September 28 to October 4, 2019
October is upon us, which means that we have only about a month-and-a-half left of live racing in the 2019 season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The lingering warm weather has helped to keep the action lightning-quick, however. As a matter of fact, we witnessed several sub-1:50 miles on Saturday night. It was another difficult week to narrow down the Weekly Awards candidates, but we gave it a shot anyway.
PACER OF THE WEEK: WESTERN JOE
Technically, the feature race each night is supposed to be the one that carries the highest purse. On Saturday night, that was the $21,500 condition pace, which was won by veteran standout Scott Rocks. But the field in the $17,500 condition pace that immediately preceded it on the card on Saturday night had a feature feel to it. Five of the nine had earned over six figures a year ago, and many in the field seem well on their way to that threshold this year as well.
The even-money favorite was Dealt A Winner, with over $1.2 million in career earnings. Springsteen, winner of the 2018 Max Hempt Pace at Pocono, was the second choice. And Western Joe, a big earner for the past several years and winner of a $14,000 condition pace at Pocono in his previous race, went off as the 3-1 third choice. Dealt A Winner set a hot pace trying to shake off the field, but Western Joe stayed attached to him in the pocket.
In the stretch, Dealt A Winner tried to summon up a little bit more oomph to hold on to the victory. But Western Joe, a five-year-old gelding trained by Chris Choate, was way too full of pace to be held back. With driver Pat Berry guiding him home, he powered past Dealt A Winner to pick up the victory in a scorching 1:48:2, faster than any other pacer this week at Pocono. With two straight wins, Western Joe has been a featured performer, even if he wasn’t quite in the feature race.
Other top pacers this week include: Torrid Bromac N (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who picked up his second straight claiming victory and sixth in his last eight races overall on Saturday night with a victory in 1:51:2; Seel The Deal N (George Napolitano Jr., Jennifer Lappe), who moved up in class on Saturday night to win his second straight condition pace, putting up a career-best time of 1:50:3 in the process; and Outlast Blue Chip (Kevin Wallis, Eddie Sager), who moved up the condition ladder for his second straight win on Saturday night, scoring in 1:51:3.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: PAT MATTERS
Sunday night’s $21,500 featured condition trot was contested by only six horses. But it seemed like every one of them came in on an impressive streak. The field included Scirocco Rob, who took home Trotter of the Week honors at Pocono last week after winning two straight against the best trotters on the grounds. But Pat Matters, a four-year-old mare trained by Nifty Norman, came in on a pretty impressive two-race winning streak of her one.
In the first of those wins, she scored at Harrah’s at Philadelphia with a new career-best winning time of 1:52:2. She then matched that time with a victory over the $17,500 condition grouping at Pocono. On Sunday night, she left from post position #5 in the field of six as the 8-5 second choice. Scirocco Rob, who went off as the even-money choice, hustled to the lead early, but Pat Matters, with Eric Goodell doing the driving, found the pocket seat behind him.
As they rounded the final turn, it was clear that Pat Matters was itching to be cut loose. Goodell did just that and she moved to the outside, sweeping by Scirocco Rob to take the late lead. But it wasn’t easy sailing from there, as Whats The Word and Joey Bats both made strong late plays to take over. But Pat Matters had the final answer, holding off Whats The Word to win it by a half-length. Talk about consistency: Her third straight win came in 1:52:2, the exact winning time of the other two.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Joey Pro (Anthony Napolitano, John Hallett), who moved up in class to win his second straight condition trot since arriving from New York, getting it done in a career-best 1:54:4; TT Conway (Tom Jackson trainer and driver), who rolled to his second straight condition win on Sunday night, this one matching a career-best of 1:56; and Nice Stuff (Marcus Miller, Bucky Angle Jr.), whose condition win on Tuesday was her second in her last three races at Pocono and came in a career-best time of 1:54:1.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: ALWAYS AT MY PLACE
A million-dollar earner in his career, Always At My Place still was unheralded as he captured a condition pace on Saturday night at 18-1 with Jim Taggart Jr. in the bike for a $38 payout on a $2-win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ERIC CARLSON
With a victory on Tuesday afternoon with pacing mare Velocity McSweets, Carlson became the sixth driver to hit the 100-win plateau for the 2019 racing meet at Pocono.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: BOB BAGGITT JR.
Baggitt made the most of limited opportunity, picking up a training double on Monday and then adding another win on Tuesday for victories with the only three starters he sent to the gate this past week.
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.