WILKES-BARRE PA – Despite a surface rated “good” all afternoon, fast times and inside-placed speed were the order of the Saturday card at Pocono Downs at Mohegan Pennsylvania. Only one horse outside at the three-quarters won and only two were second, and Park Official certainly avoided those non-beneficial paths while fronting his $40,000 Game Of Claims Series Championship foes. The Art Official gelding marched home first in 1:53.4 to complete a “sweep” after winning all three of his prelims.
Anthony Napolitano, top pilot of the day at Pocono with four successes, pointed the winner frontwards as the gate sprang, but they were looped by Play The Field, who left like a shot from the outside post eight and crossed over on Frontier Rollo early. “ANap” calmly got his pacer rolling and had the lead by the :27.3 first split, then got a big breather to the half in :57.2.
Division Bell, held as the second choice off of two wins and a second in his prelims, made a grinding move down the backstretch to the 1:25.1 three-quarters and continued on the turn, but then he lost gait approaching headstretch, and the road was clear for Park Official. Frontier Rollo made a strong inside rally, but came up a length shy.
Park Official, who pushed his career earnings to $218,881 with the victory, had lost nineteen straight races before the Game Of Claims, but he broke his streak in the first round and was claimed by trainer Marta Piotrow and owner Debbie Avery. He won the second leg for them and was claimed again, then won the third leg and was reclaimed by Team Avery/Piotrow, which proved to be a very savvy investment. And the winner gets to “stay home,” as there is no claiming in the Game Of Claims Championships.
In the $25,000 fast-class pace, Sonny Weaver N followed the pattern of the day, made the lead before the ¼ and went on to lay down splits of :28, :56.4, and 1:24.1 before hitting the wire in 1:51.3 in the off going. The Sunshine Beach gelding, driven by George Napolitano Jr., raised his lifetime bankroll to $344,270 for trainer Jeff Cullipher, co-owner with Pollock Racing LLC.
The fastest mile of the year at Pocono was turned in by the Always B Miki gelding Dontpassme Hanover, who stopped the timer in 1:50.4. Tyler Buter moved the winner of two straight to the lead past a :27.2 opener, and the pair were in total control through midsplits of :55 and 1:23.1, crossing the wire with daylight behind for trainer Mark Harder, co-owner with Rick Phillips.
The trotters were not to be outdone, though, as the Walner gelding TNT Blue Chip also won his second consecutive start, this one in 1:54.1 for not only the Pocono’s seasonal record but a new lifetime mark. Anthony Napolitano used his sharp horse hard to make the lead past a :27.1 quarter, but TNT Blue Chip just kept on rolling, putting up splits of :55.4 and 1:24.4 with nobody getting close to him to the line. Trainer Bruce Clarke, who owns the horse with Patricia Waldeck, certainly has found the key to this horse early in 2023.
Sunday’s 1 p.m. card at The Downs will feature the $25,000 Game Of Claims Series Championship for the top pointearners in the class that started for a basic tag of $15,000. No one swept the three prelims at this level, but both P L Leeroy and Mister Daytona N, who tied for top pointwinner with two wins and seconds, are among the eight sharp horses ready to show down Sunday. Program pages for all Pocono races are or will be available at https://www.phha.org/downsmsppps.html.