April 28-May 1, 2018
Next week in this space, we will be profiling all the happenings from our Kentucky Derby evening card, which is filled up with all four finals of the Bobby Weiss late closer series and two divisions of the Van Rose Memorial pace featuring some of the finest aged pacers in the world and kicking off the Great Northeast Open series, which will continue throughout the spring and summer at Harrah’s at Philadelphia as well as at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Here now are the finest performances of the past week at Pocono, highlighted in our Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: STRAWB’S CHIPPIE
Every once in a while, a horse will ship into Pocono with a gaudy record at other tracks and be unable to match that level of success once it reaches the top levels of competition here. Strawb’s Chippie initially looked like she might fall into category. The seven-year-old mare had amassed wins in four of her first five starts on the New York harness circuit to begin 2018. But her first two starts at Pocono in this meet were less distinguished, as she came away with a second and a sixth in two races against the $15,000 to $20,000 claiming handicap pacing mares.
The tide started to turn for Strawb’s Chippie when she joined the Rene Allard barn on April 16. She located her front-pacing stride that had garnered her so much success in New York and ripped off back-to-back wins while leading at every pole with winning times of 1:56.1 in the slop and 1:52.3, the latter a career-best. She joined the Hunter Oakes barn following a claim and took on the same grouping on Monday night from an outside #8 post as a 4-5 betting favorite.
Even though the barn changed, the strategy didn’t for the mare. Driver George Napoitano Jr. cut her loose early to reach the early lead and she played keep-away from there. Despite a solid challenge from Warrawee Qually in the lane, Strawb’s Chippie once again proved her toughness with the lead and came home a half-length winner, this time in 1:52.4. With her third straight victory, those early Pocono struggles now seem like a distant memory.
Other top pacers this week include: Drunken Terror (Anthony Napolitano, Marta Piotrow), who scored his second consecutive claiming handicap win on Saturday night, this one in 1:51.2; We Think Alike (George Napolitano Jr., Brandon Todd), who moved up in class to win a condition pace on Saturday night in 1:52.4, his second straight victory; and Make A Statement A (Anthony Napolitano, Jody Riedel), whose condition win on Tuesday night came in 1:50.4, a new career-mark and tied for fastest pacing time of the week at Pocono.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: GOLDEN SON
In Sunday’s $17,500 featured condition trot, a showdown was looming between Golden Son and Upfront Billy. The former, a five-year-old gelding from the Jenny Melander barn, was coming off a sharp victory at Harrah’s and returning to a class at Pocono where he had a near-miss second on March 24. The latter, a nine-year-old gelding trained by Mark Ford, is the defending Trotter of the Year at Pocono and has already scored two wins in this meet, including a victory in his previous race in 1:52.2, fastest trotting time at Pocono in 2018 so far.
Golden Son, the 2-1 second choice, left from the inside post in a field of nine as a 2-1 second choice. Upfront Billy, the 6-5 favorite, left from the #3 post. It was Upfront Billy who grabbed the early lead, a change in tactics from his earlier victory, when he sat the pocket behind a hot pace. With Upfront Billy doing the work, driver Jim Morrill Jr. was all right with letting Golden Son sit the pocket, knowing he’d likely have a shot at the leader late if he could stay close.
Of course, that meant he would have to outtrot Upfront Billy, who is known for being extremely game late in the race. But when Morrill tipped Golden Son out of the pocket to take dead aim, the gelding responded with powerful late kick, just enough to corral Upfront Billy at the line by a nose in 1:54.1. That gives him two wins in a row, and anytime you can beat the Trotter of the Year at the top of his game, it’s quite an accomplishment.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Such An Angel (George Napolitano Jr., Hunter Oakes), who overwhelmed a condition group on Monday night to win in 1:53.1, the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono; Elysium Lindy (Anthony Napolitano, Ron Burke), who shipped in from The Meadowlands to pick up a condition win on Saturday night in 1:55.1; and Chelsees A Winner (George Napolitano Jr., Christie Collins), a mare who moved up in class on Tuesday night to win her second straight condition since arriving from Ohio, this one coming in a career-best 1:55:4.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: MR HAM SANDWICH
Despite having won his last start, this pacer driven by Eric Carlson went off at 43-1 in a condition on Saturday night, a race he promptly won to pay off $88 on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: PAT BERRY
Berry always seems to give bettors great value for his wins, as he proved Saturday night by posting a double with horses who went off at 7-1 (A Real Miracle) and 9-2 (Jimmy C R).
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: BRANDON TODD
Todd is making the most of his opportunities at Pocono, as was evidenced on Saturday night when he won with two of the three starters he sent out to race.
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 28-May 1, 2018