August 25-31, 2018
Next week in this space we shall be reviewing everything that went on during an outstanding program of championship races scheduled for this coming Sunday, September 2. Both the three-year-old Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championships and the finals of the Great Northeastern Open Series will be taking place at Pocono on that evening. Until then, here are some Weekly Awards highlighting the best of the best from the previous four racing nights.
PACER OF THE WEEK: BIG CITY BETTY
Sometimes a horse can get stuck in a rut where it constantly is right in the mix but can’t seem to break through with a big victory. Such was the case for this four-year-old mare trained by Steve Salerno. She started the year with in-the-money finishes in six of her first nine races. Included among those were back-to-back seconds in a pair of $17,000 condition paces for distaff horses four years and under in the month of July.
It seemed as though she was stuck on second. Big City Betty then took nearly a month-and-a-half off, returning on August 17 without a qualifier to battle that $17,000 group again. Only that time out she cured her second-itis, putting together an impressive first-over brush to pick up her first victory of the year in 1:52.3. She was back at it against that grouping on Sunday night, this time going off as a 6-5 betting favorite with an inside post in a field of eight.
Eric Carlson was a new set of hands for the mare, and he guided her into a comfortable spot in the pocket behind pacesetting Jewels Forreal. That’s where she bided her time until the stretch, when Carlson guided her off the cover to the outside. Big City Betty had enough momentum to plow right on by for the win in 1:52.1, which set a new career mark. Now that she has a taste for winning, this mare might go on a serious roll.
Other top pacers include: Rodeo Rock (Anthony Napolitano, Robert Cleary), who followed up a win at Harrah’s with a victory in Saturday night’s featured condition pace in 1:50.3; Ali (Pat LaChance), who managed a third straight win at a third different track by winning a condition pace at Pocono on Sunday night in a career-best 1:50.3; and YS Lotus (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who scored a condition win on Saturday night in 1:50.1, the fastest pacing time of the week at Pocono.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: OPTIMIST BLUE CHIP
This four-year-old gelding from the barn of trainer Carl Conte Jr. had been struggling throughout the summer facing some of the toughest condition trotters at Yonkers. Needing the confidence booster, he was slotted in the lowest condition group at Pocono on August 20. With Matt Kakaley in the bike, Optimist Blue Chip put together a confident front-trotting victory despite an outside post in 1:57.2. With that out of the way, it was time to move back up the ladder.
On Monday night, the gelding faced off against an $11,000 condition group. Even with the move up in class, the bettors sensed his potential and made him the 6-5 favorite. Unlike in his previous start, however, Optimist Blue Chip started a bit slowly. Instead, Winwood Scout surged to the front, leaving the favorite to grab a spot in the outer flow and try to come from behind. He found cover behind Idle Bones N and began to get closer to the lead with a second-over journey.
As Winwood Scout began to struggle, Idle Bones N moved onto the lead. But that mare was then ripe for the picking, as Kakaley spun Optimist Blue Chip off the cover and let him do his thing. The gelding powered by and managed the victory, his second consecutive. His winning time of 1:54.2 was an impressive one for the condition, which means that he might just be able to move up even more and still keep his newly-minted winning streak alive.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Jackie’s Jim (Marcus Miller, Neal Ehrhart), a three-year-old gelding who moved up following his maiden win to capture a second straight condition win on Monday night in 1:56.4, a new career mark; Crazshana (George Napolitano Jr., Jeffrey Bamond Jr.), who handled a tough condition group on Saturday night and did so in a sharp 1:52.4; and Muscle Fashion (Fern Paquet Jr., Antonella Galie), who toughed out a condition win on Tuesday night in a career-best 1:55.4.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: ANDOVERS ASSET
This two-year-old trotter driven by Anthony Napolitano, stayed flat, worked out a trip, and rallied for a condition win on Monday night at 20-1, paying off $43.40 on a $2-win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MATT KAKALEY
Kakaley had his A-game working in his Pocono appearances this week, as he shared driving honors on both Sunday (three wins) and Monday (four wins.)
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: ANDREW HARRIS
Harris made the most of his two Monday night starters, as both trotter Blue And Bold and pacer You Got Trumped came away with condition victories.
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.