It's hard to believe, but we've reached the halfway point of the 2014 season at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The first half seemed to speed by as fast as so many of the record-setting horses that have graced the Pocono stage so far this year. We can only hope that the second half holds that same kind of excitement. If the past week of racing is any indication, it surely will. Here are some wonderful performances worthy of the Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: QUINCY
In the late 70's and early 80's, Jack Klugman played a medical examiner named Quincy who always figured out all the crimes that the cops were too dense to solve. But it's really been no mystery how this horse of the same name has reeled off such an impressive streak of late against the toughest claimers at Pocono. Early speed gives this 4-year-old stallion a great chance to win each and every time he leaves the gate.
His recent stretch of nearly unbeatable racing began with a win over the $20,000 claimers on May 28. He moved up to the $27,500 claimers, the highest claiming price at Pocono, the next time out and won in a dead heat with Giddy UP Blackfly. After a hiccup with a third-place finish in his following start, Quincy reeled off three straight victories in that rugged claiming group, with a career-best mark in 1:49:3 on June 28 the highlight of that series of races.
On Saturday night, it was business as usual as Quincy rejoined the barn of trainerand powered to the front end early in the race. Driver rated him well, which was important late as both BJ's Rameau and Machin Music took shots at him in the stretch. But Quincy hung tough to win by a neck in 1:50, making it four in a row and six out of seven. He's the hottest pacer around, and that case is closed.
Other top pacers this week include: Skitsofrantic (, John Barchi), who won his start and sixth in his last seven with a conquest of the $5,000 claimers on Sunday night in a career-best 1:52; Luck Be Withyou (George Napolitano Jr., ), a 3-year-old whose victory against older pacers in a condition on Saturday night came in the week's fastest time of 1:48; and Mickey Hanover ( , ), who reeled off his win and his second consecutive sub-1:50 mile thanks to a victory on Saturday night in 1:49:2.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SWISS LIGHTNING
This 5-year-old gelding started the year quietly, going winless in his first six races with just one finish in the money. The tide started to turn with a victory over $7,500 claimers on 1:55:2 on June 8. After breaking stride in his next start, he bounced back in his next two with back-to-back wins, the latter coming in a career-best 1:55.
Following a claim that put him in the barn of trainer Marcus Marashian, Swiss Lightning stepped up in class to face the $10,000 claimers on Wednesday night. Not only did he have a tough #7 post in the field of eight, but he had to deal with Frenchmen, a trotter who had won his last start at that claiming price handily and had the inside post.
That didn't seem to worry driver, who quickly urged Swiss Lightning to the front end to dictate the pace. Frenchmen lurked all the way around, but when the stretch rolled around, it was Swiss Lightning who emerged as the class of the race. He kicked away from his competitors to win by 2 Â¾ lengths in 1:54:4, which was a new career-best for the gelding. With that victory, the trotter demonstrated how to move up in class in style.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Hoorayforvacation (George Napolitano Jr.-Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), whose condition victory came on Saturday night came in 1:52:1, which was not only a career-best but was also the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono; Highest Peak (- ), a filly who followed up a win at Harrah's with a condition victory at Pocono on Tuesday night in a career-best 1:54:1; and Tamasin Hall ( - ), a mare who beat the boys in Tuesday night's featured claiming handicap, winning in a career-best 1:54.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: AFTER ALIMONY
Within the bike, this mare finagled a pocket spot out of an outside post and upended a field of claimers on Sunday night at 29-1, paying off $61 on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.
On Friday night, the meet's leading driver decided to hog all the glory for a good portion of the night, reeling off six consecutive wins at one point in the card.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JOHN BARCHI
The veteran of the Pocono racing wars is having his finest season in years, as evidenced by four wins this week that included a training double on Sunday.
That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Jim Beviglia, for Pocono Downs