May 26-June 1, 2018
This past week brought the hottest temperatures of the year to Northeastern Pennsylvania. Needless to say, that also meant that the harness racing was faster than it has been all season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. It seemed like each new race brought another career-best mile. In addition, the fastest pacing time of 2018 was matched, while a new fastest trotting time of the meet was laid down as well. Those are some of the accomplishments that were in the running on a competitive week for the Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: PA’S CORN SQUEEZIN
It isn’t often that we get shippers from California at Pocono, so this six-year-old mare was a bit of an anomaly right from the start. Her performance since arriving is the true reason that she stands out. Pa’s Corn Squeezin immediately began dominating the distaff claiming pacers upon her arrival, winning her first four races. She picked up wins for three different barns during that streak, with the latest of those victories on May 21 coming in a career-best 1:52.
On Monday night, Pa’s Corn Squeezin faced a $12,500 to $15,000 claiming handicap group from a #8 post in a field of nine in her first start under the guidance of trainer Jake Huff. She went off as the 7-5 second choice and made the lead around the first turn, but it took some effort to get by race favorite Macho Chick. She then had to deal with a persistent first-over charge from LK’s Nancy Lee. All of that meant that the fractions were quite burdensome, certainly faster than any she’d had to deal with in her winning streak.
By the home stretch, Pa’s Corn Squeezin had shaken both Macho Chick and LK’s Nancy Lee but was getting leg-weary. 40-1 long shot Dilly Dali, on the other hand, had stayed back from the early speed and was rallying heartily. Driver George Napolitano Jr. asked Pa’s Corn Squeezin for just a little bit more in the final strides, and she held off Dilly Dali by a head in 1:53.1. Her fifth consecutive win since coming from the West Coast wasn’t her fastest, but it just might have been her gutsiest.
Other top pacers this week include: Lawrencetown Beach (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), whose condition victory on Saturday night came in a career-best 1:49, which also matched the fastest time of the 2018 meet at Pocono; Nocturnal Beach (Yannick Gingras, Gareth Dowse), who moved up the condition ladder to win his second straight on Saturday night, doing so in a new career mark of 1:49.1; and Major Trick (George Napolitano Jr., Hunter Oakes), who outpaced a claiming handicap group on Saturday night for his third straight win and did it in a career-best 1:50.2.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: EVALUATE
The racing in the early part of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes circuit has been especially spicy, and Saturday night’s three divisions for three-year-old colts and geldings on the trot was no different. In the very first split of the night, the even-money favorite was Captain Morgan, who had won his first two starts of the year, including a Sire Stakes at The Meadows in convincing fashion. Among the horses that Captain Morgan beat in that race at The Meadows was Evaluate, who closed well but came up short in second in what was his first start of the year.
On Saturday night, Evaluate left from post position #1 in a seven-horse field as a 7-2 second choice, with the favorite Captain Morgan starting right to his outside in the #2 post. Once again Captain Morgan fired out to the early lead. The difference this time around was that Evaluate was able to stay a bit closer early in the race, so that when he moved first-over for driver Corey Callahan on the back-stretch, he didn’t have nearly as far to come to corral the pacesetter.
The fractions were ripping throughout the mile as Captain Morgan tried to shake Evaluate, the colt from the Marcus Melander barn. But Evaluate stayed after it despite getting parked around the final turn, and he eventually surged past the favorite late. He ended up winning by 1 ¼ lengths and put up a sizzling winning time of 1:51.4 in the process. That was easily his fastest trotting time of his young career and set the mark for the fastest in the 2018 meet to date at Pocono.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Whats The Word (Corey Callahan, Janice Connor), who won a Sire Stakes race on Saturday night in a career-best 1:53.2 to give him two straight in the Sire Stakes and three in a row overall, with two of those victories coming at Pocono; Fraser Ridge (George Napolitano Jr., Christopher Beaver), who handled a condition trotting group on Saturday night in a career-best 1:52.1; and Rich And Miserable (Tyler Buter, Todd Buter), who followed up a Stallion Series win at The Meadows with one at Pocono on Sunday night, the latter coming in a career-best 1:55 to match the fastest Stallion Series split of the night.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: HALLIE’S COMET
In a condition pace on Sunday night, this Comet came rallying through the night sky with Tom Jackson in the bike for the upset win at 19-1, paying off $40.40 on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: TYLER BUTER
Buter has been making the most of limited driving opportunities, including on Sunday night when he led the entire Pocono driving community with three victories.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: ANETTE LORENTZON
Lorentzon sent out two trotters on Sunday night and they both came back with big wins: Spartan in a Stallion Series race for three-year-olds and Perfect Stick in a $17,500 condition.
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 26-June 1, 2018