WILKES-BARRE PA – The 2022 harness racing season in eastern Pennsylvania began in earnest on Monday at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with the first qualifying races of the campaign and the draw conducted for the year’s first racing program this coming Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m.
Driver Jason Bartlett and trainer Sabrina Shaw combined to win the three fastest qualifiers of the day: with the pacers Friskie All Night in 1:55.2, Major Desire in 1:56.3, and Do Work Son in 1:57, all in near-freezing temperatures over a track rated “good +2.” Bartlett/Shaw and VHF Racing LLC, who owns all three winners, will be ones to watch for early in the meet at Pocono.
Trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera, Pocono’s top trainer in 2021, looks like he wants to get a quick start again in 2022 as three of his charges reported home first: Bank Box Treasure and Crazy Cute winning for Pocono’s perennial top driver George Napolitano Jr., and Del Diggity marking a successful return to the sulky for John Kakaley in his first day of action after three months away.
Saturday afternoon’s opening card is topped by a pair of $15,000 events, one on each gait. The pace is a starter allowance for high-end claimers, some of who may be eyeing the Game Of Claims Series, which begins here next Saturday. Frontier Rollo, coming off a nice pair of seconds against this type at The Meadowlands, may be favored from post two, but the abovementioned Major Desire has post four and is sure to attract some attention off the way Team Bartlett/Shaw started the local year.
On the trot, Brigitte Bi shows two wins a half-level higher at Philly at the end of last year; if she comes out in top fettle after 29 days away from the races, she could be tough to deny beginning from the middle of a seven horse field.
Pocono will begin with just the Saturday card this week; the last two weeks of February, there will be racing at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. Program pages will be available at https://www.phha.org/downsmsppps.html.