June 9-15, 2018
It was a great week for all of horse racing with the stupendous Triple Crown-winning performance by Justify in The Belmont Stakes. That kind of thing reminds everyone what special athletes these horses are, and we at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono are privileged to get to see them do their thing up close and personal four nights a week. We see great performances on the regular, and the best of those from this past week get the spotlight as we hand out the Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: MAJOR TRICK
In many cases, the horses that take home the Weekly Awards are those who are in the midst of winning streaks. Yet in the case of Major Trick, his previous race to his start on Saturday night in a $30,000 to $40,000 claiming handicap pace was a loss by a half-length in third to Eastend Eddie. That loss snapped a string of three consecutive wins for the seven-year-old gelding. Major Trick, a popular claiming commodity even at the high price, rejoined the barn of trainer Hunter Oakes in his Saturday night attempt to atone for the loss.
Leaving from post position #4 in a field of nine as a 6-5 betting favorite, Major Trick sat third early in the mile. A speed duel materialized in front of him, and the fractions spiraled quickly out of control. Sensing that the leaders were tiring, driver George Napolitano Jr. sent Major Trick for a quick first-over move on the back stretch, and he was on the lead in just a matter of moments. But it also made him a target for the closers, especially considering how close he had been to the blistering pace.
In the stretch, both Our Dragon King and Our Regal Ideal were closing with a head of steam. But Major Trick showed himself to be none the worse for wear, closing strong to hold of Our Dragon King by a half-length. The proof of his excellence was in the winning time of 1:49.4, which established a new career mark. Major Trick has now won four of his last five races, and it seems like another prolonged winning streak could be starting right after the one that was just broken.
Other top pacers this week include: Unbeamlievable (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who followed up a win at Harrah’s with a victory in Monday night’s featured claiming handicap for mares in 1:53.4; Boston Red Rocks (Anthony Napolitano, Jake Leamon), whose condition win on Saturday night came in 1:48.4, fastest time of the 2018 meet to date; and Mach It So (George Napolitano Jr., Jeffrey Bamond Jr.), who came up victorious in the Great Northeast Open series on Saturday night as an 11-1 shot in 1:49.3.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: OSTRICH BLUE CHIP
For handicapping purposes, there were a couple of red flags that might have dissuaded you from putting your money on Ostrich Blue Chip on Saturday night. On the one hand, the four-year-old mare from the Rene Allard barn was coming off a sharp win on May 28 at Pocono in 1:54.3. But the negatives for her condition trot on Saturday night included the fact that she would be leaving from the difficult #9 post and would be jumping a few rungs on the condition ladder to face the $14,000 group.
But the mare was driven by Simon Allard as if she was the no-doubt favorite and not a 6-1 third choice, which was the reality of the situation. She quickly hustled to the front end from the outside post in a rapid :26.4 for the opening quarter. That made it seem like she would be vulnerable, and, indeed, the favorite TSM Photo Bugger came brushing up on the back stretch to challenge. But when he reached Ostrich Blue Chip, she accelerated again and left him hanging on the outside.
From there, it was just a matter of sealing the deal, and Ostrich Blue Chip was able to do that with aplomb. She withstood yet another charge from the game TSM Photo Bugger at the end of the mile, coming home three-quarters of a length in front. The winning time of 1:53.1 was a new career-best and also the fastest trotting time posted at Pocono this week. For all of those red flags, Ostrich Blue Chip was the one who took home the green, as in the winner’s share of the $14,000 purse.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: LMC Mass Gem (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who moved up in class to capture Sunday night’s featured condition trot, winning in 1:56.3 in the slop for his second straight victory; Skates N Plates (Anthony Napolitano, Andrew Harris), who stepped up the condition ladder to pick up his second straight win on Monday night, this one coming in 1:55.4; and Manchego, the three-year-old filly superstar who stayed perfect, two for two this year and 14 for 14 lifetime, with a Pennsylvania All-Stars victory on Tuesday night in 1:52.4, matching her career mark.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: HIGHLAND DYNAMITE
Dynamite, indeed: This trotting filly, with Simon Allard driving, pulled a stunner in Pennsylvania All-Stars action Tuesday night, winning at approximately 124-1 to pay off $250.80 on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.
The milestones just keep on coming for Pocono’s 10-time driving champion, as his win on Monday night with Myidealson N was the 9,000th driving victory of his illustrious career.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JENNIFER LAPPE
Lappe sent out a pair of New Zealand-bred winners on Saturday night, each of whom managed a new career-best with their victory: Motown N in 1:50.1 and Seel The Deal N in 1:51.1.
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 9-15, 2018