As October rolls to a close, it's impossible to avoid the fact that the 2011 harness racing season is really winding down at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. With just a few weeks of racing left, the action hasn't slowed down one bit, as evidenced by some of the stellar efforts we witnessed the past few programs. Here is just a taste in the Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: MR MASSIMO
A five-year-old gelding from the barn of Aaron Lambert, Mr Massimo seems to be getting better as he gets older. He didn’t do much in his career until busting out last year with nearly $100,000 in earnings. He has more than doubled that this season, and came into Saturday night’s featured pace for winners of over $25,000 lifetime with a win and a show in his last two starts in that tough company.
Still, Mr Massimo was something of an afterthought at 6-1 in the betting. The reason for that was the presence of Atochia, a super-classy veteran pacer who had been facing a steady diet of big-stakes competition and had won his last start at Pocono back in August with a superb effort. Although Mr Massimo held the lead, it looked short-lived as Atochia charged at him on the back stretch.
That set up a truly thrilling stretch duel, with the two combatant inches apart. In the final yards, it was Mr Massimo, with Andrew McCarthy in the bike, who persevered just a tiny bit better, winning by three-quarters of a length. The winning time was a scorching 1:49, doubly impressive because it was a career-best and because it came in chilly weather conditions.
Other top pacers this week include: Segundo Hanover (Andrew McCarthy, Sarita Mosher), who continued his outstanding season with by stepping up to beat the $15,000 claimers on Saturday night, giving him his 13th win of the season and his fifth victory out of six; Fool’s Gold (Daryl Bier, Daryl Bier), who shipped in from the Midwest and continued his winning ways with a condition win on Saturday night in 1:50, his 10th victory in 14 2011 races; and Annika S (Anthony Napolitano, Rene Allard), whose win on Wednesday night over the $10,000 claiming fillies and mares in 1:53:3 was her second straight and fourth in her last five.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: TAC’S DELIGHT
The fact that a horse can somehow lose his form seemingly overnight is one of the most confounding aspects of the sport of harness racing. Tac’s Delight is just one example of this phenomenon. Last year, he won eight times and earned over $132,000, but he came into the month of October without a win in 2011 and having broken stride in his previous three starts at Pocono.
Yet it often takes just one race to turn things around. For Tac’s Delight, that race took place on October 4, when he romped to a 14-length win on the Pocono oval in a ripping 1:53:4. Buoyed by that, the 6-year-old gelding from the Rene Allard barn followed up with an easy win at Chester on October 10. On Friday night back at Pocono, Tac’s Delight jumped several condition classes in a monumental step up the ladder.
The way that he’s racing right now, it doesn’t really matter how much he jumps. Driver George Napolitano Jr. cut him loose and the gelding did the rest, destroying the excellent field by 5 ½ lengths in 1:54:1. Expect another jump in class from there, and don’t be surprised if it’s another successful leap. Just call Tac’s Delight Mr. October.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Affirmed Action (Mike Simons, John Grasso), who swept by the field late to capture the week’s featured trot on Friday night in 1:54:3, his second win in the last three; Intimidator (Andrew McCarthy, John Duer), who moved up in class but rallied for his second straight condition win on Wednesday night in 1:55, matching his career-best; and Bambino Hall (Don Irvine Jr., Tyler Raymer), a 3-year-old gelding who once handled older horses in a condition trot on Wednesday night, winning his second straight in 1:54:3.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: OK DESTINY
With Anthony Napolitano doing the driving, this filly powered by late to win a claiming pace on Friday night at 30-1, paying off $63.20 on a $2 win ticket.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANTHONY NAPOLITANO
ier this month, Anthony became the sixth driver to reach the 100-win plateau in 2011 at Pocono, joining his brother George, Matt Kakaley, Tyler Buter, Joe Pavia Jr., and Andrew McCarthy.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: AARON LAMBERT
In an impressive display on Saturday night, Lambert’s trainees won three times in a four-race span. They were only horses he trained that night, and they won races with purses totaling $73,000.