September 15-21, 2018
We are now just about a month away from the 2018 Breeders Crown, to be hosted by none other than The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Excitement is definitely building for that monumental event. But that doesn’t mean everything else stops. Overnight racing at Pocono continues to hurtle forward, with each new week bringing us a fresh batch of excellent performances. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the finest efforts from the past week of racing as we hand out the Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: MAROMA BEACH
Stepping up in class is never easy to do, but that’s especially true when you have reached the upper rungs on the condition ladder. At that point, taking a jump into a higher condition means you will be going up against the toughest horses on the grounds. That was the predicament that faced Maroma Beach, a four-year-old gelding trained by Ron Burke. He was coming off a victory gate to wire in his previous start on September 1 in a career-best 1:50.
That was the good news. The bad news was that the earlier victory came against a $12,500 condition pacing group, and on Saturday night, the opposition would come in the form of a $17,500 class. That meant Maroma Beach skipped a class to make the move up and face that field, and that was reflected in the odds, as he went off at 13-1. Still, driver Pat Berry was aggressive, sending the gelding to the lead from an outside post and setting swift fractions.
Throughout the race, Maroma Beach kept a solid advantage, preventing anyone from putting too much pressure on him. In the lane, he was able to dig in and come home strong, finishing a half-length in front of fellow long shot Seel The Deal N in 1:50.4. Maybe Maroma Beach will move up again following that second straight victory. One thing is for sure: He’ll have less people doubting his ability to do it next time around.
Other top pacers this week include: Persistent Threat A (George Napolitano Jr, Gilbert Garcia-Owen), who rolled to a win in a condition pace in 1:49.3, a new career-best and the fastest pacing time this week at Pocono; Bettor N Blue (Eric Carlson, Gilbert Garcia-Owen), whose victory on Saturday night in 1:51.4 was his second straight claiming handicap win at Pocono and his third straight overall; and Eclipse Me N (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who captured Tuesday night’s featured condition pace for mares in 1:51.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: MUSCLE DIAMOND
In the $21,500 featured condition trot on Sunday night, the field was stacked. Among the entries: Fraser Ridge, winner of four consecutive races; What’s The Word, a three-year-old who had barely missed behind the superstar Crystal Fashion in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championships; and Dayson, who was coming off his first victory of the year and was the 8-5 betting favorite. Muscle Diamond’s record was propped up by two wins at The Meadowlands, with both of his victories coming in faster times than anybody else in the field could manage.
Muscle Diamond, a six-year-old stallion trained by Brett Bittle, left from post position #4 in a field of seven. He sat back in the pack early and then appeared to be content to follow cover for a while on the back stretch. But driver Tyler Buter coaxed him into action, and with a sudden burst of speed, he went three-wide around Fraser Ridge and kept right on rolling past the pacesetter Dayson. By the time the field reached the three-quarter pole, he had opened up a sizable lead.
Considering the powerful late kick of Muscle Diamond, you knew that lead was going to be tough to overcome. He kept the field at bay all the way around the final turn and through the stretch, winning by three comfortable lengths over Dayson. The win proved that he could handle the 5/8-mile oval at Pocono as well as he could the one-mile jaunt at The Meadowlands. And his winning time of 1:52.2 was the fastest trotting mark of the week at Pocono.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Ostrich Blue Chip, a mare who picked up a condition win on Saturday night in a new career-best mark of 1:52.3; Sciroccco Imsosmart (Tyler Buter, John Butenschoen), who handled a tough condition group on Sunday night in 1:55.2; and Boxing Gloves (Marcus Miller, Erv Miller), who stepped up in class to win his second straight condition trot on Tuesday night in 1:55.4, a new career mark.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: CAJOLE HANOVER
With trainer Joe Poliseno in the bike, this condition trotter opened up Sunday night’s racing with a surprise at 22-1, paying off $46.40 on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MARCUS MILLER
Known for coaxing home long shots at Pocono, Miller was at it again on Tuesday night, scoring with 19-1 shot Boxing Gloves among his three victories on the evening.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: GILBERT GARCIA-OWEN
Garcia-Owen immediately made an impact this past week after switching to a training role, picking up three victories on the Saturday night program.
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.