June 15 to June 22, 2019
For the next two weeks at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, we’ll be talking a lot about the upcoming Sun Stakes. The eliminations take place on Saturday night, June 22, while the finals take center stage on the following Saturday the 29th. Those races should provide a ton of fireworks. Then again, our overnight horses have been doing a good job supplying the excitement lately, as this week’s edition of the Weekly Awards should clearly demonstrate.
PACER OF THE WEEK: HEARTBEAT HILL
In his previous start at Pocono on June 8, this four-year-old gelding from the Bruce Clarke barn wasn’t given much of a chance in an $11,000 condition group. But thanks to a wily drive from Marcus Miller and some strong late kick, he came from behind to win at 12-1 while setting a career-mark in the process with his winning time of 1:50:3. On Saturday night, he decided to step up his game, taking on a $12,500 condition field this time around.
The favorite in the race at 6-5 was Stormont Czar, who was dropping down in class and had the inside post. Once again, Heartbeat Hill didn’t get much love, this time let go at 6-1 from a #5 post in a field of eight. But this time around, the game plan changed. Miller was aggressive in sending Heartbeat Hill after the lead, and once the horse made the engine, he set some imposing fractions. Meanwhile, Stormont Czar looked to be a major threat as he came up first over.
It wasn’t easy for Heartbeat Hill to shake Stormont Czar, as the favorite surged again in the lane after switching to the inside. But Heartbeat Hill had every answer, as Miller guided him home to a two-length victory in 1:51, with Stormont Czar fading to third behind fast-closing Rockin In the Hills in second. With two straight victories, Heartbeat Hill certainly looks like a contender going forward, even if he isn’t yet getting bet like one.
Other top pacers this week include: Rebellious (Tyler Buter, Michael Deters) who scorched a condition field with a victory on Saturday night in 1:49:2, a new career-best and the fastest pacing time of the week at Pocono; Baby Kitty (Eric Carlson, Eric Foster), who picked up his second straight condition win on Sunday night, this time in 1:52 in the slop; and Vorst (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garacia-Herrera), who won Tuesday night’s featured condition pace for mares in 1:51:3, a new career-best.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: STAR STUDDED CAST
This eight-year-old gelding has put together a solid season overall, coming into Monday afternoon’s $15,000 to $20,000 claiming handicap trot with five wins in 15 races. His recent stretch has been particularly hot. It started with a win on June in an optional $15,000 claimer with a pocket trip in 1:56:2. He followed that up by proving he could get it done from a tough post with speed, winning a claiming handicap in 1:57 in the slop.
Star Studded Cast won both of those races while being trained by Carmine Fusco and driven by Anthony Napolitano. After a claim, however, Hunter Oakes took over on Monday, handling both driving and training duties as Star Studded Cast lined up on the outside of a field of eight. Like his previous two races, he wasn’t favored, going off as a 7-2 favorite behind Hank’s Tank, a horse he had beaten both times in his winning streak.
Oakes stayed aggressive with the horse, sending him to the front end and then retaking the lead on the front stretch after briefly ceding control. From there it was just a matter of Star Studded Cast playing keep away, which he did with no problems whatsoever. He pushed away from the pursuit late to pick up the victory in 1:55:1 by two lengths over Shivered. This gelding seems to be peaking right now, overcoming both tough post positions and barn switches in his three-race winning streak.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Optimist Blue Chip (Anthony Napolitano, Antonia Storer), who captured Saturday night’s featured condition trot in a career-best 1:53:1; Lindsey’s Pride (Marcus Miller, Erv Miller), who beat a condition field on Saturday night in a career-best 1:54:3 in his first start of the season; and Do You Wanna Dance (Corey Callahan, John Butenschoen), a filly who won the first two-year-old race of the season at Pocono with a victory on Tuesday in 1:59:3.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: CAN’T SAY NO
Two-year-olds can be unpredictable, and this freshman driven by Ray Schnittker proved it by winning a condition trot in his debut on Tuesday with a win at 38-1, paying off $78.60 on a $2-win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ERIC CARLSON
Carlson was a consistent threat this past week, scoring at least one win on all four racing nights and picking up doubles on three of the four.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: BRUCE CLARKE
Clarke found the hills, or the Hills as the case may be, very prosperous this week, winning with Heartbeat Hill on Saturday and Sapphire Hill on Tuesday.
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.