HARRISBURG PA – Two-year-olds went behind the gate for the first time in 2020 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, while 100 miles south trotters and pacers saw their first action of the year at Harrah’s Philadelphia, both in morning qualifying sessions.
During the Pocono babies action, the hot barn was that of Todd Schadel, co-owner of Hambletonian winner Vivid Photo, as Schadel guided all three winners on the trotting gait. The faster of two victorious rides behind colts for Todd was Top Me Off, by first-year sire Bar Hopping out of Chiptomylou, who went wire-to-wire in 2:00.2, last half 58.1, for the ownership of Todd and his wife Christine in partnership with Rick and Regina Beinhauer.
On the pace, Schadel set the pace with Shakealeg Hanover in the fastest freshman race, but the pair were run down late by Dillinger in 1:59.4, the faster mile in the colt division. Dillinger is by Always B Miki, the Horse of the Year who has his first crop at the races this year, out of Bodacious Hanover, whose mother is Bunny Lake and whose half-brother is the promising two-year-old of 2019, Lake Charles. Mark MacDonald guided Dillinger for trainer Ray Schnittker, who is co-owner in partnership with Hall of Famer Ted Gewertz, Max J. Hempt, and Steven Arnold.
The Rock N Roll Heaven – Toy Delight pacing filly Jubilee Queen made two moves to control the pace for driver Matt Kakaley, going on nice to win in 2:00 for driver Matt Kakaley, trainer Kevin Lare, and owners Frank Chick and David Hamm in the faster of two sections for the baby fillies.
In the inaugural morning session of the year at Philly, the fastest heats were saved for last. Quickest mile of the day, 1:52.4, was turned in by the Somebeachsomewhere gelding Shadow Cat, who sat behind pacesetting Mindtrip, then despite being unraced since last July 27 gained into a 27.4 last quarter to win for driver Marcus Miller, trainer Josh Green, and new owners Howard Taylor and the David Rovine Stable LLC.
The quickest Philly trotter, the Kadabra gelding Tony Soprano, had missed even more time – 370 days since his last race -- and also made his bow for new connections, provisional driver / trainer David Hoover and owner Jaypaul Hoover, and he was likewise victorious, triumphing on the engine in 1:57.2.
Philly begins its 2020 pari-mutuel meet on Sunday at 12:40, which will also be post time for the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday cards of the track’s basic schedule. Pocono, after a 102-day break due to the COVID shutdown, starts its purse program back up a day earlier, with Pocono featuring racing on Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday at 12:30 and Sunday at 7:00.