With over $2.1 million on the line, you can be sure the best horses and drivers in the county will be at Pocono. That means every race is going to be a thrill ride! But we know you've got your eyes on the four biggest ones, so here's all you need to know to be an instant expert and, hopefully, win some big bucks!
$300,000 JAMES LYNCH CHAMPIONSHIP for three-year-old pacing fillies – race 9
The three elimination winners all drew in the middle of the gate or inside that, with the two most likely to draw attention, Tequila Monday and Agent Q, starting from posts one and four respectively. The American Ideal filly Tequila Monday, who won her elimination by a nose over Idyllic Beach in the elims’ fastest time of 1:50.4, may again try to go wire-to-wire from the pole as she did last week for driver Brian Sears, trainer Chris Oakes, and owners Susan Oakes and Chuck Pompey. Agent Q also favors speedy tactics, and went wire-to-wire last week in 1:51.1 for driver David Miller and trainer Aaron Lambert; Martin Scharf shares ownership in the Western Terror filly with Rochetti Cassar Racing and Robert Muscara.
Idyllic Beach, last year’s North American divisional champion and just shaded by Tequila Monday in the fastest elim last week, had a major monkey wrench thrown into her plans for victory when she drew the outside post nine; driver Yannick Gingras will need both sulky creativity and racing luck to overcome this tough starting slot.
$500,000 MAX C. HEMPT CHAMPIONSHIP for three-year-old pacing colts – race 10
The two superstar colts from the Brian Brown stable – Fear The Dragon and Downbytheseaside – find themselves sharing the headliners’ spotlight with Miso Fast, who halted the 2017 undefeated string of the “Dragon” with a powerful victory last week.
Fear The Dragon had been put on the lead in his elimination, but driver Matt Kakaley got an instantaneous burst from the Roll With Joe colt Miso Fast when he asked him off the second turn, smoking his personal third quarter in 26.2 to open up a big lead, then having enough to come home in 26.4 to post the victory in 1:49.2 for trainer Ron Burke and the ownership of Burke Racing Stable LLC, Our Horse Cents Stables, and J&T Silva Stables LLC. Miso Fast starts from post four Saturday as he tries to put together a repeat performance.
Fear The Dragon, #1 in the North American Top Ten poll of harness horses going into the race, was certainly not disgraced in the mile – in fact, he came his last quarter in 26.2, faster than did Miso Fast, and regained all but 1½ lengths of Miso Fast’s huge advantage. The Dragon Again colt drew the rail in the Hempt Championship for driver David Miller and the Emerald Highlands Farm.
The other Brown sophomore star, Downbytheseaside, also posted a 1:49.2 clocking in winning his elimination, showing determination with horses charging at him late. Downbytheseaside had his chances hurt a bit when he drew post eight, but he figures to work his way into the mix for “Team Brian's other partner, driver Brian Sears, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame the next day.
$500,000 BEN FRANKLIN CHAMPIONSHIP for free-for-all pacers – race 11
Two of the Franklin elimination winners, Keystone Velocity and Mel Mara, drew posts one and two, respectively, and a victory would make either one a career millionaire. The other elim winner, Dealt A Winner, was dealt post seven at the pill shake, and he shows only one call in eight racelines better than third at the quarter, meaning he may be staring at a difficult trip for David Miller. (Another numerological shudder for Dealt A Winner: should he triumph, his earnings would stand at $999,290.)
Keystone Velocity went a tick faster than did Mel Mara in winning his elim, 1:48.3 vs. 1:48.4, but Keystone Velocity was rallying off of a 1:20.3 ¾ time put up by Freaky Feet Pete, and just made the lead in the shadow of the wire, while Mel Mara showed a powerful early rush, went to the half in 53 under his own steam, and then drew away in the stretch to a 3½-length victory for driver Corey Callahan. With three wins and a second in four seasonal races, the son of Lis Mara will certainly be one of if not the favorite to win the Franklin jackpot for trainer Dylan Davis and owners Robert Cooper Stables LLC and J&T Silva Stables LLC.
$500,000 EARL BEAL CHAMPIONSHIP, for three-year-old trotters – race 12
The three Beal elimination winners drew posts one, two, and eight. The filly got post eight. Ariana G, a superstar sophomore trotting filly challenging the colts in the Beal, won her elimination race in hand, finishing out her 1:53.4 victory in 27.3 without drawing a labored breath. There may be a labored breath or two required this week from the tough starting slot, although the Muscle Hill filly, who won in 1:51.1 at The Meadowlands two starts ago, must still be rated the favorite to give driver Yannick Gingras his fourth straight win in the Beal (Father Patrick, Pinkman, Southwind Frank) as he steers for trainer Jimmy Takter and the partnership of breeders Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld.
Long Tom took his elim in 1:52.3 and may provide the main opposition to Ariana G for driver Tim Tetrick and trainer Marcus Melander, while Perfect Spirit, who scooted up the far inside to post a 23-1 upset in 1:54.1, has already had her trainer Åke Svanstedt read the writing on the wall and list David Miller as his candidate to replace his filly’s driver from last week – Gingras.
Of course, Sun Stakes Saturday is about more than racing...it's about a great night of fun for everyone. So here's all the whens and wheres you need to know to chow down, gear up and kick back at one of the country's most picturesque harness race tracks.
Racing starts at 6:30pm, but crowds are sure to be big, so for the easiest parking it's best to get there as early as possible.
Get A Seat
There's plenty of outdoor seating on the apron and in the grandstand, but once again, to ensure you get seats exactly when and where you want them it's best to arrive before the crowds. Pocono allows you to bring you own small collapsable seats too, so you might want to toss a few in the back of your vehicle just in case you want to DIY your seating arrangements.
Legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight will be making a personal appearance prior to the races. But while the meet-and-greet kicks off at 5pm, you'll need a wristband to get in line. Wristbands will be distributed starting at 1pm while supplies last so to make sure you have a place in line, you might want to arrive around 11am and take your place for wristband distribution.
Get A Bite
Pacer's Clubhouse is the VIP place to be for Sun Stakes, but unless you made your reservations months in advance, chances are you'll need to eat elsewhere. Luckily, there are plenty of great places to grab drink and a bite. Winners Circle offers pizza, sandwiches and more and you can eat them in the track's comfortable simulcast lounge or take your food outside to enjoy while you watch the races. Indoor and outdoor bars make it easy to quench your thirst. Pocono's famous food truck will be parked on the apron so you can get a delicious burger, dog or other bite to eat. And of course, Pocono has everything from sushi to steaks to Italian and more in the casino if you decide to enjoy dinner before the races.
Check out this awesome laptop bag...it's a $40 value and you can get it free! Just be one of the first 300 people to buy a racing program starting at 5:30pm. Every program contains a coupon you can use to redeem for your bag starting at 9pm in the lower grandstand. Now, make sure you have your Racing Rewards card because you'll need to present it along with your coupon to get your bag. Don't have a Racing Rewards card? Saturday's a great day to sign up and start enjoying the rewards of membership. It's free and easy!
And that's everything! In a nutshell, get to Pocono early, and enjoy the afternoon before racing starts at 6:30pm. See you there!