With the Breeders Crown in our rear view and November now upon us, it means that we have officially hit the home stretch of the 2013 season at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Before we can wrap things up, we still have a few more weeks of exciting racing action to finish. This past week there were some excellent performances even with the temperatures dropping. Here are the best of those in the Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: HERE WE GO AGAIN An outstanding field of nine headed to the gate in Saturday night’s featured $25,000 Preferred pace, including several horses who have been on torrid hot steaks. Here We Go Again was one of those horses. He came in off five straight in the money. The 6-year-old gelding from the barn of PJ Fraley had been particularly tough at Pocono, winning back-to-back condition paces in his previous two circuits of the track. Saturday night was his first try in the Preferred class though, which meant he would be facing the very best pacers on the grounds. Driver Eric Ledford raced him aggressively, setting nasty fractions in the chilly temperatures that seemed destined to catch up with him in the race. Come the stretch, however, he was still winging it. Things got real tight in the final strides when pocket horse Townslight Hanover, who had been tracking with an excellent trip, came firing. The two pacesetters hit the line together, but it was Here We Go Again who took the photo by a nose. He paced the mile in 1:50, giving him four wins in his last six races and an improving reputation as some of the finest pacers in the East. Other top pacers include: Easton Bound (Matt Kakaley, Chris Oakes), a fast-improving 3-year-old, who won his second straight condition pace on Friday and third in his last four overall, this one coming in a time of 1:54:1; Keystone Neptune (George Napolitano Jr., Rene Allard), who won his second straight $20,000 claimer, this one in 1:52, giving him five wins in his last eight; and A Sweet Ride (Andrew McCarthy, Aaron Lambert), who chalked up a condition win on Saturday night in 1:49:4, the fastest pacing time of the week at Pocono. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: PAULA’S BRADY This 7-year-old gelding has been one of the most consistent lower-priced trotters at Pocono for much of the meet, and he’s been coming into his best stride of late. He scored back-to-back $10,000 claiming victories in come-from-behind fashion to start off the month of October. In his last race, he started a bit slow, finishing third as an even-money favorite. He was back at it again on Tuesday night in the same class trying to avenge his loss, this time with Anthony Napolitano in the bike for trainer Scott Osterhout. Paula’s Brady nearly got boxed in on the inside behind the leaders, but Napolitano found him some room behind cover on the outside before the gap closed. He followed that cover until the stretch. It was an exciting three-way battle for the win in the closing moments. At times Paula’s Brady seemed like he was going to come up just a bit short. But Napolitano coaxed just enough out of him as the line approached for a razor-thin victory in 1:56. That gives him three wins in his last four races, quite the hot stretch for this veteran trotter as the season winds down. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Affirmed Action (Mike Simons, John Grasso), whose condition victory on Friday night came in the week’s fastest trotting time of 1:53:4; Schalom G (George Napolitano Jr., Neal Ehrhart), who captured a tough condition trot on Saturday night in 1:55; and Southwind Warsaw (Matt Kakaley, Brewer Adams), who scored a victory in Tuesday night’s featured claiming handicap trot in a career-best 1:54:1. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: TAYLOR C Despite going off at 31-1, this claiming pacer with Anthony Napolitano in the bike made a couple of speed moves on Friday night and came up a winner for a $65.20 win payout. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ERIC LEDFORD Ledford doesn’t stop in at Pocono very often, but he might want to be a more frequent visitor after picking up three victories for trainer PJ Fraley on Saturday night. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: PAUL HOLZMAN Another solid performer from the deep Pocono training community, Holzman had a good week with single wins on Friday and Tuesday. 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 Bevigila for Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs
