Connie Jean forced tucks and hit the quarter in 27.2; Checkmate Time pulled from sixth at the ¼ and soon flushed the cover of Sunrise Avenue, who worked up to the leader nearing the 57 half. Checkmate Time made her misstep as the speed sharpened down the back, with Whambamthankumaam, Abbie’s Celticlass, and Gin’s Tonic moving to second-/third-/fourth-over by the 1:25.4 ¾ pole.
The inner tier started to collapse headstretch, unusual over the this speed-favoring oval, and though Sunrise Avenue went to the top, she did not open much distance, and it would be Whambamthankumaam going by her towards midstretch, only to see Abbie’s Celticlass and driver Matt Kakaley rallied of “Maam”’s back to get the ½-length decision while lowering her mark by two seconds. Sunrise Avenue lasted for third over Gin’s Tonic; Talkin Tootsie used the deep Pocono Pike to get the last check.
The victorious Explosive Matter mare was no slouch in the series prelims, with a first, second, third, and fourth, but she was double digits behind Checkmate Time last week, prompting her long-odds dismissal. But the tote board was no factor to winning trainer Ken Hess Jr. and the winning ownership of Stop The Jade Farm LLC, although it may have shocked others, with $2-based payouts of $96.00 to win, $672.80 for the Exacta, $3754.60 for the Trifecta, and $41,822.40 for the Superfecta (though the actual pool was nowhere nearly that big).
The trotting distaffs’ male counterparts began their Weiss action a week later, so on Tuesday they raced their fourth and final preliminary leg, going for $15,000 in each of two divisions. Ooh Rah and Hilarious Hero, both winners in prelims one and two before losing last week, regained their winning ways during this card.
The Credit Winner four-year-old gelding Ooh Rah, who broke before the start as the favorite last week, minded his manners this outing and led at every call to take his Weiss cut in 1:56.2. George Napolitano Jr. sent Ooh Rah to the lead, where he remained strong to the wire, winning 2½ lengths over Bend In The River, the other double winner in the early prelims who came up short the third week. Kathleen La Montagne trains the five-time seasonal winner, and she co-owns him with Donald La Montagne.
Hilarious Hero, as noted, bounced back in Tuesday’s second section, rallying from the pocket to post a half-length victory in 1:56. Matt Kakaley vacated the two-hole with the four-year-old Deweycheatumnhowe four-year-old gelding past midturn, keeping circling Muscles On Fire three-deep through the curve, and that move may have made the difference in the outcome as Hilarious Hero outfooted his rival home, posting his fourth win in five 2017 starts (after going 0-for-24 at two and three) for trainer Jenny Melander and the ownership of Melander Racing Inc. and Clark Stables LLC.
After the preliminaries, the ranking of the competitors, with top-listed here first, are: Hilarious Hero, Ooh Rah, Bend In The River, Uncle Leroy, Muscles On Fire, Gustavo Fring, Tech Titan, Perseverance, and Armbro Hall. Gustavo Fring was second in a Dexter Cup elim last Saturday at Freehold; watching tomorrow’s Freehold draw for this Saturday’s final with interest will be AE1 Mister Photogenic.
Next racing at Pocono will be Saturday, Kentucky Derby Day, with a doubleheader of racing: a 10-race “brunch” card starting at 11 a.m., and then a 13-race card after the Derby, topped by the $50,000 Van Rose Memorial Pace, with of field of eight who average over $1 million in lifetime earnings; Sunfire Blue Chip, McWicked, and Somewhere In L A are the three early choices.