August 11-17, 2018
It was a busy week of stakes action at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. There were big-money races held each night, with both two-year-old trotting fillies and three-year-old pacing fillies competing in both Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and Stallion Series action. There were some scintillating performances and some head-scratching winners. And one of those stakes winners also has been doing damage in the overnight races at Pocono, making her the perfect candidate to lead off the Weekly Awards.
This three-year-old filly has shown a knack for being able to win no matter what the race throws at her. She started her hot streak with a win against non-winners of two at Pocono on July 2 by going gate to wire in a career-best 1:51.2. At Harrah’s for her next start, she came on with a first-over victory. On July 22 at Pocono, Attention Hanover passed four horses in the stretch for an upset win at 15-1. Finally, after a near-miss second, she scored at 8-1 with a pocket trip and rally in a condition group on August 5.
That meant she rode into Sunday night’s $20,000 Stallion Series races for three-year-old pacing fillies with wins in four of her last five races, all coming in unique fashion. As the even-money favorite leaving from post position #4 in a field of seven, she sat the pocket seat once again, this time behind pacesetting Butchie Beach. Driver Eric Carlson then made the crucial decision to tip Attention Hanover to the outside late to follow the cover of the first-over mover Sandy’s Beach.
That proved to be a stroke of genius, because it gave Attention Hanover the opportunity to rally. Instead of getting blocked behind a faltering horse, the filly was able to spin off the cover and overtake Sandy’s Beach for a victory by 1 ½ lengths in 1:51.2, which was the fastest of the three Stallion Series splits that night. Her win gives Attention Hanover victories in five of her last six starts, each one of them unique unto itself but still building toward her overall excellent record.
Other top pacers this week include: Hallie’s Comet (Pal LaChance driver and trainer), who rallied from off the pace for a second consecutive condition win on Sunday night, this one coming in 1:51.3; Sea’s Ideal (George Napolitano Jr., Hunter Oakes), who churned through sloppy conditions on Monday night to pick up her second straight claiming victory in a career-best 1:51.4; and Rock Absorber (George Napolitano Jr., Brandon Todd), whose victory in a condition pace on Saturday night in 1:50.2 not only matched a career mark but also was the fastest pacing time of the week at Pocono.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: ABC MUSCLES BOY
One of the reasons that Rene Allard has been the top trainer for several years running at Pocono is because his horses never stay down for too long. They may suffer slumps at some point during the meet, but they generally rally from those slumps, right the ship and come back hotter than ever. Case in point: ABC Muscles Boy. The seven-year-old gelding had always been a solid performer in the past, but he started his 2018 season off with five straight finishes out of the money.
On August 6, he was dropped into our lowest condition group. Needing the boost of confidence that comes with victory, ABC Muscles Boy responded with a solid win, handling the field by eight lengths in a sharp time of 1:54.3. Riding high once again, he moved up into the $11,000 condition trotting group on Monday night. Recognizing his potential, the bettors made him a 3-5 favorite even with the move up in class.
Leaving from post position #6 in a field of eight, ABC Muscles Boy was sent right to the front end by driver Brian Sears. Even in a torrential downpour and extremely sloppy conditions, he held the lead with little concern. By the time the stretch rolled around, he was once again well ahead of his competition, coasting home for the victory in 1:55.2. It looks like we have another Allard trainee moving back up the ladder, his slump long since a thing of the past.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: I’m Your Captain (Andy Miller, Julie Miller), who followed up back-to-back wins at Harrah’s with a condition win at Pocono on Sunday night in a career-best 1:53.4; Silvermass Volo (Eric Carlson, Michael Holcman), who tore it up for a condition win on Sunday night in 1:53.1, matching the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono; and Beautiful Sin (Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter), whose winning time of 1:56.3 was the fastest of three divisions of Pennsylvania Sire Stakes for two-year-old trotting fillies held on Monday night in the slop.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: RIPROY
There were a bunch of long shots that scored on Saturday night, but this pacer driven by Tom Jackson topped them all, winning a claiming handicap at 55-1 and paying off $117 on a $2 win ticket.
(Correction from last week: In last week’s column, I misidentified the Long Shot of the Week. The honor should have gone to Mandela Blue Chip. My apologies for the mistake.)
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: BRIAN SEARS
Sears makes occasional appearances at Pocono on stakes nights, and he made the most of a visit on Monday, scoring five victories, including a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes win with Swizzle Sticks.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JIM CAMPBELL
Campbell won a Sire Stakes on Saturday night with three-year-old pacing filly Alexa’s Power, and then scored another on Monday night with two-year-old trotting filly Swizzle Sticks.
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.