April 8-14, 2017
Our first full racing week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with racing on four straight evenings, coincided with the best stretch of weather that we’ve enjoyed in the early part of the meet. As a result, we are practically inundated with possibilities and candidates for this edition of Weekly Awards. Tough choices had to be made, and here are the results.
PACER OF THE WEEK: NEXT SUCCESS
First horse to three wins on the meet? This four-year-old gelding from the Les Givens barn had a shot at it on Saturday night against a field of $25,000 claiming pacers. He came to Pocono fresh off a win at Rosecroft on March 19, then promptly surprised a condition pacing group at 19-1 in his first effort at MSPD. He followed that up with a $25,000 claiming victory on April 1.
The big thing working against him on Saturday night was his #9 post. To overcome that, driver Jim Morrill Jr. had Next Success, who went off as the 8-5 favorite, charging toward the lead right out of the gate. When he broke stride, it seemed like all hope was lost; even though he quickly caught stride, he still had to retreat to the back of the pack in order to heed the breaking rules. It looked like a lost cause when Morrill set him in motion on the back stretch to try and make up ground.
It helped Next Success that there was a logjam at the front of the field, with nobody able to pull out to a big lead. At the top of the stretch, a wall of horses lined up to chase leader Baggage Claim. Lo and behold, there was Next Success winding up with a five-wide move around the final turn, and he exploded past the field to prevail by a length in 1:53:3. With the last-to-first conquest, he now has three straight victories at Pocono and four in a row overall, and his name couldn’t be more apropos, because we can’t wait to see what his next success will be.
Other top pacers this week: Dash Of Danger (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), whose win at Pocono on Sunday night in 1:51:4, which matched his career best time, gave him three straight victories, two of them coming in Bobby Weiss series action; Mariner Seelster (George Napolitano Jr., Mark Ford), who rallied to win a condition pace on Saturday night in 1:51, which was a new career mark and his second straight win; and V I P Bayama (Eric Carlson, Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who moved up in class on Saturday night to pick up his second straight win, this one coming in a career-best 1:51:2.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: WHAT A PEACH
This five-year-old gelding has been razor sharp since arriving at Pocono at the start of the meet following a victory at Miami Valley in Ohio. He picked up a condition win on Opening Night and followed it up with a heartbreaking loss by a nose behind Charles VII. On April 2 in the $15,000 to $20,000 claiming handicap group, What A Peach hooked up in a stretch duel with the mare Dreamsteeler, who needed a break of stride to finish ahead at the line, meaning What A Peach inherited the win via disqualification.
What A Peach faced the same claiming handicap group on Sunday night, including his old friend Dreamsteeler, who lined up just inside of him in the #3 post in a seven-horse field. As the 3-5 betting favorite, What A Peach, making his first start in the Paul Fusco barn following a claim, grabbed the engine with George Napolitano in the bike. He had to deal with a first-over charge from Chipps Lake on the back stretch, meaning that he expended some extra energy before he would need it in the home stretch.
In the stretch, Dreamsteeler, who had worked out the excellent pocket trip, charged up the passing lane to make a play for the lead. What A Peach, undaunted, battled her stride for stride. In an odd instant replay, Dreamsteeler once again went off stride, only this time What A Peach was still able to get ahead at the line. The victory, in 1:55:1, made it four victories out of five for the gelding as he heads to a new barn following yet another claim.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Andy Ray (Marcus Miller, Jim Campbell), who picked up a condition win on Saturday night in a career-best 1:53:2, which was the fastest of any trotter on the grounds this past week; Sunrise Avenue (Eric Carlson, Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who won her second straight Bobby Weiss series race against distaff trotters on Tuesday night in 1:55:4; and Alexander Hanover (Anthony Napolitano, Mike Watson), who moved up in class to score a second consecutive condition win on Tuesday night, this one in 1:56.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: ONE TO DRAW TO
The very first race of the night on Saturday brought a huge upset, as this claiming pacer driven by Marcus Miller lit them up at 31-1 for a $65 payoff to win on a $2 ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANTHONY NAPOLITANO
A-Nap had his finest night of the young season on Sunday, scoring four wins, highlighted by a victory aboard 10-1 long shot Itty Bitty in the Bobby Weiss series.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: ANDREW HARRIS
Harris won the featured pace on Saturday night with Casimir Jitterbug and then followed it up with three training wins on Sunday night, including two in the Bobby Weiss series.
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 8-14, 2017