WILKES-BARRE PA – The first races of the 2023 stakes season at Pocono Downs at Mohegan Pennsylvania took place on Sunday night, four $30,000 divisions of a Pennsylvania All-Stars event for three-year-old pacing fillies, and despite a “good” track the miles yielded uniformly quick clockings.
Fastest of all of the All-Star sections was produced by one of the three stakes favorites to come home first, the Stay Hungry filly Relentless Julie, a two-time winner in the Weiss Series who regained her winning ways while reducing her mark to 1:50.4. The filly has shown her best races to come from off the pace, and she again closed strongly for driver Anthony Napolitano in winning by 1½ lengths over Hungry For Kisses for trainer Travis Alexander and Fiddler’s Creek Stables LLC.
One of the other chalk horses to visit Victory Lane was the familiar C Is For Cookie, the Betting Line filly who swept the Weiss Series and here posted her fifth win in a row, responding when asked for speed by Jason Bartlett to equal her mark of 1:51.3, last quarter :27, while three-quarters of a length ahead of Diamondsnpearls. Linda Toscano conditions C Is For Cookie for Birnam Wood Farms.
The other winning favorite was Always B Naughty, a daughter of Always B Miki who was sent to the front by driver Joseph Fonseca and won confidently by 1¼ lengths in 1:51.2, using a :27 last quarter to withstand Hungry For Love. Nancy Taker trains the winner of three straight, and she co-owns her with J L Benson Stables Inc. and R.B.H. Ventures Inc.
The only All-Stars race that saw the favorite not win boiled down to two drivers making their first appearances of the year at Pocono, though they certainly are very familiar to local fans – Dexter Dunn and Tim Tetrick. In this division it was Dunn and the Sweet Lou filly Proud Mary successful in her seasonal bow, though she was extended to turn back Hello Yes Hi and Tetrick by a nose while taking a new mark of 1:51.2. Chris Ryder trains the filly for Let It Ride Stables Inc. and Bottom Line Racing LLC.
In an $18,500 fast-class pace, South Beach Star made onwatchers sit up and take notice when he won in a blistering 1:48.2, more than a second faster than any other Pocono mile this season. David Miller left with the Somebeachsomewhere gelding, then bypassed a three-tuck nearing a :26.4 quarter, going on to battle with early leader Bad To the Bone N, who kept the challenger out almost to a :53.3 half. South Beach Star went on to the three-quarters in 1:20.4, then still had a :27.3 kick in him to withstand the resurgent Bad Tothe Bone N by a head. Mark Silva trains the horse, who looks like could fit in with anyone’s top level, for All Star Racing Inc.
The $16,500 top claiming handicap pace saw the Art Official gelding Park Official win his ninth straight race, here in 1:52.1 while gamely holding off late pressure for driver Anthony Napolitano, trainer Marta Piotrow, and owner Debbie Avery. “ANap” was the night’s top driver with three sulky successes.
Racing continues here at Pocono on Monday and Tuesday at 1 p.m.; the next stakes event at The Downs will be the first of two straight weeks of appearances for the glamour division, the three-year-old pacing colts, as they go in a Pennsylvania All-Stars event next Sunday. Program pages for all Pocono races are or will be available at https://www.phha.org/downsmsppps.html.