August 17 to 23, 2019
This past week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono was filled with stakes action once again. We featured both Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and Stallion Series action for two-year-old pacing colts and geldings (Sunday) and two-year-old trotting fillies (Monday.) In addition, we enjoyed another round of the Great Northeast Open series on Saturday night, this time with the Open pacers taking a center stage. A busy week to be sure, and one that provides us with many candidates for this edition of the Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: AFLAME HANOVER
This three-year-old colt from the barn of Linda Schadel has been tearing it up of late in condition paces. And that’s understandable, considering the kind of competition he faced earlier in the year. Facing extremely long odds in both the North America Cup in Canada and the Max Hempt Memorial Pace at Pocono, Aflame Hanover snuck in for fourth-place finishes in both, managing to get his handlers pretty substantial payback in the process.
When he returned to overnight racing, he was ready to flex his muscle. First up was a victory at Pocono on July 29 over non-winners of two. Then he headed over to Harrah’s at Philadelphia for a victory over non-winners of three. His quest for three in a row brought him back to Pocono on Sunday night, where he went off as the 3-5 favorite in a field of eight non-winners of four for a purse of $15,000. Leaving from post position #2, Aflame Hanover swooped Rickybobbyinthehaus to take the lead on the first turn.
From there, there were really no anxious moments. Driver Andrew McCarthy rated the pace at a solid level, so that Aflame Hanover didn’t overexert himself but also so that nobody could put a real challenge to him with a first-over move. In the home stretch, the colt solidified his lead, holding off the closing A Bettor Beach to pick up the win by 2 ¼ lengths. The winning time of 1:51:2 on a track listed in good condition was a new career-mark for Aflame Hanover, who just keeps getting stronger each time out.
Other top pacers this week include: T’s Electric (Tyler Buter, Emily Bost) who picked up his third straight claiming handicap win on Sunday night, getting it done in the slop in 1:53:4; Backstreet Shadow (Pat Berry, Ron Burke), who followed up three wins in a row elsewhere by shipping in and capturing Saturday night’s division of the Great Northeast Open Series pace in 1:49:2 in the slop; and Derecho (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who moved up in class to win his second straight condition pace on Saturday night, this one in 1:52:4 in the sloppy conditions.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: VERY VERY FAST
Whoever named this trotter must have had a very good premonition of what was to come in his racing career. Now aged 10, Very Very Fast has shown no signs of slowing down. In fact, back on July 14 at Pocono, the gelding set a career-best with at Pocono with a win in 1:52:2. A few weeks later, he stepped up into the $21,500 condition trotting group and managed another victory, this one in 1:53:2. Last week he very nearly missed capturing an Open Handicap trot at Tioga, finishing second from an outside post.
He returned to Pocono on Sunday night to once again face off with the $21,500 condition trotters. And it was a stout field he faced. In fact, despite all his recent success at Pocono, Very Very Fast went off as a 7-2 third choice. Leaving from post position #2 in a field of eight, he was sent immediately to the front end by driver Tim Tetrick in the sloppy conditions. Even though he was rated well, however, the 6-5 favorite Scirocco Rob seemed to be a major threat as he lurked in the pocket for much of the mile.
In the stretch, Tetrick asked Very Very Fast for more juice and the veteran provided it. When Scirocco Rob tried to respond, he went off-stride. There was still the matter of Pappy Go Go, who was closing very well out three-wide in the lane. But Very Very Fast held him off to win it by a half-length, posting a mile of 1:54 in the off-going. That gives him three top-flight condition wins at Pocono in a little more than a month’s time, once again living up to that speedy name of his.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Bill’s Man (Corey Callahan, John Butenschoen), who followed up a win at Tioga with a condition victory on Sunday night in 1:54:1; Zlatan (Tim Tetrick, Vincent Fusco Jr.) who shipped in to pick up a tough condition win on Sunday night in 1:55:4; and Sister Sledge (Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke), the budding superstar two-year-old filly who stayed unbeaten in her career after five races with a Sire Stakes win on Monday in 1:56:1.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: SHARP ACTION MONEY
There were a lot of live long-shot winners this week, but this pacer driven by Tom Jackson topped them all, winning a condition on Saturday night at 44-1 for a $91.80 payout on a $2 wager.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MATT KAKALEY
Kakaley loved the stakes action on Sunday night with two wins apiece in the Sire Stakes and Stallion Series, with one of the Sire Stakes victories coming aboard 44-1 long shot Tell Them Lou.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: PER ENGBLOM
During Monday’s stakes action for two-year-old trotting fillies, Engblom managed a Stallion series victory with Rebecca Clark and a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes win with Queen Of The Hill.
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.