WILKES-BARRE PA – Despite the mercury not rising much above 50 degrees all Saturday afternoon at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, the Roll With Joe gelding Benji’s Best paced a 1:49.4 mile in the faster division of the $18,000 handicap pace for top-level claimers.
Changing up his usual tactics, Benji’s Best left for the early lead, yielded to sit a two-hole trip behind Somebeach Baron, then powered by in the stretch to win by two lengths for driver Jim Pantaleano and trainer Antonia Storer. Benji’s Best was haltered for $35,000 out of the race, but owner Ameer Major did well by the horse (whom he had owned for a month in 2019 as well) – since claiming him on July 31, Benji’s Best had put $33,345 into his account, getting a check in all but one start.
The claiming box did land-office business on Saturday, with fourteen horses changing hands for $338,500 – the biggest totals since nearing the end of the claiming series at the end of winter. Five of the seven entrants were claimed from the first race, a $20,000-$25,000 claiming handicap (but oddly, not the winner Sweet N Fast N).
A rain which would soon turn the track “good” and then “sloppy” began to fall during the $17,500 fast-class trot, in which King Alphonso caught 1-5 chalk Rich And Miserable using the Pocono Pike to record a 1:53.1 victory. The son of Muscle Hill has now won three of his last four starts for driver Jim Pantaleano, trainer Christen Pantaleano, and owner Matthew Morrison.
Perennial Pocono leader George Napolitano Jr. clicked for five driving victories on the card.
Next week is the last calendar week of the 2021 racing season at The Downs, with racing on Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday at 12:30. Monday’s card is topped by a $12,500 trot in which half the eight entrants show a victory within their last two starts; program pages are available at https://www.phha.org/downsmsppps.html.