It’s the Breeders Crown. John Grasso is a breeder. The 60-year-old was born into the business and has kept himself connected to the sport for nearly his entire life. On Friday his Expressive Action, a two-year-old with just two lifetime starts, will tackle the big boys in a single $25,000 Breeders Crown elimination for two-year-old trotters at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The colt starts from post two with the services of driver Ron Pierce. With two colts accepting byes, the first seven finishers will advance to the $500,000 2-Year-Old Colt Trot final on Oct. 19. Grasso, who is likely the elder statesman of the few remaining horsemen to stable at Yonkers Raceway, believes that Expressive Action may be the best horse he’s ever had. “Before we ever baby raced him I trained him a mile at Yonkers in two minutes flat,” said Grasso, speaking volumes about the potential of this homebred by Conway Hall from Yettas Angel. The dam is a daughter of Credit Winner, a half-sister to Grasso’s top three-year-old from a few years back named Approved Action. “She was a big mare,” recalled Grasso of Yettas Angel. “She took a record as a four-year-old and then we crossed her with Conway Hall.” The first foal from that pairing was Explosive Action. Grasso thought he had a good one until the colt hurt a knee. Explosive Action is racing this year as a three-year-old but far from the level expected of him. As for Expressive Action, Grasso had extremely high hopes for him and staked him accordingly. “We had him eligible to the Peter Haughton,” Grasso lamented, reflecting on the bad luck he’s had, which started in June after the colt scored consecutive victories in baby races with Brian Sears in the bike. “He trotted home in: 27 and change and showed really high speed,” said Grasso. However, days later Grasso found Expressive Action cast in his stall. In the colt’s attempt to right himself he had twisted his shoes and got some nails jammed in his feet. He also banged a knee, an injury that proved minor. “We had to deal with Mother Nature,” said Grasso about the recovery time. “His foot needed to grow out and we had to wait.” As part of the healing process Grasso sent Expressive Action to Golden Shoe Farms in Bullville, New York, a facility with an exercise pool that he felt would help with the horse’s conditioning while not having an impact on his feet. “After a session in the pool they turned him out and they couldn’t catch him,” recalled Grasso. That episode was another disaster, with Expressive Action again doing damage to his still recovering hooves. Nearly three months later Expressive Action got back on the comeback trail but much of the stakes racing was over. The New York-sired colt still had some starts left in the Empire State’s Sire Stakes program and Grasso had hoped to get him qualified for a race at Saratoga. “We had to have the horse entered on a Friday. Normally I would have qualified him at Yonkers since they have qualifiers on Fridays but since Yonkers qualifiers were held at night I had to ship him to Freehold to get a line on him,” Grasso said. Unfortunately Expressive Action made a break in that qualifier and was not eligible for the Sire Stakes event. Instead a week later Brian Sears got behind Expressive Action in a qualifier at Yonkers and the colt did what was necessary to be eligible to race in his first pari-mutuel start on September 20. The $113,744 New York Sire Stakes at Yonkers was the first indication to the betting public of Expressive Action’s talent. The colt rallied tenaciously in the stretch after sitting well off a dawdling pace and was lapped on the winner Cash Me Out in a 1:59 3/5 mile. With just one start Expressive Action could not qualify for the Night Of Champions and instead earned a consolation prize when he captured the $50,000 Fall Harvest at Yonkers last Saturday in 1:59 2/5. The mile was all the inspiration Grasso needed to take a shot against the big boys. “I wish we had more starts in him,” said Grasso, “but I’m looking at this like March Madness. If he races well in the eliminations and hopefully the final we’ll continue to race him as he has a few more starts. If not we’ll put him away and get him ready for next year. Grasso has obviously watched Father Patrick (post nine) race, the favorite to capture not just Friday’s Crown elimination but perhaps the final as well. “He’s an impressive colt,” he said. At the same time he believes that with a little experience Expressive Action may prove that he belongs in this company. Perhaps 2013 will not give Grasso and his family its first Breeders Crown triumph. But that’s not likely to deter anyone. “We breed two to three mares every year. We get two to three foals and have two to three yearlings to train,” Grasso said. In the Breeders Crown you don’t have to be big to show up, you just have to bring quality. Even from a limited production line it appears as if John Grasso could have the real thing in Expressive Action. by Jay Berman for the Breeders Crown
