CHESTER PA – The 2019 Great Northeast Open Series (GNOS) gets underway with quite a bang this Saturday, May 4, at the two eastern Pennsylvania tracks, Harrah’s Philadelphia and The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with the three classes of Open trotters, Open pacers, and Mare Open pacers each drawing a fine field.
The two events taking place on a special Saturday afternoon card at Philly, worth $30,000 each, are the Mares Open pace and the Open trot. The Open trotters are first on the card in race four, and the event will mark the 2019 debut of Crystal Fashion, a four-year-old altered son of Cantab Hall trained by Jim Campbell. Crystal Fashion won just shy of $1.1 million as a three-year-old last year, with high finishes in most of the major stakes in his division; he was also the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champion. Starting from post two in a field of seven off a pair of easy qualifying wins in 1:57.1 and 1:57, Crystal Fashion is scheduled to have the green and yellow colors of “T. Tetrick” behind him – only Saturday his driver is scheduled to be Trace Tetrick, brother of Tim, the 2017 Rising Star Award winner and the leading driver at Hoosier Park near Indianapolis.
In the sixth race Mares Open pace, 2018 champion sophomore filly Kissin In The Sand will make her first start of this year, starting from post two for trainer Nancy Johansson and driver Scott Zeron. The Somebeachsomewhere mare had ten wins and five seconds in fifteen seasonal outings, taking her mark of 1:47.3 at Lexington, and she was also the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champion.
Her main foe appears to be the American Ideal mare Tequila Monday, who has ripped off four straight victories against high-quality mares to open her season for trainer Hunter Oakes. Trace Tetrick has also gained the catch-drive behind Tequila Monday as she starts from post five in the seven-horse field.
The GNOS action then heads 100 miles north on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Pocono, where there will be a doubleheader of racing on Saturday, and the highlight of the evening card will be the track’s traditional Derby Day feature, the $50,000 Van Rose Memorial Invitational Pace. The Rose Memorial will count in the GNOS pointstandings, and is slotted for the evening action’s race ten.
The race has attracted the hottest, and the richest, performer in North America so far this year in Western Fame, starting from post seven in the field of nine for trainer Rene Allard, currently in front in a bid for his sixth Pocono training title in seven years, and driver/brother Simon. All the son of Western Ideal has done recently is post four wins and a second in five preliminaries of the Levy Series, then took the $664,000 Levy final by almost five lengths in 1:50.4 at Yonkers, boosting his 2019 earnings to $446,300 with only a third of the year gone.
Filibuster Hanover, winner of the 2017 Little Brown Jug and like Western Fame a racing millionaire, had the misfortune of drawing the outside post nine for his seasonal debut, with trainer Ron Burke choosing Jim Morrill Jr. for sulky duty. Sure to draw attention as well is Highalator, starting from post two for trainer Jenny Bier and driver Richard Still; Highalator, who is 10-for-17 lifetime at the mountain oval, and Still teamed to win a leg of the Golden Receiver series at The Meadowlands in his last start.
The Great Northeast Open Series races are scheduled every weekend at the two tracks until September 1, with $30,000 contests (a few “special events” carry a bigger bounty) on the sheet for all of the three divisions. When Pocono has the Open pace, it goes on Saturday evening; otherwise the GNOS contests are, with a few exceptions (like this week), slotted for Sunday, at Philly in the afternoon and at Pocono at night. The top pointwinners in the competition will vie for $100,000 in each of the three GNOS divisions, with their Championships to be held over 1¼ miles on a Monday twilight card on September 9.