June 29 to July 5, 2019
Expectations are a funny thing. They can put you in a mindset where you can only see a few possible outcomes for some upcoming event, when, in actuality, life has a funny way of showing us that anything can happen at any time. That is certainly true in the world of high-stakes harness racing, where unpredictability is built into the sport because of the dependence on animals to repeat performances week after week against other top-notch competitors all trying to do the same thing.
After watching the eliminations for the 2019 edition of Sun Stakes Saturday at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, I thought I had a pretty good feel for what would transpire. But I can’t say that any of the four Finals this past Saturday worked out anything like what I would have expected, other than the fact that they were all as exciting as could be predicted. I clearly wasn’t alone in my confusion, as none of the four races was won by a favorite, and the odds for the winners got progressively longer as the night went on.
Let’s take a look back at what transpired and try to pick apart how the unexpected became commonplace on this star-studded night of racing.
THE JAMES M. LYNCH MEMORIAL PACE FOR THREE-YEAR-OLD PACING FILLIES:
What We Expected To Happen: A showdown between Treacherous Reign and Warrawee Ubeaut, two fillies who have been going back and forth at each other in a battle for divisional supremacy.
What Actually Happened: Well, in this case, we weren’t all that far off, because there was indeed a showdown between Warrawee Ubeaut and Treacherous Reign, the top two choices in the race. But that showdown occurred too early and for too long a chunk of the mile, leaving both a bit weary in the lane. That left the 3-1 third choice Stonebridge Soul in perfect position in the pocket. Driver Tim Tetrick guided the Chris Ryder trainee up the passing lane for the victory by three-quarters of a length in 1:49:3, providing the first indication that the pocket was going to be the place to be on this night.
THE MAX C. HEMPT MEMORIAL PACE FOR THREE-YEAR-OLD PACERS
What We Expected To Happen: Proof, with a much better post position than the other two elimination winners, would build on his outstanding career-best mile in the eliminations and dominate.
What Actually Happened: Proof did indeed go off with 1-5 expectations, but wasn’t on his game after starting slow, eventually finishing sixth. Meanwhile, Captain Victorious tried to double on his elim win with another gutsy front-pacing effort. But he couldn’t shake Shake That House, trained by Chris Oakes, who has a shelf full of huge stakes victories at Pocono. From the pocket, Shake That House, with Brian Sears in the bike, erupted late for a two-length win in a career-best 1:49:2, paying off handsomely for his backers with 8-1 odds.
THE BEN FRANKLIN PACE FOR FREE-FOR-ALL PACERS
What We Expected To Happen: A three-way donnybrook between Western Fame, McWicked, and Lather Up that would produce a definitive aged pacing group standout.
What Actually Happened: Lather Up continued to be haunted by clunkers during the biggest nights at Pocono, starting slowly and eventually breaking stride. McWicked battled first over but could never get even with the leader. Western Fame, who went off as the favorite, set that pace, but was pressured enough by McWicked that he labored in the lane. Which left This Is The Plan, winless in 2019 coming into the race, ready for his closeup. The Ron Burke trainee came flying from the pocket with Yannick Gingras driving to win at 12-1 in 1:48:2.
THE EARL BEAL JR. MEMORIAL TROT
What We Expected To Happen: A coronation for Greenshoe, the colt who many thought could only lose if he broke stride (and even then, many wondered if it would matter.)
What Actually Happened: Trainer/driver Ake Svanstedt didn’t get the memo apparently, because he fired out from an outside post with 55-1 shot Marseille as if the outcome was still up in the air. Greenshoe, meanwhile, got away a bit lethargically, in much the same manner as he did in the elimination. The difference on this night was that he was beaten to the punch in the outer flow, meaning that he couldn’t glide up to his liking. Once he finally did shake free, it was too late to catch the well-rated Marseille, the stunning winner in 1:52:3.
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.