March 19-25, 2016
We’re starting out slowly for the 2016 season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, kind of easing into it if you will. Eventually Pocono will be hosting racing four nights a week, but we’re operating on a partial schedule for the first three weeks. As a result, there were just two cards in the first week of the season. So we’ll hold off on handing out Weekly Awards until the schedule normalizes.
Instead let’s take an opportunity to look back on the Opening Night action. Considering that there will be 135 racing cards held at Pocono in 2016, it’s probably a bit ill-advised to draw any conclusions after just one. Still Saturday night provided a nice glimpse into the kind of excitement and unpredictability that will likely be a hallmark of racing all season long.
The season began under favorable skies, a bit chilly but clear to allow both for a fast track and for the faithful to come out and enjoy racing in the bleachers and on the track apron. And those faithful witnessed a fine performance right off the bat from Northfield shipper Forego The Cigar, who took control of the lead at the 3/8-mile marker and held it from there, holding back favorite Cotton Eyed Joe to win the first race of 2016 at Pocono in 1:52:4. Jim Morrill Jr. did the driving for trainer Dale Loney.
Morrill liked the move he made in the first race so much that he did it again in Race 2 with trotter It’s Huw You Know, who also picked up the win (in 1:55:2) and gave Morrill a sweep of the early Daily Double. He would end up with three driving wins on the night, a mark which was matched by Anthony Napolitano and defending Pocono driving champ George Napolitano Jr. Eric Carlson and Mike Simons added driving doubles as six drivers carved up the fourteen wins on the night. On the training side, 13 different trainers secured a piece of the winning action, with only Mark Ford picking up a pair of training wins.
Marcus Miller scored a lone driving win, but it was a memorable one aboard the season’s first long-shot surprise. In Race 6 Dealmaker, despite being a 25-1 shot, rolled on the front end with Miller driving, scoring a comfortable 2 ¼-length win in a condition pace in 1:52. The payoff of $52.60 would turn out to be the night’s most lucrative win ticket, although Sody’s Moonshine and Kiss Of Terror would each later score as double-digit long shots (odd of longer than 10-1.) Favorites also made their presence felt though, winning six of the fourteen races overall on the night.
Opening night also witnessed the return of a veteran trotter who has amassed a lot of big victories against tough company at Pocono in the past. Zooming, with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike for trainer Amber Buter, came into his condition trot on Saturday night with $772,956 In earnings for his career, and much of that dough was banked at the Pocono oval. He looked happy to be back, grinding first-over to ease by a rugged bunch of condition trotters in 1:53:3.
Opening Night was also notable for the speeds at which the horses were travelling. While the track was in fast condition, there were also sporadic cold winds in play as well as temperatures that dropped rapidly once the sun ceded to the moon, not exactly ideal conditions for zippy racing. Yet the timer often showed numbers that looked like they were earned in the heat of July or August. On the trotting side, the effortless 1:53:3 Zooming was easily the fastest of the night. UF Rockin Dragon, with Anthony Napolitano doing the honors for trainer Mark Ford, ripped off the quickest pacing time of the evening, scorching a condition field in 1:50:2, which was also a career-best for the six-year-old gelding.
In the night’s feature race, a condition pace for non-winners of $13,000 in the last five starts which carried a purse of $14,000, Star Cover took the honors. Eric Carlson guided him to the win in 1:51 for trainer Brewer Adams. The 4-year-old gelding was coming off three straight near-miss second-place finishes at The Meadows and Woodbine, so starting off his Pocono season with such an impressive win had to feel extra sweet for his connections.
And so, by the time we closed out the night with trotter Dream Rocker winning a condition in 1:56:1, we had seen a little bit of everything. As I said earlier, it’s impossible to spot any trends or divine how the rest of the season will go based on a single night of racing. But Opening Night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono sure was a lot of fun, and it’s safe to say we can expect that fun to continue throughout the entirety of the 2016 meet.
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.
March 19-25, 2016