May 12-18, 2018
One of the many things making the racing action at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in 2018 even more exciting than usual is the brand new Great Northeast Open series. Pocono and Harrah’s at Philadelphia will be hosting these races all through the spring and summer for the best aged pacers and trotters around. It will all culminate with big-money Finals held at Pocono in September, meaning that the horses will be battling in the preliminary legs not just for the excellent purses, but also for the chance to nab the really huge payday at the end. This edition of the Weekly Awards is highlighted by horses who triumphed in the series this week in thrilling fashion.
PACER OF THE WEEK: AGENT Q
Winning in your first start off a significant layoff is difficult against anyone, let alone a field of crackerjack distaffers. Yet that’s what faced Agent Q in her 2018 debut on Sunday night in the $30,000 Open pace for mares. In addition to that, her return to racing for the first time since back-to-back stakes wins in November to end her three-year-old season would have to come from an outside post in a field of eight stars. Not an easy task, even for a mare with over $1.1 million in earnings in her first two years of racing.
Driver David Miller didn’t push Agent Q, who went off as the 5-2 second choice, early in the mile, preferring instead to let her sit at the back of the pack. Lady Shadow took the early lead and had to deal with Pure Country pressuring her first-over. Agent Q, making her first start in the Chris Oakes barn, saved ground until the 5/8-mile marker, when she started moving on a three-wide path behind the cover of Elliesjet N.
Still, Agent Q was last at the three-quarter pole, albeit closing the margin, as Pure Country took over the lead. Once Miller guided the mare to a clear look at the leaders, there was simply no stopping her. She eclipsed the entire field until Pure Country was the last one in front of her, eventually nipping her at the line to win by a nose in 1:52.3 on the off track (good condition.) Consider her first test against aged mares passed with flying colors, especially considering everything she had to surmount to get the victory.
Other top pacers this week include: Soho Wallstreet A (Marcus Miller, Ross Croghan), who followed up a win at The Meadowlands with a victory in Saturday night’s featured condition pace at Pocono in 1:50.4 in the slop; Pa’s Corn Squeezin (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), a mare who is now three-for-three since coming from California after a claiming handicap win on Monday night in 1:53.3; and Eclipse Me N (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), a mare who moved up in class to win her second straight, doing so in the Tuesday feature condition distaff pace in a career-best 1:50.1.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: WILL TAKE CHARGE
Will Take Charge, a five-year-old gelding who did very well in the early part of the year in Canada for trainer Jeffrey Gillis, was made the 3-5 favorite on Sunday night in the $30,000 Open trot after just missing in his last start at The Meadowlands behind the great Hannelore Hanover. But then the thing that every trotter dreads befell him at the beginning of the race: He went off stride. Even though driver Tim Tetrick was able to get him back and trotting relatively quickly, Will Take Charge found himself last in an excellent field of seven.
At that point, most probably wrote him off and looked to the horses at the front of the pack, as Sutton set a measured pace that looked like it would hold up when push came to shove. Will Take Charge didn’t give in, however, moving third over on the back stretch and hoping for the best. As they entered the final turn, all eyes once again turned to the favorite, as Tetrick spun him off the cover and he came bounding up to threaten the leaders.
In the stretch, despite the reasonable fractions that were maintained, the rest of the field appeared as if they were trotting in molasses. Will Take Charge swept right by for the win by a comfortable two lengths over Smalltownthrowdown. The winning time of 1:53:4 might seem modest, until you consider that the track was only in good condition and he had to give up that early ground because of the break. If he gets a clean trip, it will be a blast to see what Will Take Charge can really do.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Star Studded Cast (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), whose winning time in a claiming handicap trot on Monday of 1:54.1 was a career-best and faster than anybody at Pocono this week not named Will Take Charge; Holy Halibut (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who now has wins in two of his last three races following a claiming handicap victory on Monday night in 1:56.1; and Tyson (Jason Bartlett, Edwin Gannon Jr.), who sprung an upset in a $21,500 condition trot on Sunday night in 1:56.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: SERIOUS SAVANNAH
This gelding came into his condition trot on Tuesday night winless in 2018, but he wasn’t anymore after rallying at 22-1 with Marcus Miller in the bike to pay $46.80 on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: JIM MORRILL JR.
Morrill’s win with Indy Ingot from last to first capped off a three-win night on Sunday and also gave him 7,000 driving victories in his outstanding career in racing.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: HUNTER OAKES
The young conditioner had one of his finest nights ever on Saturday night at Pocono, ripping off four wins on the program.
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.
May 12-18, 2018