WILKES-BARRE PA – The Dragon Again four-year-old horse Gray Dragon, in career form, gained into a :26.2 last quarter to overhaul 2019 Meadowlands Pace winner Best In Show in 1:49.2 in one of three $15,300 featured contests Tuesday afternoon at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.
Mark MacDonald sent Gray Dragon right to the lead early, encouraging other leavers to tuck, then ceded command to favored Best In Shadow when that one, favored in his 2021 debut, brushed to command past the :27 quarter. Best In Show (whose dam, Put On A Show, was in the news today as she was sold after being bred to Tall Dark Stranger to a Hunterton Farms-based group) put up good midrace fractions of :54.4 and 1:23, then really turned on the afterburners in the lane, but Gray Dragon had an even higher gear, coming his last eighth likely better than :13 to go by the pacesetter by a half-length. John Butenschoen, the hottest of trainers at Pocono lately, has found the key to this one for Emerald Highlands Farm.
In the trotting section of the day’s features, Papi Hanover was hard-used to make the lead, but then had a great view from the two-hole as Rose Run Vincent went by and hung favored Can’t Say No in a vicious duel. Papi Hanover then came back in the Pocono Pike for driver Fern Paquet Jr. to win a five-horse blanket finish in 1:54.3, a new mark. The altered son of Explosive Matter scored the 18-1 upset for trainer Karen Fread, who is also co-owner with Randy and Michael Toth and James Mims Jr.
A huge early-season clash among the horses in the sport’s glamour division, the three-year-old colt pacers, will take place at Pocono on Sunday’s twilight card, with three divisions of Pennsylvania Sire Stakes action and seven sections of Stallion Series racing. Among the stars coming to Pocono are the undefeated Perfect Sting, last year’s two-year-old champion making his seasonal debut here; Summa Cum Laude, who dead-heated for the win with Perfect Sting in the Breeders Crown last year; Southwind Gendry, a head behind the dead-heaters and a 1:49.4 winner in the first Sire Stakes prelim at The Meadows; and One Eight Hundred and Gamblin Mo, both of whom won in 1:50.1 here in Pennsylvania All-Stars action this past Saturday.