WILKES-BARRE PA – Many of harness racing’s brightest stars will gather at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono this Saturday for four Championship races and strong supporting events on the $2,204,000 Sun Stakes Saturday fourteen-race card.
Here is a look at the four Championship races, put together with an open post position draw, along with the $75,000 consolations attached to three of them, plus the $75,000 Great Northeast Open Series trotting event.
Only eight horses who qualified last week dropped in; Reign Of Honor, who dead-heated for fourth to earn a spot, did not drop in for the Championship.
Reign Of Honor will note, probably with some relief – and the rest of the field will note with some alarm – that the “Green” trotters from the Marcus Melander Stable who won the Beal eliminations, Green Manalishi S and Greenshoe, drew posts one and two, respectively.
Greenshoe is the best of the embarrassment of divisional riches for Melander (which includes Gimpanzee, racing at Yonkers Tuesday) right now, undefeated in three seasonal starts, including a 1:50.2 win at The Meadowlands. The son of Father Patrick, owned by Courant Inc., Hans Backe, Lars Granqvist, and Morten Langli, trotted his own last half in 54.4 in a 1:52.3 Beal elim victory. Greenshoe may not have to flirt with his Father’s 1:50.2 world record in the division, but he seems to be still improving as he will go on Saturday from post two for driver Brian Sears.
His stablemate Green Manalishi S actually won the faster Beal elimination, 1:52.1, but he came on late after a fast pace. Still, it was the seasonal debut for the Muscle Hill colt, owned by Courant Inc.; he figures to be even better Saturday, and could maintain his record of never being worse than second lifetime (six wins, five seconds) as he goes from the rail for driver Tim Tetrick.
$500,000 BEN FRANKLIN FFA PACE CHAMPIONSHIP (race 11; consolation in race 5)
Western Fame, the early-season sensation of the Levy Series at Yonkers, returned after a seven-week respite and immediately showed he hadn’t lost a thing, winning his Franklin elimination in 1:48.1 to tie sophomore Hempt elim winner Proof as the fastest pacer on a 5/8-mile track this year. The son of Western Fame, trained by Pocono’s leading conditioner Rene Allard for Go Fast Stable, Steven Klunowski, B & I Stables LLC, and Gil Short, has drawn post four for the Franklin, with Rene’s brother Simon driving.
The other Franklin elimination saw McWicked, defending Horse of the Year and Franklin champion, as the favorite, and he did make the lead on the far turn, but then uncharacteristically tired a bit and finished third. The winner of $3,922,656 had raced only twice in the previous 42 days, and he may be more his usual resilient self this time out, with Brian Sears in the sulky for trainer Casie Coleman from post one.
The winner of the “McWicked elimination” was the fast four-year-old Lather Up, who set the pace then looked defeated on the turn, but came back to gain the victory. Post seven will be no help to the son of I’m Gorgeous, trainer Clyde Francis, or driver Montrell Teague.
Consolation: Highalator, usually so tough at Pocono, had a very rough trip in his elimination and could not make the final; he seeks to reright his ship from post five. Filibuster Hanover, who was photoed out of the Championship, has the advantage of the rail in the field of seven.
$500,000 MAX C. HEMPT 3YO C&G PACE CHAMPIONSHIP (race 10; consolation in race 8)
Proof showed a return to top form while winning his Hempt elimination in 1:48.1, tying with Western Fame as the fastest pacer on a 5/8-mile track this season. The son of A Rocknroll Dance, trained by Brian Brown for Diamond Creek Racing, was right at the top of his class through much of 2018, and the sharp victory last week makes him the central figure in this race as he begins from post two for driver David Miller.
The other two Hempt elim winners were not very fortunate at the post draw: Shake That House drew post seven for trainer Chris Oakes and driver Brian Sears, while Captain Victorious will have to start just outside Shake That House for driver Yannick Gingras and trainer Ron Burke.
Consolation: In terms of energy output last week, Escapetothebeach, who was parked through vicious fractions of :26, :53.2, and 1:21.1 and still missed just over five lengths, has the rail and driver George Napolitano Jr. at Pocono, and there may be a fearsome price to be paid to get past this one.
$300,000 JAMES LYNCH 3YO FILLY PACE (race 9; consolation in race 3)
The Sweet Lou filly Warrawee Ubeaut became the fastest two-year-old of all-time with a 1:48.3 victory at Lexington, and last week she re-established herself as the leader of the sophomore filly class with a dominating :26 last quarter capping her 1:50.2 Lynch elimination win. The Ron Burke trainee, owned by Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Phil Collura, and J&T Silva- Purnel & Libby, will certainly not get to set an unpressured pace here, but from post one Yannick Gingras has a good chance of working out a reasonable trip for “Ubeaut.”
Both the other elimination winners, both members of the Tony Alagna barn, went faster than “Ubeaut”: Odds On St Lucie (1:49.4, post six, driver Dexter Dunn listed) and Tall Drink Hanover (1:50, post nine, driver Andrew McCarthy), and must be respected, as must another Alagnaite, Treacherous Reign (post five, also with Dunn listed), who upset Warrawee Ubeaut in Toronto two weeks ago.
Consolation: Trillions Hanover, photoed out of a Lynch final spot last week, will be a big factor from post four, as will Annie Hill, who closed in 26 last week but could not make the Championship, starting from just inside “Trillions.”
$75,000 GREAT NORTHEAST OPEN SERIES TROT (race 6)
Hannelore Hanover, 2017 Horse of the Year, has had one great start in 2019 (a 1:50.3 win at Mohawk) and two subpar ones; she looks to regain equilibrium in this GNOS contest starting from post one for trainer Ron Burke and driver Yannick Gingras. She will find a tough opponent in Rich And Miserable (post five, trainer Todd Buter, driver Tyler Buter), who has won six races in a row, four of them at Pocono, and the most recent two here in 1:51.3, fastest miles of the year on the trot here; the last was against GNOS competition.
First post for the tremendous Sun Stakes Saturday card (which will include an appearance by all-time great quarterback Dan Marino before the races) is scheduled for 7 p.m.