WILKES-BARRE PA – Highalator showed sharp early speed to earn a fine pocket trip behind favored Backstreet Shadow, then caught that rival by ¾ of a length to win the $30,000 final preliminary in the Great Northeast Open Series (GNOS) for top-level pacers Saturday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in 1:48.2.
Driver Richard Still fully exploited his post two draw to the maximum against Backstreet Shadow, looking for his sixth straight win but starting from the outside post nine, and sped away from the gate, putting Scott Rocks in behind him and releasing Backstreet Shadow only after a 26.1 first quarter. Backstreet Shadow rolled on to the half in :54, and then made the three-quarters in 1:21.1 to keep the first-over bid of Prairie Panther at a safe distance.
In early stretch Still pulled Highalator to the outside and wore down the gallant Backstretch Shadow before deep stretch. Scott Rocks, third-in, came up the Pocono Pike to get third, ahead of Prairie Panther.
The Racing Office at Pocono is the official arbiter of the Great Northeast Open Series, but a quick, unofficial calculation performed after this last GNOS race divisional prelim revealed the following nine horses with the most points: 1. Tiger Thompson N; 2. Scott Rocks; 3. None Bettor A; 4. Highalator; 5. Our Max Phactor N; 6. Rodeo Rock; 7. Backstreet Shadow; 8. Havefaithinme N; 9. Prairie Panther. The GNOS will have its three $100,000 Championships during a twilight card on Monday, September 9, a card which will also include all eight Pennsylvania Stallion Series Championships.
Atta Boy Dan just keeps rolling along – the ten-year-old altered son of Western Terror Atta Boy Dan won his fourth straight, and ninth of his last ten, in the $20,000 claiming handicap pace. Atta Boy Dan was forced to work very hard for this victory, put into the pocket in a :25.4 opener, moving to the lead but not without a fight to a :53.3 half, and then going to the three-quarters in 1:21.2.
In the stretch Rock The Town, who had pressured the winner so much earlier, came in the Pocono Pike but was a half-length shy in the 1:49.3 mile, with first-up Benji’s Best another neck back and deep Pikeshooter Pembroke Wildcat just another neck behind. George Napolitano Jr. held the dead-game veteran together for trainer Mike Watson and owner Cliff Grundy, enabling him to top $900,000 in career earnings with his 67th lifetime winners circle picture and his 15th victory of the year, tied for second for North American honors.
A new dimension to the Atta Boy Dan story came after the race, where it was announced that he had been claimed for $40,000. That in itself is nothing new – this was the twelfth straight race out of which Atta Boy Dan had been taken for $40,000 (his fourth leaving of Grundy / Watson) – but the people who claimed the horse are Meadows-based, and their trainer has started his last 40 horses at the western PA track; the last one he started at Pocono was claimed away. It will be interesting to see if “Dan” gets a chance to match the 13 straight races of changing hands that R Gauwitz Hanover established as the unofficial local record in 2015.