July 21-27, 2018
A stalled weather front brought us a lot of rain this past week in Northeastern Pennsylvania, leading to a bunch of sloppy tracks at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The geese loved it, as evidenced by the one who managed to actually show up in a photo finish with one of the horses on Sunday night. As for the horses, there were some strange occurrences and bizarre outcomes, showing that you never can tell in this sport. Here are the finest performances, as we hand out the Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: HURRICANE BEACH
On Sunday night, it poured rain on and off, leading to an ever-changing track condition that eventually settled on sloppy for the end of the program. In the final race, a $17,000 condition pace for five-year-old and younger winners from three to seven races, Hurricane Beach, a new addition to the Rene Allard barn, was made the 2-1 favorite from post position #8 in a field of nine. Other than expecting it to be a competitive field with some excellent pacers, there wasn’t anything in the ledger to suggest we were in line for something special.
Hurricane Beach, a four-year-old gelding who came into the race with a modest record of two wins in nine races this season, had other ideas. Driver Simon Allard cut him loose, and he scorched the mud to the tune of a :25.1 opening quarter. The ridiculously fast number was eye-popping, but there are many horses that can go wild for a quarter-mile. It was the half-mile time that really left us all slack-jawed, as Hurricane Beach tripped the timer in :51.2, a new world record for the fastest ever half on a 5/8-mile oval. On a sloppy track.
Hurricane Beach kept up his tear to the three-quarter pole, hitting it in 1:19.3. It was only in the stretch that he began to ease up a little, but by then he was well ahead of the rest of the stunned field. His winning time was 1:49.4, a new career-best and the fastest of the week at Pocono, and he defeated the field by 7 ¼ lengths. For those who stuck around for that closing race on that rainy night, they witnessed something special.
Other top pacers include: Big N Bad (George Napolitano Jr., Gareth Dowse), who picked up his second straight claiming handicap win on Saturday night against the highest-priced claimers on the grounds, managing this victory in 1:52.3 in the slop; Attention Hanover (Simon Allard, Steve Salerno), who moved up in class on Sunday night and rallied for his third straight condition win, two of which have come at Pocono with the other at Harrah’s, in 1:54 in the slop; and Rockstar Angel A (Brett Miller, Chris Oakes), an Australian invader who made a striking United States debut at Pocono on Tuesday night, winning the featured condition pace for mares in 1:52.4 in the slop.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: BOFFIN
As veteran trotters go, there are few around who seem to do damage at Pocono every single year they appear quite like this warrior trained by Anette Lorentzon. Now aged eight, Boffin arrived at Pocono in June in a rare slump, having come up empty in four races in the Midwest. Coming to his old stomping grounds immediately energized him, as he handled an $11,000 condition field on June 18 at Pocono to get his first win of the season.
That win must have given him a taste, because Boffin followed that up with another victory, this time over a $14,000 group in 1:52.4 on June 30. This past Sunday, he was at it again in the rainy conditions, once again moving up in class to face off with a $17,500 class. Even with the step up the ladder, the bettors were wise to the caliber of this gelding and made Boffin a 3-5 favorite leaving from post position #4 in an excellent field of nine.
George Napolitano Jr., who has driven Boffin to many a victory over the years, decided to end the suspense early, as he quickly sent him to the front end. From there, the rest of the field, which was comprised of accomplished trotters, looked like amateurs in his wake. Boffin never really endured any challenge to his supremacy, and he steadily opened up the lead until he came home a 4 ¾-length winner at the end of the mile. His winning time, even in the slop, was a solid 1:54.1, giving him three straight victories.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Uknow What To Do (Anthony Morgan, Rene Allard), who moved up in class on Saturday night and scored his second straight condition win, this one in 1:56.2 in the slop; Alpha D’Urzy (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who followed up a win in his U.S. debut at Saratoga with a condition victory at Pocono on Sunday night in 1:57.4 in the off conditions; and Satin Dancer (Matt Kakaley, Travis Alexander), a mare whose win in Sunday night’s featured condition trot in 1:53 matched a career-best and represented the fastest trotting mile of the week at Pocono.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: CASINO DIRECTOR
This pacer driven by Tyler Buter sent the folks home shocked with a condition win in the finale on Monday night at 36-1, paying off $74 on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MATT KAKALEY
One of the most consistent performers at Pocono on a regular basis, Kakaley did his usual damage this week, picking up six combined wins in three nights of racing.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: GARETH DOWSE
There has been no hotter barn on the grounds for the past month or so, and Dowse solidified that hot streak with three more training wins this week.
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.