WILKES-BARRE PA – Six $30,000 divisions of Pennsylvania All-Stars stakes action for two-year-old trotting males were featured Monday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with enough pedigree and precociousness showing that fans of the mountain oval may have seen a starter or two in the 2020 Hambletonian, a race 13 months to the day in the future.
Two of the winners set season’s records in 1:55.2; the one with the more adventurous journey was the gelding Real Cool Sam, whose sire Muscle Hill had four stallion credits in the six All-Stars races and whose mother Cooler Schooner set a 1:51.3 world record here as a freshman. David Miller settled the winner, who won his purse bow in 1:56 at Philly, in fourth early as double purse winner and favored (both were 4-5 on the board) Paulie Walnuts went down the road in :28.1, :57.4, and 1:26.2, with the winner moving right to him approaching the three-quarters.
The other 1:55.2 mile fell to Big Oil, a son of Pocono freshman track recordholder Father Patrick out of the half-million-dollar-winning Cee Bee Yes. Big Oil also took the tuck-then-first-route for driver Andy Miller, but he was the recipient of good fortune when Legion Of Honor, who moved to the lead after a :27.4 opener and set middle fractions of :57.4 and 1:26.2, made a break nearing headstretch fighting against the winner. Big Oil took a 2¼ length margin over favored Expectations under the wire in his purse bow for trainer Julie Miller and owners Joseph, Douglas and Ronald Allen while also rewriting the North American season’s standard for colts.
Trainer Marcus Melander, who has been dominating the three-year-old colt stakes, won the first two divisions of this freshman action with Muscle Hill colts making their purse bows. One was with Rome Pays Off, who is out of the mare Order By Wish – which makes him a full brother to Marseille, who ironically defeated Melander’s big gun Greenshoe here in the recent Beal Championship. Mattias Melander raced Rome Pays Off in the pocket behind pacesetter Vinny De Vie, then went to the Pocono Pike and overhauled that rival by ¾ of a length in 1:58.1, closing into a :58.2 back half for the S R F Stable.
Marcus Melander then teamed with driver Brian Sears (the Greenshoe combo) to win with Hellbent For AM S, out of the mare Nalda Nof, who came first-over, made the lead in the lane, then held off the horse on his back, Patriarch Hanover, by a neck in 1:56.1 for Courant Inc. The time was a season’s record for 18 minutes until Big Oil came along, and a tick shy of the time he recorded in a dead-heat qualifying win.
The Explosive Matter colt Can’t Say No, a $78.60 shocker winning his purse debut here, saw the crowd back him Monday to favoritism, and he and trainer/driver Ray Schnittker responded with a wire-to-wire win in 1:55.4, a new mark. Steel Schooner was good in the pocket but at the finish could get no closer than 1¼ lengths behind Can’t Say No, who is co-owned by Schnittker in partnership with Steven Arnold, Arden Homestead Stable, and Fred Hertrich III.
The other of Muscle Hill’s winning sons was Mister Walker, the first foal out of world champion mare D’Orsay, who was successful in his first start for a purse in 1:57.1. Corey Callahan got the youngster going quickly raw out of fifth down the back and Mister Walker gobbled up the ground (his own last half in 57.3) to reach pacesetter Dublin, then overhauled that rival by ¾ of a length for trainer Jonas Czernyson and Consus Racing Stable Inc.
FINISHING LINES – The Early Double produced what might be a once-in-a-lifetime sight: George Napolitano Jr. and Tim Tetrick combining on a 3-6 ticket worth $5934.00, with George winning with Noble Prize ($42.40) and then Tim bringing home Logan Hanover ($38.20). … Napolitano wound up with four wins on the twilight card, giving him eleven in the first three days at Pocono this racing week, and sixteen if including Friday and Sunday action at Philly.