April 29-May 5, 2017
For the past month, some excellent young horses have been battling it out at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in the Bobby Weiss late closer series. The series, named after the longtime Pocono track superintendent responsible for overseeing a track surface considered one of the fastest and safest around, pits horses of the same genders and gaits against one another in preliminary legs to determine which will make it to the finals.
Those finals began this past week, with three of the four divisions being decided. (One more is still to come: The male trotters, which we will detail in this space next week.) With $30,000 on the line in each of the final races, the competition was as rugged as you might expect. Let’s take a look at how those final races went down.
THREE AND FOUR-YEAR-OLD PACING COLTS, STALLIONS AND GELDINGS
One of the things that often happens during the Weiss is a horse dominates the preliminary legs when facing small fields but then struggles in the final with a full nine-horse field. Highalator, the even-money favorite in this Monday night final, certainly could have fallen victim to that. The three-year-old colt, trained by Jenny Bier, left from post position #4 with an eight-race winning streak on the line. When he briefly lost the lead on the front stretch, driver Victor Kirby decided that was unacceptable and sent Highalator right back out for the retake at the half-mile marker.
From there, he had to endure a stiff first-over challenge from Dakota Jack. At the top of the stretch, Dakota Jack, three-wide Rough Odds, and pocket horse Dash Of Danger all came up strong. Highalator responded pushing away from the pursuit. Rough Odds provided the staunchest test, closing to within a neck at the finish line but coming up short. Highaltor’s championship victory, and ninth win in a row, came in a new career mark of 1:51:1. It was a clutch performance by a horse who just refuses to lose these days.
THREE AND FOUR-YEAR-OLD PACING FILLIES AND MARES
Going into the Weiss distaff final on Sunday night, a four-year-old mare named Cousin Mary had clearly distinguished herself as the one to beat. Trained by Andrew Harris, she swept three preliminary legs, each time as an odds-on favorite. That was on the heels of winning the Petticoat series at Yonkers. She came into the final having won ten of twelve races on the season, and unsurprisingly was installed as the 1-5 favorite.
Nor was it surprising when driver Anthony Napolitano hustled Cousin Mary to the front end early. What was a bit of a shock was how A-Nap and the mare were able to get to the half-mile marker at the leisurely pace of 57:4. That meant that the mare could really burn it up in the second half of the mile and, despite a good effort from I Deal In Kisses, she was never really seriously threatened. Cousin Mary rolled home in front by 2 ¾ lengths, and her winning time of 1:51:4, a new career-best, included an incredible 54-second mark for the second half of the mile.
THREE AND FOUR-YEAR-OLD TROTTING FILLIES AND MARES
After Highalator and Cousin Mary delivered as favorites in their respective Weiss divisions, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Checkmate Time would do the same in the distaff trotting group. After all, he had won his lone Weiss preliminary appearance in a time a full two seconds faster than anyone else in the group. But the 1-9 shot made a break as he attempted a second-over move on the front stretch, throwing Monday night’s final into disarray.
Connie Jean set the pace but was hounded first-over by Sunrise Avenue. Whambamthankumaam entered the picture with a three-wide move around the final turn. But it was Abbie’s Celticlass, a 47-1 shot who had been last at the half-mile marker, who found the best stride late. Moving four-wide around the last turn with Matt Kakaley in the bike for trainer Ken Hess Jr., she chased down Whambamthankumaam to pull off a stunner by a half-length in a career-best 1:55:2. It was Kakaley’s first time driving the four-year-old mare, who stepped up when it counted the most for a memorable victory.
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 29-May 5, 2017