WILKES-BARRE PA – Seven fields of $25,000 base-priced pacing claimers took to the track for $20,000 divisions of the first preliminary of their Game Of Claims Series action Saturday afternoon at Pocono Downs at Mohegan Pennsylvania. They faced conditions hospitable to neither horse nor man – temperatures near 40, a heavy racing surface that bogged down times dramatically, and (especially in the latter divisions) speed horses and favorites not having too much luck trying to get to the wire first.
Fastest of the eight winners in the GOC races was Century Fury, a Miami Valley shipper who entered the backstretch last for driver Jim Morrill Jr. and then proceeded to circle the field to the lead on the far turn and draw off to a 1:54.3 victory by over five lengths. Century Fury also got to return to his home in the Jason Brewer stable after the races, but nineteen Game Of Claims horses went to a new barn after $475,000 of opening-leg selling action. This was the biggest Pocono claiming total since exactly 52 weeks ago, when two different GOC price groups took up twelve races on the card.
And no, that wasn’t a typo earlier when we said “seven Game Of Claims divisions” and “eight winners,” because one division resulted in a dead-heat for the top spot between Dragon Strikes and Caviart Val in 1:56.1. Caviart Val was one of four successful teamings, three in the GOC races, on the afternoon for the red-hot pair of trainer Travis Alexander and driver Matt Kakaley (who added a fifth win for another trainer). However, Caviart Val was also one of three winners to be claimed out of his race (Dragon Strikes, driven by Anthony Napolitano, got to go home to his usual spot in the Brianne Sinclair barn).
The other two victorious horses moving on to a new stable were Park Official (driver Kakaley, 1:55.4, the only winning favorite in the GOC) and Bravo Tex N (Anthony Napolitano, 1:55.2); the remaining series winners who got to return to familiar surroundings after their races were a pair of Kakaley/Alexander horses, A Bettor Beach (1:57.1) and Captain T Hanover (1:56.2), along with Division Bell (Anthony Napolitano, 1:56.2).
There were also $18,500 co-features for the best older local horses on their respective gaits. In the pace, the Art Official gelding Indigo Art handled a class stepup with aplomb, coming out of the pocket for a 1:54.4 victory for driver Marcus Miller and trainer Crit Walsh, co-owner with Lily Cimino; in the trot, Jula Muscle Pack came in from Yonkers for trainer Per Engblom and owners Jula Racing Inc., with the son of Muscle Hill then overcoming a first-over trip to win in 1:58 for driver Tyler Buter.
There will be racing on both Sunday and Monday (a March expansion of the Pocono schedule) at 1 p.m., with the first preliminary leg of Game Of Claims series racing for the different levels of horses featured on both days. Program pages for all Pocono races are or will be available at https://www.phha.org/downsmsppps.html.