July 1-7, 2017
It’s always nice when the hype is justified. We’ve been talking about Sun Stakes Saturday for a while now, and that conversation really ramped after some fascinating eliminations. What dominated those discussions was the fact that, unlike in past years, there were no horses that simply dwarfed the fields they were scheduled to face. The four stakes races featured on Saturday figured to be extremely competitive.
And that’s just how it turned out to be. Although the track was listed in fast condition, rain earlier in the afternoon made it a somewhat heavy surface, preventing the times from being too explosive. But the finishes were, for the most part, tight and a little surprising, with only one favorite out of four winning. Let’s take a look at how the action unfolded.
JAMES M. LYNCH MEMORIAL PACE for three-year-old fillies
The betting favorite was Tequila Monday, who had the fastest elimination victory and drew an inside post. But that filly simply never factored into the action, finishing a disappointing eighth. Idyllic Beach was the surprising pace setter from an outside post, but she, and everybody else in the field, had little chance to respond once Agent Q started rolling first-over. After finishing second in a pair of big-money stakes races earlier this season, the filly trained by Aaron Lambert was not going to be denied in this one. With David Miller in the bike, she zipped by the leaders and coasted home by three lengths in front of 99-1 shot Caviart Ally, tripping the line in 1:51, easily the most convincing winner in the four big stakes races on the night.
MAX C. HEMPT MEMORIAL PACE for three-year-old pacers
The Brian Brown barn is blessed with two special three-year-olds. One of them, Downbytheseaside, was the star of the Hempt eliminations with a stupendous effort for a win. Meanwhile the other, Fear The Dragon, suffered his first loss of the season in his previous start, casting some doubts about his supremacy in the division. In the Hempt final, Downbytheseaside went after the lead from a #8 post, and the early fractions he set to get the engine were cumbersome. Fear The Dragon, on the other hand, saved ground early, found cover on the back stretch, and was in full gear out wide as the field rounded the final turn. With David Miller in the bike, Fear The Dragon took over the late lead and held off a game charge by Funknwaffles to win by three quarters of a length in 1:49:3, reasserting his dominance in the process.
BEN FRNAKLIN PACE for free-for-all pacers
This was the night’s emotional high point. Although the field was stacked with eight superb aged pacers, the two on the inside garnered the attention. Keystone Velocity, trained by Pocono’s leading trainer Rene Allard and driven by Pocono regular Simon Allard, had the inside post and watched as the 3-5 favorite Mel Mara set the pace. Although the fractions were zippy, they weren’t the kind that would cause a horse like Mel Mara to falter. But Keystone Velocity remained locked in at the pocket, eventually utilizing the passing lane in the stretch. The stretch provided a classic battle. Mel Mara wasn’t giving an inch, but Keystone Velocity was full of firepower on his inside. When the dust cleared, Keystone Velocity added to the incredible season he’s been putting together by heading out Mel Mara in 1:48:4. The emotion came from Simon Allard returning the horse to the Winner’s Circle while standing in the sulky, aping a classic moment from the career of the late, great Herve Filion.
EARL BEAL JR. MEMORIAL for three-year-old trotters
All eyes were on the Ariana G, the first filly to ever compete against the boys in the Beal. She went off as the favorite and had to deal with a tough #8 post position. Unable to make the lead early, she took on pacesetting Long Tom, who, like Ariana G, hadn’t lost in his first three starts this season, with a first-over charge. It looked for all the world like the top two choices would decide it in a stretch duel. But Devious Man had other ideas. The three-year-old colt trained by Julie Miller suffered his first loss of the season in the eliminations in upset fashion, but he wasn’t scared off by the competition in the Beal final, having won a stakes race earlier this season at Vernon that carried a $252,000 purse. Driver Andy Miller settled Devious Man in behind the speed duel between Long Tom and Ariana G. When the field reached the top of the lane, Devious Man had the passing lane all to himself, and he scooted by to beat Long Tom by 1 ¼ lengths in 1:52:4 as a 15-1 bomber.
That will do it for this week at Pocono, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 1-7, 2017