Day At The Track

Pocono 2018 season preview

02:25 AM 14 Mar 2018 NZDT
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The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, Harness Racing
The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono

It has been a long, cold, snowy winter in Northeastern Pennsylvania, one that, at press time, hadn't shown many signs of letting up. Yet there is one sure sign that spring is on the way, and that, of course, is the opening of the harness racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. And 2018 should be a special one for our beloved track and all those who inhabit it, fans and competitors, on a nightly basis.

Saturday night, March 17, marks the 52nd racing season at Pocono. That is really an incredible number, especially when you consider that countless other harness racing tracks have come and gone in that time span. The longevity of the track is a testament to the love of the sport that has never really waned in this area since Pocono racing debuted.

That love has only intensified over the years. It hung around even when the racing product was at its lowest point, in terms of both purses and mainstream attention. Those patrons who followed us faithfully even through those lean years have been rewarded for the past decade or so, ever since Mohegan Sun took over ownership, with some of the most exciting racing in all of North America. It is not bragging to say that Pocono is one of the premiere tracks; it is just a statement of fact backed up by the amount of money on the line during the racing season and the caliber of horses and horsemen and women who frequent the track each year.

Part of what makes a special track is the ability to host big racing events. There are, of course, none bigger than the Breeders Crown, and, in October of 2018, those year-end championships will return to Pocono for the third time in the past decade. The first two events were unforgettable, and I was so proud to have been a part of calling the action. I'm probably like the rest of the Pocono faithful in that I simply cannot wait for the Breeders Crown return engagement.

After all, it is a night akin to the World Series in baseball or, since we are at that time of year, the NCAA tournament in college basketball. All of the action that takes place during the season leads up to it, and it allows the sport to close out the year in definitive fashion by crowning champions in the various classes. To put it simply, no horse's legacy is complete without competing in the Breeders Crown as the ultimate test against the best of the best.

Of course, there will be plenty of thrilling action leading up to that point. And that's not just in terms of the stakes races that will be held throughout the year, although there are plenty of those that will whet the faithful's appetite for the high stakes of the Breeders Crown races. What has distinguished Pocono's rise to among the elite tracks has been the quality of our overnight racing, both in terms of the horses who compete and the drivers and trainers who battle night in and night out for supremacy during the season.

Attracted by the top-of-the-line racing surface, the excellent purses, and a colony of regular drivers that can stand with any those at any track in the world, the finest owners and trainers bring in their claimers and condition horses to how well they'll fare against the rugged racing competition at Pocono. Judging by just what I saw on the Opening Night program, and how difficult it was for me as an oddsmaker to find definitive favorites when there were so many worthy possibilities in each race, 2018 could be the most competitive ever at the track.

That's why I, for one, can't wait to get this thing underway. For those who might be unaware, our racing schedule, once it is fully up and running after three partially full weeks to start the season, consists of action on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights each week. The one big change this year comes in terms of our post times, which will be at a steady time of 7:00 PM Eastern time for Race 1 each evening.

With all of that said, there's really nothing more to do than get those horses out on the track and get this season rolling. We have a lot to look forward to in 2018, and every step of the way should be thrilling. So welcome to the 2018 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. It should be a blast.

That will do it for me for this week, but I'll be speaking to you each week in this column and, of course, we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com.

Jim Beviglia

 

 

 

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