The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review


May 19-22, 2018
It was one of those weeks at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono where, even though there were some outstanding overnight racing performances (we’re looking at you, Tyson and Pa’s Corn Squeezin), the stakes races took center stage. Some of the harness racing world’s biggest stars as 2-year-olds a year ago came out to play in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Competition. There were also two more thrillers held on Saturday night in the Great Northeast Open pacing series. We’ll return to the Weekly Awards next week, but, for now, let’s throw the spotlight on the stakes and series action this past week.
Three divisions of the Sire Stakes for sophomore male pacers were held on Saturday night, and, in the three races, not one favorite was able to get home a winner. In the first split, George Napolitano Jr. sent I’m A Big Deal on a mission of speed, and the rest of the field languished in the wake of the Chris Ryder trainee, who came home a winner in a career-best 1:50.2 by a stunning 6 ½ lengths. Meanwhile Dorsoduro Hanover, guided by Matt Kakaley in his first night back from injury for trainer Ron Burke, moved to two-for-two in Sire Stakes action with a pocket trip rally for a win in a career-best 1:50.2.
All eyes were on the final Sire Stakes split of the night, which featured 2017 Breeders Crown champ Stay Hungry and Lost In Time, who knocked off Stay Hungry in their final showdown of their freshmen seasons. Both were making their initial starts of the season on Saturday night. Stay Hungry set the pace and Lost In Time came bounding up late on the outside. But it was Wes Delight, who had the benefit of three starts already this year to find his form, who rallied from the pocket to win in 1:50.4. Corey Callahan did the driving for trainer Mark Harder.
In the first $30,000 split held on Saturday night, Rockeyed Optimist was made the favorite based on his win in the series at Harrah’s the previous week. That talented gelding came charging first-over at pacesetter Rockin Ron, who had made the lead for the Matt Kakaley/Ron Burke combo despite a tough outside post. Nonetheless it was Rockin Ron who withstood the pressure, holding on for the victory by a neck in 1:50.2, giving him two consecutive wins at Pocono in the Great Northeast series.
Later on that night, it was another case of George Napolitano Jr. cutting loose a horse on the front end and daring everyone else to play catch-up. In this case it was Mach It So, the eight-year-old star of the Jeffrey Bamond Jr. barn. Mach It So set blistering fractions that left the rest of the field, including 6-5 favorite Dr J Hanover a little stunned. The lead was too much for anyone to overcome, although Bettor’s Edge rallied to within a half-length in second at the line. The proof of Mach It So’s effort was in the timer, as his winning mark of 1:49 was the fastest posted in the 2018 meet to date at Pocono.
The sophomore distaff trotters took center stage on Monday night, and there were some outstanding performances by both chalk and longshots alike. In the first split, 1-5 favorite Nixie Volo didn’t have the easiest trip, getting parked around two turns of the mile. But the steady hand of driver Corey Callahan guided Nixie Volo, trained by John Butenschoen, to the win by a solid 1 ¾ lengths in 1:54.3. The upset came in the night’s final split, when a speed duel between Vivacious Allie and 3-5 favorite Lily Stride set the race up for a closer. 15-1 shot Piranha Fury, with David Miller driving for trainer Nifty Norman, filled that bill, coming out of the clouds for the win in a career-best 1:54.2.
Although those two races were exciting, it was the most textbook Sire Stakes race of the night that was actually the most noteworthy. That’s because it included Manchego, the superstar who won all twelve races as a two-year-old for the Jimmy Takter barn, capping it off with a Breeders Crown title. Returning to her Pennsylvania stomping grounds for her 2018 debut, she confidently strode to the lead on the front stretch as the 1-9 favorite. She set effortlessly quick fractions without driver Yannick Gingras having to ask for a thing and coasted to the victory without any urging by 1 ½ lengths over Live Laugh Love, who had won her first three starts of the year but didn’t threaten the heavy favorite late. Despite not having raced this year and the seemingly easy journey, Manchego was still more than a second faster than the other winners on the night. Let’s face it: Right now, everybody else in this division not named Manchego is playing for second.
That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at