The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week in Review


September 1-7, 2018

It was Pennsylvania Championship night this past Sunday evening at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. In the past, we contented ourselves with the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes finals as the centerpiece of this special September card. But this year, the finals of the newly-minted Great Northeast Open series were added to the festivities.

All totaled, the seven championship races on the card put more than $1.3 million on the line. Each race was a thrilling in its way, whether because of the tightness of the finish or the magnificent performance of the winner. Those races also whet our appetites at Pocono for the Breeders Crown races coming in October, since many of Sunday night’s big winners will likely be back once again for that event. Here are the results.


Each of the Great Northeast Open Series finals, which carried purses of $100,000, were contested at 1 ¼ miles. And in the night’s first title showdown, it felt like the drivers were feeling each other out to see how each would react. It led to a field that was bunched up at the end of the mile. The 6-5 favorite, Shartin, felt the effects of an outside journey and faded late. But Betterhaveanother, with Matt Kakaley in the bike for Ron Burke, stayed inside the whole mile and then squeezed through a gap in the passing lane for an upset victory at 10-1 in 2:21.3.


Homicide Hunter came into the race as the biggest point-getter in the preliminaries and went off as the 3-5 favorite. But even those facts couldn’t anticipate the way that this longtime Pocono favorite would dominate the race. Driver George Napolitano Jr. was able to get away with soft fractions for the first three-quarters of a mile. From there, the six-year-old gelding from the Chris Oakes barn turned off the afterburners. Homicide Hunter left the outstanding field behind to win by 8 ¼ lengths and tripped the timer in 2:22.2, which easily broke a world record for trotters at this distance on a 5/8-mile oval.


Donttellmeagain went off as the 6-5 favorite and controlled matters on the front end with Tim Tetrick. The pace was rated nicely, quick enough to scare off the rabble, but not so fast as to wear down the favorite. Unfortunately, for Donttellmeagain, he couldn’t open up much of a lead on pocket horse and 5-2 second choice Western Joe. And that proved to be crucial near the end of the race, when driver Scott Zeron unleashed Western Joe, a four-year-old stallion trained by Chris Choate, in the passing lane. Western Joe blitzed Donttellmeagain and won it by a neck in 2:20.2.


In the first of the $253,000 Sire Stakes finals, Phaetosive was made a decisive 1-2 favorite by the betting public. Winner of four of her six starts as a three-year-old against the stiffest competition imaginable, she held back from the early chase for the lead, as Live Laugh Love set the pace. But driver/trainer Trond Smedshammer found some solid cover on the back stretch in the form of Seviyorum, who came up first-over. In the lane, Smedshammer spun Phaetosive out three wide and she found her best stride, passing the tiring leaders and holding off fellow closer Courtney Hanover by a length in 1:52.3.


Kissin In The Sand came into the final having already captured a major stakes race this year at Pocono thanks to her thrilling Lynch win in June. Driver Scott Zeron decided he didn’t want to see Kissin In The Sand parked every step like she was in the Lynch, so he sent her to the front end as the 3-5 favorite. The fractions were swift throughout the mile, yet there were still several horses hanging around as they entered the stretch. As a matter of fact, 31-1 shot Parisian Blue Chip briefly threatened in the passing lane, but Kissin In The Sand, trained by Nancy Johansson, held tight by a half-length in 1:49.3.


The big favorite was Crystal Fashjion, who was bet at 3-5 thanks to a resume that included the Earl Beal Memorial title earlier this year at Pocono. The Jim Campbell trainee is not the type to leave for the engine, however, especially with a #8 post like he had on Sunday night. So driver Tim Tetrick chose to hold him back while What’s The Word did the work up front. The only problem was that Simon Allard gave What’s The Word a great rate job, and it looked as that horse might steal it on the front end. But Crystal Fashion got in gear just in time following his second-over, three-wide journey, nosing out What’s The Word in 1:52.4.


The last stakes race of the night turned out to be the tightest. Dorsoduro Hanover, the 1-5 favorite and another standout in the charge of trainer Ron Burke and driver Matt Kakaley, grabbed the early lead and set rapid fractions. He was hounded, however, by 49-1 long shot This Is The Plan, who came at him first-over and refused to relent. Just as Dorsoduro Hanover had dispensed with that challenge in that stretch, he had to hold tight as Hayden Hanover, at 15-1, came charging at him at the very end. The pair hit the line in tandem and had to wait while the judges studied the photo to see that Dorsoduro Hanover prevailed by the scantest of margins in 1:49.4.

That will do it for this week at Pocono, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at