WILKES-BARRE PA – Overcoming a sloppy track, a first-over move, and very tough opposition, the Shadow Play four-year-old gelding Backstreet Shadow showed speed and gameness in taking a $30,000 Great Northeast Open Series (GNOS) event for fast-class pacing horses in 1:49.2.
On paper, three horses seemed to have the best credentials – None Bettor A was sent off as the 8-5 favorite, with Backstreet Shadow 9-5 and Highalator 2-1 – and they were the three major players in the race. None Bettor A made the early lead, yielded to Highalator before the :26.4 quarter, then retook in front of the stands and got a bit of a rest to a :55.3 half.
Backstreet Shadow, who had tucked fourth from the outside post seven early, launched his first-over bid off the second turn for driver Pat Berry, and the sharp pacer went his own third quarter raw in 26 flat to get within a length of None Bettor A by the 1:22.1 three-quarters. Around the turn and through the stretch those two continued to fight, joined in the lane by a resurgent Highalator in the Pocono Pike. Backstreet Shadow showed his grittiness by defeating None Bettor A (absent for four weeks) by a head, with Highalator just another neck back in third.
The rest of the races in the report were conducted over a “fast” track, before a midcard hard rain and a slight weather delay.
Atta Boy Dan got revenge on the horse who snapped his recent five-race winning streak, Benji’s Best, ending that one’s own four-race victory skein with a 1:49.3 engine victory in the $20,000 claiming handicap pace for driver George Napolitano Jr. (a five-time winner on the night), trainer Mike Watson, and owner Clifford Grundy. The victorious Western Terror ten-year-old gelding, now with 65 career wins and $886,417 in winnings, bested his rival by 1¼ lengths – and then both were promptly claimed for the highest-level price of $40,000.
This is the tenth straight race (three of them for Grundy/Watson, all wins) out of which Atta Boy Dan has been claimed, approaching the local record of thirteen straight claims set by R Gauwitz Hanover in 2015. It’s easy to understand the appeal of the game veteran – his record since coming to Pocono on May 11 is 14-10-2-1-$113,460 -- and he has been claimed 13 times, 11 for the $40,000 maximum.
19-year-old provisional driver Jack Killeen, an Irishman who came to America on a five-year visa to pursue his dream of being a full-time horseman, made his Pocono debut a smashing one, guiding Duc De Guise F to a $65.20 victory after coming from last down the backstretch to be just up in 1:55.4. The French-bred trotter, whom Killeen co-owns and had driven in his native land last year before crossing the Atlantic, showed no rust from nearly a year away from the races, putting in a big late kick deep in the Pocono Pike to pass everybody for trainer Michael Seddon (whose only other career training winner paid $230.40) and the partnership of Killeen and Sinners Racing.
In the very next race, another horse making his Stateside debut was victorious – after coming about three times as far to get to Pocono as Duc De Guise F did. He is the Somebeachsomewhere gelding San Domino A, and with his second move he closed with solid strides to take a 1:49.1 mark in his first U.S. race. George Napolitano Jr. drove the Aussie-bred pacer, who looks headed for bigger things, for trainer Andrew Harris and the ownership of Joe P Racing LLC and Oldford Racing LLC.