WILKES-BARRE PA – Despite subfreezing temperatures and a howling headstretch wind, driver Matt Kakaley, who won five races on the opening card of the season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono last Saturday, came back with his hot hands intact this Saturday, winning four more races, including the fastest divisions of the first preliminary leg in two of the track’s Game Of Claims series.
Horses with a base price of $25,000 and $15,000 were each gathered in five divisions, each with purses of $20,000 and $12,500 respectively, of the first of three Game Of Claims preliminaries, looking to earn enough points to make their rich series championship on Saturday, March 12.
Kakaley brought home the fastest winner in the higher level action, Won Last Feeling, in the final of the day’s fifteen races, setting the pace from the three-eighths and then holding off 27-1 Guinness Panic by a half-length in 1:53.1, last quarter :28. Prior to the final, the fastest division for $25,000 horses had come in the first race, as Jim Morrill Jr. and Caviart Max overcame a first-over trip in 1:53.2. Other winners for this price were pacesetting Bobby K Hill (Jim Pantaleano) in 1:54, and a duo of 1:56.2 winners in Go West Go Fast (Marcus Miller) and Lyons Amusements (Anthony Napolitano). All five of these horses will now have a week to adjust to their new surroundings.
A 1:55 victory with My Friskie Boy at the $15,000 level allowed Kakaley to complete the speed double, with this horse joining Heartlandbanysbro (1:55.3, Morrill Jr.) and Sportskeeper (1:57.4, Simon Allard) as horses in the lower level to also be going to a new destination after their races. The two winners that do get to stay in familiar surroundings are Beach Fire K (1:55.4 for last year’s local horsemen crownwinners, driver George Napolitano Jr. and trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera), and Derecho in 1:57.4 for Kakaley and trainer Andrew Adamczyk. (Heartlandbanysbro gets an extra mention as the only winner on the card who was not 1-2 at the three-quarters: he was third, but in the pocket, and had enough to grind down pacesetter Bush Man N.)
In a $17,500 fast-class pace, the Western Ideal gelding Western Joe was again overpowering, fronting opposition that had earned $2.7 million and winning in 1:53 by 6¼ lengths for driver George Napolitano Jr., trainer Chris Choate, and owners Anthony Ruggeri and Richard Tosies.
There are a trio of $15,000 features on a 15-race card at Pocono on Sunday, starting at 5 p.m.: one is for trotters, and the two paces are split by sex. Program pages are available at https://www.phha.org/downsmsppps.html.