Day At The Track

Cane Pace and Sire Stakes made big Week

02:02 PM 15 Sep 2011 NZST
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Krispy Apple
Krispy Apple
Lisa Photo

Last season at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, we were fortunate enough to host the Breeders Crown, harness racing's year-end championships featuring practically every top horse in the country. After it ended, there was a general feeling that such a historic night of racing at Pocono might be a long time coming.

Less than a year later, we were at it again. Saturday night, September 10 was always scheduled to be the biggest night of the 2011 season, what with four $200,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes events on tap to crown the best 2-year-olds in the state.

But a few days before, the night took on even bigger proportions when it was announced that Pocono would host The Cane Pace, the first leg of harness racings’ pacing Triple Crown for 3-year-olds, as a result of flooding problems at Tioga Downs. Just like that, we had a 19-race card full of high stakes and harness racing superstars of the human and equine variety. Basically, it was yet another gigantic night of racing.

In addition to the Cane, we also hosted two divisions of the Shady Daisy, a top event for 3-year-olds pacing fillies also originally scheduled at Tioga. These two races were scheduled as non-wagering events prior to the regular 17-race card. They certainly got the evening off to a bang, with Krispy Apple and Drop The Ball winning the races in identical times of 1:50, setting and matching the Shady Daisy stakes record along the way.

Once the regular program got underway, the action really picked up to a frenzied level. Sand Violent Blue started the Pennsylvania Championships off with a virtuoso performance in the 2-year-old trotting fillies event.

The filly from the barn of Tye Loy took over the lead early and rolled from there, coming home in 1:54:3, a new world record for the age group on a 5/8-mile oval. It was an especially sweet win for driver Brett Miller, as it was his first at Pocono since he was sidelined following a nasty accident at the track a few weeks back.

The records continued to fall with the 2-year-old pacing fillies, which featured a thrilling showdown between Economy Terror, who had never lost in Pennsylvania, and Marty Party, who had set a track record in her last Pocono race.

The savvy decision of driver George Napolitano Jr. to pull the pocket on the back stretch and challenge Marty Party proved to be the right one, as Economy Terror wore her down to get the victory for Pocono-based trainer Chris Oakes in 1:51:1, which set the track record and matched a world record.

Not to be outdone, the overnight portion of the card was highlighted by a stellar Open pacing field going for a purse of $50,000. The star turned out to be Dial Or Nodial, an import from Chester who held up against intense pressure to win in a scorching 1:48:3, just a fifth of a second off the fastest time ever paced at Pocono.

Dial Or No Dial was driven to victory by Dave Palone, and if there are Pennsylvania Sire Stakes titles up for grabs, you know Palone will have something to say about it. First, he guided Sweet Lou, who was coming off the first loss of his career in his previous start, to victory in the 2-year-old pacing colts and geldings class in 1:51:1 for trainer Ron Burke. Palone quickly followed that up with a triumph aboard Stormin Normand, whose victory in the 2-year-old colts and geldings trotting division was his fifth consecutive. Trained by Jim Campbell, the colt trotted the mile in 1:54:3.

That left the main event, The $342,875 Cane Pace, and most experts had Roll With Joe, winner of the Meadowlands Pace and The Battle of the Brandywine at Chester, as the heavy favorite. He went off at 3-5, but he got an awful trip from the #8 hole and faded late. With the favorite out, someone had to step up, and Bettarthancheddar, a Canadian-based colt from the barn of trainer Casie Coleman, did just that.

Bettarthancheddar burned out of the gate to take the early lead before yielding to Shadyshark Hanover on the front stretch. He was content to sit the pocket from there until the stretch, when driver Yannick Gingras wheeled him by the leader.

The colt still had to contend with a furious late rally from Townslight Hanover, but he prevailed by a neck in a new stakes record of 1:49:2.

All in all, a breathtaking evening of harness racing, and one that will be hard to top. Then again, I suppose I said that last year after the Breeders Crown. That’s the great thing about Pocono racing these days: The extraordinary is becoming common place.

The $342,875 2011 Cane Pace - Betterthancheddar

James BEVIGLIA

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