April 2-8, 2016
Racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono ramped up to three live nights this past week, as Sunday joined the schedule for the first time this year. By next week, we will have reached our four-nights-per-week schedule that will be our standby for the bulk of the meet. In the meantime, the three racing nights this week have given us just enough fodder to hand out 2016’s first edition of the Weekly Awards. Let’s see who takes the initial honors.
PACER OF THE WEEK: KINGS BARNS
This 5-year-old gelding spent the early part of 2016 battling it out at Yonkers with little to show for it. In nine races at the half-mile oval, he could only manage a pair of third-place finishes. In his last start at Yonkers, he switched to the barn of Rene Allard, a fellow who does serious damage at Pocono with all manner of horses.
Thus it was understandable that Kings Barns was favored in his 2016 Pocono debut on March 26 in an $11,000 condition pace, and he delivered on that promise with a front-pacing win with Simon Allard in the bike in a career-best 1:50:3. He moved up slightly to take on a $12,500 condition group on Saturday night, but he was unable to find the early lead for a second straight race. Instead he had to follow cover on the back stretch and make an early three-wide move.
Once the stretch rolled around, the gelding had gathered enough momentum to take aim at the leaders. Simon Allard guided him back to the inside to save ground, and he rolled by the faltering leaders to win in 1:52 by 1 ¾ lengths. That makes back-to-back victories for Kings Barns, who looks positively regal so far this meet at Pocono.
Other top pacers this week include: Whatagamble (George Napolitano Jr., Dean Eckley), who rolled to his second straight win over the $10,000 claimers on Saturday night in 1:53; Options Are Adream (Corey Callahan, Richard Lewis), a 3-year-old colt who is now unbeaten after seven career races, following up six straight wins at Dover with a Bobby Weiss series victory on Sunday night in 1:52:1; and Cooperstown (Anthony Napolitano, Daniel Renaud), whose victory in Sunday night’s featured condition pace in 1:50:1 was his third straight win, two of which have come at Pocono.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SOUTH SIDE HANOVER
This filly from the Todd Schadel barn didn’t do much as a 2-year-old a year ago, failing to break her maiden in 13 races and hitting the board just four times. She came off the layoff to battle a non-winners of one condition distaff group last week. Despite being a 22-1 long shot in the race and leaving from a tough #7 post, she made the lead, gutted it out, and came home a winner in 1:57:1.
In a $15,000 division of the Bobby Weiss series for distaff trotters on Tuesday night, South Side Hanover was assigned the outside #7 post and received a bit more betting attention, going off as the 7-1 second choice. Most of the money went to 1-5 betting favorite Ready Any Time. But it was South Side Hanover who was ready from the getgo, hustling to the front end under before the quarter pole under urging from Todd Schadel to dictate the terms.
At the top of the stretch, South Side Hanover turned back a charge from pocket horse Squeals Of Delight, while the heavy favorite Ready Any Time could only rally for the show. She won by 1 ½ lengths in a new career mark of 1:56:4. From a nondescript maiden to Late Closer series contender in just a couple weeks, this filly is rising fast and it seems like even higher levels are within her reach.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Massacaia (George Napolitano Jr., Jason Robinson), who bounced back from a break in his previous start to score a condition win on Saturday night in 1:55; Extracurricular (Jim Morrill Jr., Lance Hudson), who arrived from Yonkers and fought hard for a condition win in 155; and Daylon Miracle (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), a mare who arrived from Saratoga to dominate in a condition trot in Tuesday night in 1:53, easily the fastest trotting time of the week.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: ROCKINTHEPINES
This gelding driven by Marcus Miller started Tuesday night off with a surprising bang, rallying from way back to stun a claiming trotting field at 34-1, paying off $71.60 on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: TODD SCHADEL
Schadel zipped to victories in two of the three Bobby Weiss divisions held on Tuesday night for distaff trotters, winning with South Side Hanover and Real Caviar, both of whom he also trains.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: DEAN ECKLEY
Talk about efficient: Eckley sent out only three starters on Saturday night, and every one of them came home a winner for a perfect training evening.
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.
April 2-8, 2016