June 2-8, 2018
Our Pacer and Trotter of the Week for this edition of the Weekly Awards have something in common. Both horses were struggling in the early part of the 2018 season coming off big campaigns a year ago. Both dropped down in class and picked up a win which seemed to ignite their confidence to move back up in class and beat even tougher horses the next time out. And both figure to be major factors going forward now that they’ve found their stride. Here is the lowdown on their exploits, as well as all of the other exciting action this past week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.
PACER OF THE WEEK: THE WAYFARING MAN
Last year as a five-year-old, this gelding from the Ron Burke barn put together a stellar season, earning over $110,000. He started this season off against the toughest pacers at Yonkers and Harrah’s but wasn’t able to do much damage. Then when he arrived at Pocono, he was saddled with back-to-back #9 posts, which he wasn’t able to convert into anything better than a seventh-place finish. On May 26 he dropped into the $11,000 condition group, and, even with another forbidding post (#8), The Wayfaring Man rolled to a sharp victory in 1:50.2.
On Saturday night, he moved back up the condition ladder to take on a $12,500 group, leaving from post position #6 as a 9-2 third choice. With Eric Goodell in the bike, The Wayfaring Man flashed with good early speed, then allowed race favorite YS Lotus to assume control of the lead. YS Lotus set nasty fractions, but The Wayfaring Man hung close in the pocket nonetheless. By the time they hit the stretch, YS Lotus was starting to feel the effects of the rapid pace.
The Wayfaring Man, on the other hand, came rushing up to take the lead once he had a clear look in the stretch. But his work wasn’t done, as Urban Renewal uncorked a late move and pulled up just about even at the finish line. When the dust settled, the photo showed The Wayfaring Man just out in front by a nose. His second straight victory came in a nifty winning time of 1:51.2, as he seems poised to hit the same heights that he reached a year ago.
Other top pacers this week include: Baby Kitty (Pat Berry, Eric Foster), who picked up a condition pacing win in Saturday night’s feature in 1:49.2, which was a new career-best and matched the fastest pacing time this week at Pocono; Tequila Monday (Brian Sears, Hunter Oakes), who followed up a win at Yonkers by scoring in the Great Northeast Open Series for mares on Sunday night in the slop at Pocono in 1:51; and Sidewalk Dancer (Brett Miller, Chris Oakes), who came in off a Sire Stakes win at Harrah’s and posted the fastest winning time of three divisions of the Pennsylvania All Stars for three-year-old fillies on Monday night with a 1:51.3.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: FRASER RIDGE
The move from three-year-old to four-year-old is often fraught with peril for Standardbreds. Horses go from facing primarily others of their own age to taking on experienced horses who are often much older than them. Fraser Ridge glided through his first two seasons of racing, earning six figures both years. But this year proved to be a bit confounding, at least to start things off, as the stallion trained by Chris Beaver found himself winless after three races.
Things started to cook for Fraser Ridge on May 26 at Pocono. Facing a $14,000 condition trotting group, he was cut loose on the front end and smoked the field to the tune of a sizzling mile of 1:52.1. He was back at it again on Sunday night, this time moving up to the $17,500 conditioners and facing an outside post in a field of seven. But the strategy was the same for driver George Napolitano Jr., as he sent Fraser Ridge to the front end with a swooping move around the first turn.
On a sloppy track, Fraser Ridge was able to open up a big lead and dare everyone to try to make their way through the muck and try to catch him. Nobody got even close. The winning time was a modest 1:55.4, but that was due to the sloppy conditions more than anything else. The proof of Fraser Ridge’s dominance came in his comfortable margin of victory over some high-class trotters. It looks like his four-year-old season might be as productive as his first two racing years after all.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: In Secret (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), an 18-1 long shot who stunned a field in the Great Northeast Open Series on Sunday night in the slop in 1:54.4; Homicide Hunter (George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes), who captured a division of the Great Northeast Open Series on Sunday night in just his second start of the year, winning in 1:55.1 in the slop; and Star Studded Cast (George Napolitano Jr., Gliberto Garcia-Herrera), who won his second straight claiming handicap and his third in his last four on Monday night, this one coming in 1:54.3.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: WILLIE B WORTHY
This trotting gelding started Sunday night off with a shocker in the first race, winning a condition with Marcus Miller in the bike at 37-1, paying off $77.20 on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ERIC GOODELL
Goodell was a regular once upon a time at Pocono, and he still does damage in his sporadic appearances, such as on Saturday night when he rang up three victories.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JENNIFER SABOT
Sabot made the most of limited starters on Saturday night, sending out horses from her barn in three races and picking up wins in two of them, with pacers Some Playa and Drunken Terror.
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.
June 2-8, 2018