016 campaign.
After about four months away, everyone associated with the track is ready to roll on the new meet. And it feels like it’s a case of carrying over momentum, not just from our special 50th anniversary season of 2015, but also from the past decade or so of racing, during which time Pocono has ascended from just another harness track in a field of many to one of the finest racing establishments in all of North America.
It’s a bit hard for me to believe that this will be my ninth season calling the races at the track. I’ve been writing these columns for more than a decade now as well, so I hope people are used to my big yapper and long-winded bloviating by now. And in 2016 I’ll be adding host of the racing show to my duties from the beginning of the season, which should be a blast. With all of the excellent racing to discuss, and with my good buddies in the TV department propping me up, I might just be able to bluff my way through it.
So what does the 2016 racing season have in store for you? Well, for starters, there are some changes in the schedule. We start things off on Saturday March 19 at our normal starting time of 6:30 ET for Race 1. After a few weeks of easing into things, we settle into our normal four-night-a-week slate in April. The difference is that the four nights in question will be Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and that’s pretty much the schedule we keep right through to closing night, with a few exceptions.
There are some slight post time differences to note as well. Sunday nights will feature a 7:30 ET post time for Race 1. And come the months of September, October and November, our Monday cards will begin at 4:30 ET for a little afternoon racing. Obviously it’s a lot of information to swallow all at once, but rest assured that we’ll be keeping you up to date all season long as need be.
Our schedule will feature our usual combination of outstanding overnight racing and plentiful stakes action. Concerning the stakes, we’ve added once again to the bounty up for grabs for the harness racing’s finest horses. In addition to Sun Stakes Saturday in July, featuring the Hempt, Lynch, Beal, and Ben Franklin, and Super Stakes Saturday in August, when you’ll see the Battle of Brandywine, the Colonial, and the Valley Forge, we’ve added a couple biggies on the first Saturday in May. As part of a day-night dual card on May 7 that sandwiches the simulcast of the Kentucky Derby, Pocono will be hosting a pair of new stakes races: The $500,000 Pennsylvania Classic for 3-year-old pacers and the $300,000 Miss Pennsylvania for 3-year-old filly pacers.
Don’t forget that we’ll also see a steady diet of Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, Pennsylvania All Stars, and Stallion Series races throughout the season. In other words, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a track anywhere putting that kind of money on the line.
It’s predictable then that all that dough brings out a ton of human talent, in terms of owners, trainers, and drivers, to the Pocono oval to get their share of the loot. Our driving colony is as deep as it comes, but there’s no doubt George Napolitano Jr. will have a target on his back after his record-setting 2015 season. Guys like his brother Anthony Napolitano, Simon Allard, Andrew McCarthy, and many others will be trying to take the top spot away. On the training side, Rene Allard and Chris Oakes will return to defend, respectively, their training wins and training percentage titles against an outstanding group of handlers, some who have barns at Pocono, others who will be shipping in their best equine talent.
There will be lots of promotions and events in store throughout the season as well, and we’ll be keeping you up to date on all of it. But now it’s time for the horses to go to the gate and for our 2016 season to be underway. To all our regular fans, I wish you a profitable wagering season. And to all you newcomers, I guarantee you’ll have a fantastic time at the races. The 2016 season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun is about to begin. See you all at the track.
As always, feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com.