May 4-10, 2019
With the Kentucky Derby taking place this past Saturday and our traditional double-header of racing on that day, The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono hosted five cards of live harness racing instead of the usual four for the week. As if choosing for the Weekly Awards wasn’t difficult enough, there are many more possibilities this time around because of the extra races. Let’s take a look at who garners the honors for this busy week of harness racing action.
PACER OF THE WEEK: HIGHALATOR
On Saturday night, Pocono hosted its first big stakes race of the season with the Van Rose Invitational Pace for a purse of $50,000. It was also the first race at Pocono in the Great Northeast Open series, which inaugurated last year to much acclaim and will culminate with big-money finals at the end of the summer. Saturday night’s race looked on paper like it would belong to Western Fame, who was coming off a convincing victory in the $500,000 final of the Levy series at Yonkers.
But the field was full of top aged pacers, including Highalator, a standout five-year-old stallion from the Jenny Bier barn who always seems to rise to the occasion when he appears at Pocono. He left from the #2 post in a field of nine as the 2-1 second choice, while Western Fame left from the #7 spot at 3-5. Western Fame grabbed the engine while Highalator, with Richard Still in the bike, found the pocket seat early.
The key to the race may have been how Western Fame was hounded by long shot The Wall and his first-over bid. In the stretch, the favorite couldn’t summon enough to hold off the pursuit. Highalator, on the other hand, began to erupt as soon as the passing lane opened up. He flew home just a neck in front of Bettor Memories, who came out three-wide at the end of the mile with a lot of pace. Highalator paced the mile in 1:49:4 for yet another signature win on the Pocono oval.
Other top pacers for the week included: Always At My Place (Anthony Napolitano, Ron Burke), who scored a condition victory on Saturday night in 1:49:1, which is the fastest pacing time of the year to date at Pocono; Dancin Hill (Tyler Buter, Gareth Dowse), who won his third straight race, the last two at Pocono, when he beat a claiming handicap group on Saturday night in a career-best 1:50:4; and Nine Ways (George Napolitano Jr., Antonia Storer), who moved up the condition ladder for his second straight victory on Saturday night, getting it done in a career-best 1:50:1.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: TWO AM
With the exception of a break of stride on April 14, this five-year-old gelding from the Todd Buter barn has been a consistent threat at Pocono in the 2019 meet. He has hit the board in three of four races here, peaking with a condition victory in a $21,500 featured condition trot on April 21 in 1:53:2. He returned to action in the $17,500 condition feature on Sunday night following a 6th place finish at the Meadowlands in his previous start.
Leaving from post position #2 in a field of eight, Two AM, who went off as the 1-2 favorite, sat back and let others battle for the early lead on the sloppy track. After some jockeying for position, Truemass Volo grabbed the engine, while Two AM idled in fifth in the early portion of the race. But driver Tyler Buter didn’t allow him to sit there for very long, sending him in motion first-over as the field headed into the clubhouse turn.
Buter didn’t wait around for cover, urging Two AM to engage Truemass Volo with his first-over move. He corralled the leader around the final turn and then left him, and the rest of the field, behind in the stretch. Despite being parked around two turns, the gelding still was out-trotting everybody in the lane, coming to the line a 3 ¼-length winner over Truemass Volo in 1:54:3, a time which was especially impressive considering the sloppy conditions.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Tiger’s Too Good (Anthony Napolitano, Pete Pellegrino), whose condition victory on Sunday night in the slop in 1:57 gave him two consecutive victories; Rich And Miserable (Tyler Buter, Todd Buter), who followed up a win at Yonkers with a condition win at Pocono on Sunday night in the slop in 1:56:2; and Karets (George Napolitano Jr., James Cosenza), who powered to a condition win on Monday in 1:53:4, the fastest trotting time posted this week at Pocono.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: SHADY CITY
A flying rally in the passing lane gave this condition pacer driven by Larry Stalbaum a victory on Saturday night at 24-1, good for a $51.40 payout on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANTHONY NAPOLITANO
A-Nap certainly enjoyed the double-header schedule on Saturday, as he picked up four driving victories in both the afternoon and evening cards.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: TODD BUTER
The Buter barn seems to have an endless supply of excellent trotters of all ages, as evidenced by Todd’s wins with Two AM and Rich And Miserable on Sunday night.
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.