March 30-April 5, 2019
Now that we are finally up and running four racing days/nights a week, we can hand out our first edition of the Weekly Awards. Apologies to Epaulette A, whose pacing performances surely would have garnered an award or two in the first two weeks of racing when we were still on a partial schedule here at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. But we’re on full-go now, so let’s hand out those awards to some deserving honorees.
PACER OF THE WEEK: ROCKEYED OPTIMIST
We saw a year ago how McWicked, a horse who had largely fallen off the radar, returned to his former glory with a stellar season. Rockeyed Optimist might not reach those heights, but his career arc is travelling a similar path. Once one of the fastest pacers in the game, the right-year-old gelding was lightly raced and didn’t do much in 2017, winning just two out of 14 races. But he seems to be coming back to something near his old form, having already matched his 2018 win total the past few weeks.
On March 23, he fired out to an early lead and scored a victory in a $12,500 condition pace at Pocono in 1:51:1. On Saturday might, the Jake Leamon trainee left from post position #3 in a field of eight. Even though he was stepping up a couple notches to the $17,500 level, he still went off as the 2-5 favorite. Fans remember what this horse can do, and they bet him as such.
Rockeyed Optimist hardly had an easy time of it. After swooping to the lead around the first turn, he was nicely rated by driver Mitchell Cushing. That rate job was important, because Black Chevron provided a stern challenge with a strong first-over move. But the veteran proved up to the task late, holding off Black Chevron by three-quarters of a length in 1:52:1. It should be fun to watch just how close he gets to his former self before this hot stretch is complete.
Other top pacers this week include: River Runs Deep (Jim Morrill Jr, Peter Pellegrino), who moved up in class Saturday night to capture his second straight claiming race, this one in a career-best time of 1:52:4; A And C Artist (George Napolitano Jr, Matthew Adamczyk), who captured his second straight claimer on Sunday night in 1:55:1; and Eddard Hanover (Anthony Napolitano, Ron Burke), winner of Saturday night’s featured condition pace in 1:53:1.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: PAPPY GO GO
Pappy Go Go had to be burning with anger following his race at Pocono on March 23. In that race, he nearly went gate-to-wire from a #9 post in a $14,000 condition trot. But the effort it took to get to the lead seemed to get the better of him, as he was handled in the stretch, ending up second. On Saturday night, he faced off against the same group, this time from a #2 post. And the results were markedly different, as he put on one of the most impressive trotting performances of 2019.
In the race Saturday, Pappy Go Go settled third early while Maximuscle cut out an aggressive pace. On the back stretch, driver George Napolitano Jr. tipped Pappy Go Go to the outside on the back stretch, and 1-5 race favorite went by Maximuscle in a flash. But he didn’t stop there. The five-year-old gelding kept opening up the lead and quickening the pace until the rest of the field was flailing behind him.
From there, it was only a matter of how much the margin would be and how fast the final time. The answers were eye-popping: Pappy Go Go, trained by Andrew Harris came home 12 ¾ lengths in front, the largest margin at Pocono so far in the meet, while his winning time of 1:52 was not only a career best and the tops at Pocono in the meet, but it was also the fastest trot posted this year in North America. I guess you could say that Pappy Go Go took out his frustration in very productive fashion.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Muscle Fashion (Jim Morrill Jr., Antonella Galie), who scored his second straight condition win on Sunday night, getting it done in 1:56:1; Winning Shadow (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who won Sunday night’s featured condition trot in 1:55:1; and Run Lindy Run (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who posted the fastest time among winners in the distaff trotting group of the Bobby Weiss series on Tuesday with a victory in 1:56:4.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: BASS PLAYER
This claiming pacer struck all the right notes on Saturday night, springing an upset with Eric Carlson in the bike at 26-1, paying off $55.80 to win on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: TYLER BUTER
Buter is off to an excellent start to begin the 2019 meet, picking off where he left off at the end of last year, and he chalked up a multiple wins on Sunday and Monday to show his prowess.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: ROB HARMON
Harmon followed up a pair of training wins on Sunday night with a victory on Monday with 20-1 shot Carson Hill.
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.