Day At The Track

Mohegan Sun Pocono Week in Review

09:23 AM 31 Jul 2019 NZST
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Benji's Best, harness racing
Benji's Best was named Pocono Downs Pacer of the Week
Geri Schwarz photo

As we head into the month of August, the realization that the 2019 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun has reached the back stretch might have dawned on you. Not that there has been any letdown in terms of the racing action, of course. But it is interesting how time flies when you're watching top-notch competition week in and week out. This week was more of the same, as you'll be able to tell from this edition of the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: BENJI'S BEST

It seems like each and every week at Pocono we see a different claimer burst onto the scene with a huge mile. Last week it was Benji's Best, a five-year-old gelding who came into a $20,000 to $25,000 claiming handicap pace on July 20 without a win and left it with a 15 ½ length victory in a career-best 1:50. He had shown signs leading into that race with back-to-back second-place finishes. But winning by the biggest margin of any horse all meet was something nobody saw coming, especially because he wasn't even favored in that race.

Needless to say, he was favored when he returned to action to face that same class on Saturday night. Even with the dreaded #9 post, Benji's Best was made the 8-5 betting choice. Whereas he had won for the Rene Allard barn in his previous start, following the claim he was representing trainer Jennifer Bongiorno on Saturday. With Hunter Oakes doing the driving, Benji's Best surged to the lead with a swooping move past Paprike Blue Chip on the paddock turn.

On the back stretch, the favorite had to deal with first-over pressure from Rockin Rio. But it didn't seem to bother him when they turned for home, as he kicked away from the pursuit. Benji's Best came home a winner in 1:50:2, another quick time. His margin was a more modest but still impressive 3 ½ lengths over second-place Paprike Blue Chip. After going so long winless this year, this gelding seems to have decided he likes the feel of winning, so much so that it's easy to see him doing it again real soon.

Other top pacers this week include: Jereme's General (George Napolitano Jr., Daniel Maier), who captured his second straight claiming handicap on Saturday night in 1:51:1; Atta Boy Dan (George Napolitano Jr., Brittany Robertson), who continued his dominance in the highest claiming group at Pocono with a fifth consecutive victory on Saturday night, this one in 1:49:3; and Ideal Rocky (Anthony Napolitano, Joe Pavia Jr.), who moved up in class on Monday to win his second straight condition pace, this one in 1:52.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SAY YOU DO

The Todd Buter barn has been producing some outstanding trotters for several years now, and 2019 has been a banner year by any standard for his trainees. Earlier this year, we saw Rich And Miserable put together a long winning streak on the Pocono grounds. Lately the one getting the attention has been Say You Do, a four-year-old gelding on an impressive streak of his own. He came into the featured $21,500 condition trot on Sunday night with five straight victories.

Included in that stretch were three straight wins at The Meadowlands, an Open Handicap score at Tioga, and a victory at Pocono against the same group on July 21. Up against a short field of five on Sunday night, Say You Do went off as a 3-5 favorite from post position #2. Although his win the previous week at Pocono had come with a late rally, driver Tyler Buter decided he wanted the favorite to dictate matters and this one, and Say You Do took over the lead on the first turn.

The fractions were rated well on a sloppy track, with Say You Do keeping under control even as Fashion Creditor pulled up alongside him at the three-quarter pole with a first-over move. At the top of the stretch, Tyler Buter just had to ask Say You Do for a little more and he responded, giving a quick burst of speed to secure his lead and coming home in front by 1 ½ in 1:54:3 on the sloppy grounds. That makes six in a row for Say You Do, a stellar run of wins even for a barn that is getting used to such stretches.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Lindy's Big Bang (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who won his second straight condition race on Sunday night, getting it done in 1:54:1; Silvermass Volo (Eric Carlson, Michael Holcman), who moved up in class to pick up his second straight condition win on Sunday night, scoring in the slop in 1:56:1; and Flippen Creek (Marcus Miller, Erv Miller), who followed up his maiden victory last week at Pocono with another condition win on Monday, this one coming in a new career-best time of 1:57:1.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: MIDWAY ISLAND

In Saturday night's featured condition pace, this gelding with Kevin Wallis in the bike pulled off a stunner at 40-1, paying off $82.40 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANTHONY NAPOLITANO

A-Nap continues to enjoy what has probably been his finest meet ever at Pocono, and he kept it rolling by churning out five wins on the Saturday night program.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: BRETT PELLING

Pelling picked up pacing wins on back-to-back nights at Pocono this week, scoring with Yeahnah on Sunday and then with two-year-old filly and first-time starter Alexis's Beach on Monday.

That will do it for this week at Pocono, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com.

by Jim Beviglia, for Pocono Downs

 

 

 


 

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