April 1-7, 2017
We’re just a few weeks into the racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, but we’re already seeing some horses establishing themselves as ones to watch for the entire meet if they stick around. We’re also getting a good look at how the drivers and trainers’ standings might be shaking out this season. It’s just a small sample size, as they say in baseball, but the first few weeks definitely indicate we are in for one wild ride of a season at Pocono. Here are the Weekly Awards for the week gone by.
PACER OF THE WEEK: CRAFTY MASTER
It’s not very often that we see a horse make the jump from the claiming ranks onto the highest rungs of the condition ladder and have success. Then again, the way things have been going in the first few weeks of the meet for trainer Rene Allard and driver Simon Allard, everything is on the table. So when Crafty Master stepped up to face the featured $15,500 condition pacers on Saturday night, the 6-year-old stallion received respect from the windows and went off as a 9-5 second betting choice.
Crafty Master was coming off back-to-back wins, one in Canada and then on March 25 at Pocono in his first start for the Allard barn against a claiming group. On Saturday night, the stallion sat in the middle of the pack behind a blistering pace set by Lean On You. Simon Allard set him motion first over in the back stretch, but he was unable to corral the lead quickly, meaning that he was parked on the outside all the way around the final turn.
It looked like Ontario Success, the 6-5 favorite who had the excellent pocket trip going behind Lean On You, might be the horse to watch in the stretch. But Crafty Master kept after it despite the extra effort around that last turn. He eventually poked ahead and kept on right on striving until he was 1 ½ lengths ahead of Ontario Success. The winning time for Crafty Master of 1:50:2 was the fastest of the season to date at Pocono and a new career mark, proving that he belongs in the upper echelons of Pocono racing in the early going.
Other top pacers this week include: Next Success (Jim Morrill Jr., Les Givens), who now has three straight wins, the last two at Pocono, after handling a $25,000 claiming field Saturday night in 1:53:1; Dash Of Danger (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), whose victory in the first division of the Bobby Weiss series for pacing colts, stallions and geldings on Sunday night was his second straight at Pocono and came in a new career-best mark of 1:51:4; and Cheap N Easy (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), a mare who moved up the ladder to score her second consecutive win on Tuesday night, this one in 1:53:4.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SWISHNFLICK
It was that kind of week for the Allards; Simon and Rene were in charge of both horses of the week, and those two winners were really just the tip of the iceberg concerning their hot streak at Pocono. Swishnflick, a seven-year-old mare, arrived from Yonkers on March 25, having faced rugged condition competition throughout the early part of the season in New York. She immediately reminded the Pocono faithful of her talent with a front-trotting win in 1:54:1 against a $14,000 condition group.
The mare was back at it on Saturday night, only this time she went up against the $15,500 conditioners and was the only distaff trotter in the field. Leaving from post position #4 in a field of eight as a 5-2 second choice, she immediately settled in behind pacesetting Skates N Plates. The leader was able to get away with relatively soft fractions for the first three-quarters of a mile, meaning that, even from the pocket spot, Swishnflick might have issues rallying.
In the stretch, it was essentially a match race between Skates N Plates and Swishnflick. Simon Allard guided the mare to the inside passing lane, where she found her best stride and powered up past a game Skates N Plates. The mare came across the line a half-length in front in 1:55:4. That gives Swishnflick two straight wins and some serious momentum in the early part of the 2017 campaign.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: ABC Muscles Boy (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), whose condition victory on Saturday night came in 1:54:1, fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono; What A Peach (Simon Allard, Frank Kamine), who, with a claiming handicap win on Sunday night, now has three victories in his last four races; and Hot Mess Hanover (Andrew McCarthy, Joe Pavia Jr.), whose Bobby Weiss series win in the distaff trotters class came in 1:56:3, a new career mark and the fastest split of the group on Tuesday night.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: THREEUPTHREEDOWN
Sunday night got off to a wild start, as this gelding driven by Matt Kakaley overcame the #9 post and rallied furiously for a Race 1 condition trotting victory at 55-1, paying off $119.20 on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: VICTOR KIRBY
Kirby made the most of his Sunday night appearance, scoring a pair of victories in the Bobby Weiss series with Highalator and Rewind Again, his only two drives of the evening.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: RENE ALLARD
Allard has really asserted his dominance in the early part of the meet, following up a big first week by scoring a combined eight training victories on Saturday and Sunday night.
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 1-7, 2017