WILKES-BARRE PA – The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono was proud to host some of the sport’s most talented sophomores on Saturday in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championships for three-year-olds, along with their respective consolations. Each of the Championship races went for $253,000; the consolation fields contested $50,000; the total purses for the day were $1,294,100.
It proved to be a good day for the favorites, as each of the four most highly-regarded Championship horses got their picture taken in Victory Lane afterwards.
Here’s a recap of each of the four divisions:
Jujubee, a 1:49.4 winner on Hambletonian Day, stormed to the easiest of victories despite not racing since that sub-1:50 mile, going solidly in the stretch to win by 4 1/4 lengths in 1:51.4, lowering the 1:52.3 Championship record established by Amigo Volo at Philly last year.
Andrew McCarthy picked up the drive behind the Creatine colt, the 4-5 favorite, and he moved him out from third after a :26.2 quarter to get the top before the :55.1 half. The three-quarters came and went in 1:23.1, and nobody could present a serious threat in the latter stages to Jujubee, who now has earnings of $300,107 for owner Jon Erdner. The winner was the pointleader during his Sires preliminaries.
Trainer Greg Wright Jr. said, “I didn’t have this horse last year, and he wasn’t staked to anything. But training him I could tell that his #1 quality was desire – there just was no end to him. We had to supplement to these Sire Stakes, and he can be supplemented to the Breeders Crown I believe, but after that we’ll be looking for races for him.”
Consolation: Captain Corey won here on Sires Championship Day last year, and he won here on Sires Championship Day this year – but this year he won his Consolation, as he had only a win and a break in the prelims he did enter and did not earn enough points for the final. In this Consolation, trainer/driver Åke Svanstedt made a quarter-move past stablemate Fly Light and was in charge from there, with his huge strides propelling him through a :27.2 last quarter far clear of his foes. The ownership of S R F Stable, Knutsson Trotting, Midnight Sun Partners, and Svanstedt saw their star son of Googoo Gaagaa boost his earnings to a North America-leading $758,695 this year and $1,090,333 lifetime. Oh, his winning time? 1:51.4, equal to that of Jujubee; the Captain just might have a contender for his divisional throne.
3-YEAR-OLD FILLY TROT
Hambletonian Oaks winner Bella Bellini, benefiting from a heady drive from Dexter Dunn, wore down leading You Ato Dream late to win her divisional Championship in 1:53.
Starting from the outside post nine, the daughter of Bar Hopping went up to grab a 4-tuck for Dunn, with Flawless Country (the 2020 champion) and Lady Chaos arguing past a :27.1 quarter. Even though Lady Chaos could back the half off to :56.4, You Ato Dream was soon rushing at her and going past her at the 5/8, towing up Bella Bellini and then leaving her coverless and attacking before and past the 1:23.4 three-quarters.
In a stretch battle between the co-leading preliminary pointwinners, You Ato Dream held her ground gamely, but Bella Bellini was not to be denied and slowly got by in the latter stages, winning by three-quarters of a length, with Lady Chaos staying on for third, another 1¾ lengths back.
“Post nine is never good, but it worked out,” Dunn said after the race. “Actually, I followed You Ato Dream, and when she cleared I thought of trying to get my filly to the top, but when she didn’t clear I hoped it hadn’t taken too much out of her. She showed her class in the stretch.”
The 6-5 favorite has now won eight of thirteen times this year, with her lifetime earnings going to $514,448. Nifty Norman conditions the fabulous filly for owner David Mc Duffee, and she certainly is the one to beat in the fall classic stakes.
Consolation: The Cantab Hall filly May Karp won her division’s PaSS consolation for the second straight year, blitzing home in :56.1 - :28 to be a going-away winner in 1:54. Tim Tetrick drove the winner, sent off as the heaviest-possible kind of favorite, as she raised her bankroll to $221,396 for trainer Lucas Wallin and Shermay Stables.
3-YEAR-OLD COLT PACE
Southwind Gendry and Perfect Sting chose to go elsewhere? No problem for the Burke Brigade, as its Sweet Lou colt Lou’s Pearlman won the glamour division’s PaSS Championship in 1:49.4.
Lou’s Pearlman, sent off at 3-5, was looped out of the gate by early rushers, with Yannick Gingras guiding his horse to the lead midway between the :26.2 quarter and the :54.3 half. Billy Clyde made a strong challenge to the 1:22.1 three-quarters, and he wouldn’t go away in the stretch, but Lou’s Pearlman had a bit more in reserve and held off his gritty foe by 1 3/4 lengths, with the same distance between Billy Clyde and third-place finisher (and 50-1 shot) Gamblin Mo.
“This colt has been in good form lately, and he seems to be doing well on Lasix (on which he has won two straight),”noted Gingras. Indeed, before the medication addition, he had won twice at The Meadowlands in June, with last quarters of :25.4 and :26.1, so obviously he has the talent to be a major factor for Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Elizabeth Novak, and Howard Taylor. Lou’s Pearlman took his mark of 1:47.4 at The Meadowlands earlier this year, and now sports a bankroll of $423,681.
Consolation: The Somebeachsomewhere colt Somewhereinverona, the 2020 Stallion Series champion in this group, added another trophy to his collection with a 1:50.4 victory. Pocono’s top driver George Napolitano Jr. shot the sophomore out to the lead, was shuffled after lead changes and still came back first-over, then grinded down odds-on pacesetter Water Sports Teen by 1¼ lengths, coming his own back half in :54.2 for trainer Jessica Dowse and owners Petitpas Stables LTD, Ozzie MacKay, Blake MacIntosh, and Gilles Landry.
3-YEAR-OLD FILLY PACE
The Always B Miki filly Grace Hill continued in a sterling string of form in her Championship, recording her fourth straight triumph over top-level competition in 1:50.2 to give owner Tom Hill his second straight trophy in this division, after Party Girl Hill last year.
Grace Hill used track geometry to maximum advantage from the rail, keeping Blue Diamond Eyes parked past a slick :26.2 quarter, then moved back to the top for driver Todd McCarthy by a demanding :54.1 half. The 2-5 chalk absorbed backstretch pressure from points leader Mikala to the 1:22 three-quarters, and then her main opposition to the wire came from Blue Diamond Eyes in the Pocono Pike and 32-1 shot Milieu Hanover charging from third-over. But Grace Hill held her ground to win by a half-length over Blue Diamond Eyes, who in turn pictured out Milieu Hanover for the deuce.
“Fillies sometimes hit a patch of good form, and that’s the case with Grace Hill right now,” stated trainer Nifty Norman after taking both of the filly Championships. “Also, notice that she has been drawing very well recently – that and her speed have combined to really help her work out top trips.” The fine journeys have helped Grace Hill run her bankroll to $620,855, with no signs of growth stopping soon.
Consolation: Beach Crazy made the lead before the quarter and led every step of the way from there, but the daughter of Somebeachsomewhere had to dig down deep to ward off potential pocket rocket Capsaicinn in the Pocono Pike by a nose, lowering her mark a tick to 1:51.3. Todd McCarthy kept the winner alive to the wire to put her over six figures in lifetime earnings for trainer Stacy Chiodo and the partnership of Jeffrey Shore, Robert Barr, and Chiodo Racing LLC.
The Carmine Fusco Memorial Pace was held during the card, in tribute to the horseman whose family was devastated by COVID at the very outbreak of the pandemic. Carmine won three training titles at The Downs, and his 177 victories here in 2007 is still the local seasonal standard. The $16,000 midcard event was won by Regal Son, and after the race many family and friends of Carmine came to the winners circle in fond remembrance for a presentation.