Bee A Magician, Captaintreacherous and I Luv The Nitelife, who have combined to win 35 of 37 races and $3.67 million this year, lead the list of 156 horses entered Tuesday for the 12 Breeders Crown events at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Eliminations are unnecessary for the 3-year-old filly pacers and Open Trot, which both received nine entries. Eliminations for 2-year-old male and female trotters plus 2-year-old female pacers are Friday at Pocono Downs, with the remaining elims Saturday. Post time is 6:30 p.m. both nights. All 12 finals - with purses totaling $5.6 million - will be Saturday, Oct. 19, at Pocono Downs. Post time is 5 p.m. for the first race. Bee A Magician, a 3-year-old filly trotter, is 13-for-13 this year for trainer Richard "Nifty" Norman and owners Melvin Hartman, Herb Liverman and David McDuffee. She enters the Breeders Crown off a win in the Ontario Sire Stakes championship Sept. 28 at Mohawk, which pushed her seasonal earnings to $1.09 million. Other victories this season include the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks and $356,981 Elegantimage Stakes. A daughter of the stallion Kadabra out of the mare Beehive, Bee A Magician is the fastest 3-year-old trotter this season, with a clocking of 1:51 that came in winning the $265,500 Delvin Miller Memorial on July 13 at the Meadowlands. The time is the fastest ever for a 3-year-old filly trotter. Bee A Magician has won 23 of 26 lifetime starts and earned $1.86 million - the most ever for a filly trotter at ages 2 and 3 combined. She finished third in last season's Breeders Crown for 2-year-old filly trotters, which was won by To Dream On. Bee A Magician is the second of two eliminations for the 3-year-old filly trotters, starting from post three. To Dream On, who on Sunday won the $205,100 Kentucky Filly Futurity final, is in the second of the two eliminations. To Dream On is one of 12 previous Breeders Crown champions entered in this year's event. Three-year-old colt pacer Captaintreacherous is a nose from perfect this year, with 10 wins in 11 starts and $1.61 million. He is trained by Tony Alagna for the Captaintreacherous Racing ownership group. He heads to the Breeders Crown following his victory Saturday in a $215,500 division of the Tattersalls Pace at The Red Mile. Other wins this year for the son of Somebeachsomewhere-Worldly Treasure include the $980,000 North America Cup, the $635,750 Meadowlands Pace, the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial and the $360,211 Cane Pace. His only loss came by a nose to Sunshine Beach in the $500,000 Battle of the Brandywine in a world-record 1:47.4 mile. Captaintreacherous has won 18 of 21 career races and earned $2.53 million. He finished third in last season's Breeders Crown for 2-year-old male pacers. He is in the second of two eliminations for the 3-year-old male pacers and will leave from post four. I Luv The Nitelife, a 3-year-old filly pacer, has won 12 of 13 races this year and earned $968,337 for trainer Chris Ryder and owners Richard and Joanne Young. A daughter of Rocknroll Hanover-Lisjune, she most recently won the $154,650 Jugette final at the Delaware County Fair on Sept. 18 for her 11th consecutive victory. Other triumphs include the $384,044 Fan Hanover Stakes, the $350,000 Valley Forge and the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial. For her career, she has won 16 of 23 starts and $1.65 million. She finished second in last season's Breeders Crown for 2-year-old filly pacers, which was won by Somwherovrarainbow. Eliminations are unnecessary for the 3-year-old filly pacers, so the final was drawn Tuesday. I Luv The Nitelife will start from post seven; Somwherovrarainbow leaves from post eight. Shebestingin, who on Sunday paced the fastest mile in history by a female pacer when she won a division of the Glen Garnsey Memorial in 1:47, drew post five. The Open Trot, Mare Trot and Mare Pace each have three past Breeders Crown winners. Arch Madness, who makes his record-tying sixth Breeders Crown appearance, Intimidate and Uncle Peter all are previous trophy winners competing in this year's Open Trot. Arch Madness became the ninth trotter in history to surpass $4 million in career earnings when he won the Allerage Farms Open Trot on Sunday at The Red Mile. In the Mare Trot, Cedar Dove, Check Me Out and Maven have won titles, as have Mare Pace contenders Anndrovette, Economy Terror and Monkey On My Wheel. Anndrovette is seeking her third consecutive Breeders Crown, a feat never accomplished in any of the open divisions. Sweet Lou, in the Open Pace, completes the list of previous Breeders Crown champions. The Open Pace also includes Foiled Again, who is the richest pacer in harness racing history, with $5.38 million. Following are the fields with listed drivers and trainers. Elimination purses are $25,000. FRIDAY ELIMINATIONS 2-year-old filly trotters (top four in each elim and fifth place with highest seasonal earnings advance) Division One: 1. Struck By Lindy, David Miller, Nifty Norman; 2. Goddess, John Campbell, Paul Kelley; 3. Designed To Be, Andy Miller, Julie Miller; 4. Shake It Cerry, Ron Pierce, Jimmy Takter; 5. Lifetime Pursuit, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 6. Cantabs Fortune, Rick Zeron, Rick Zeron; 7. Market Rally, John Cummings Jr., Megan Wilson. Division Two: 1. Cooler Schooner, John Campbell, Jim Campbell; 2. Scream And Shout, Jimmy Takter, Jimmy Takter; 3. Harley Momma, Howard Parker, Jim Raymer; 4. Vanity Matters, Yannick Gingras, Jonas Czernyson; 5. Noon Tea Party, Brian Sears, Paul Fusco; 6. Demanding Sam, Paul Macdonell, Scott McEneny; 7. Ruby, Marcus Miller, Erv Miller. 2-year-old filly pacers (top four in each elim and fifth place with highest seasonal earnings advance) Division One: She's Da Bomb, Jody Jamieson, Tony O'Sullivan; 2. Rain Cloud Hanover, Brian Sears, David Taff; 3. Put On A Display, Tim Tetrick, Chris Ryder; 4. Gallie Bythe Beach, John Campbell, Jim Campbell; 5. Bettor Business, Tim Tetrick, Scott DiDomenico; 6. Southwind Silence, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 7. Ali Blue, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 8. Beach Body, Ron Pierce, Chris Oakes. Division Two: 1. Precocious Beauty, Doug McNair, Gregg McNair; 2. JK Molly, Tim Tetrick, Ron Burke; 3. Act Now, Ron Pierce, Nikolas Drennan; 4. Quick Thrill, Jim Morrill Jr., Brewer Adams; 5. Allstar Rating, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 6. Rockingcam Park, Brian Sears, Ron Coyne Jr.; 7. Scandalicious, Andy Miller, Scott DiDomenico; 8. Uffizi Hanover, David Miller, Jimmy Takter; 9. Delightful Dragon, Mike Lachance, Noel Daley. 2-year-old male trotters (top seven advance) 1. Southwind Spirit, Brian Sears, Ron Burke; 2. Expressive Action, Brian Sears, John Grasso; 3. Exodus Hanover, Andy Miller, Steve Elliott; 4. Another Transcript, Corey Callahan, Jerry Silverman; 5. Odds On Amethyst, Tim Tetrick, Robin Schadt; 6. Auspicious Hanover, Charlie Norris, Charlie Norris; 7. Muscle Network, Jody Jamieson, Tony O'Sullivan; 8. Nuncio, John Campbell, Jim Oscarsson; 9. Father Patrick, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter. Byes: Credit Fashion, Don Dorado. SATURDAY ELIMINATIONS 2-year-old male pacers (top three finishers from each elimination advance) Division One: 1. Workandplayhard, Corey Callahan, John Butenschoen; 2. Journeyman, Mike Lachance, Tony Alagna; 3. Let's Drink On It, Ron Pierce, Joe Seekman; 4. So Surreal, Tim Tetrick, Ray Schnittker; 5. Idealbeach Hanover, Jody Jamieson, Mark Ford; 6. Somestarsomewhere, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 7. Sometimes Said, John Campbell, Jim Campbell. Division Two: 1. Beat The Drum, TBA, Staffan Lind; 2. Doo Wop Hanover, Ron Pierce, Steve Elliott; 3. Bakersfield, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 4. Melmerby Beach, Paul Macdonell, Brent MacGrath; 5. Crafty Master, Doug McNair, Gregg McNair; 6. Carracci Hanover, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 7. Western Vintage, Yannick Gingras, Nancy Johansson; 8. Some Major Beach, Brian Sears, Tony Alagna. Division Three: 1. Luck Be Withyou, Ron Pierce, Chris Oakes; 2. Smack Talk, Ron Pierce, John Williamson; 3. Three Of Clubs, Doug McNair, Gregg McNair; 4. Fort Knox, Scott Zeron, Tony Alagna; 5. Pierce, Jimmy Takter, Jimmy Takter; 6. Ari Allstar, Brian Sears, Mark Ford; 7. Stevensville, Ray Schnittker, Ray Schnittker; 8. Arthur Blue Chip, Randy Waples, Ian Moore. 3-year-old filly trotters (top four in each elim and fifth place with highest seasonal earnings advance) Division One: 1. Royal Assets, Ray Schnittker, Ray Schnittker; 2. Bouncing Bax, Howard Parker, Jim Raymer; 3. Coffeecake Hanover, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 4. Thistle Dhu, Brett Miller, Del S. Miller; 5. To Dream On, Jimmy Takter, Jimmy Takter; 6. Frau Blucher, Ron Pierce, Chris Oakes. Division Two: 1. Southwind Cocoa, Tim Tetrick, Linda Toscano; 2. Shared Past, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 3. Bee A Magician, Brian Sears, Nifty Norman; 4. Ma Chere Hall, Corey Callahan, Jonas Czernyson; 5. Time To Kill, John Campbell, Ross Croghan; 6. Handover Belle, Mike Lachance, Tony Alagna. Mare trotters (top four in each elim and fifth place with highest seasonal earnings advance) Division One: 1. Bax Of Life, John Campbell, Jerry Duford; 2. Unefoisdansmavie, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 3. Mystical Starlight, Brett Miller, Ross Croghan; 4. D'Orsay, Corey Callahan, Jonas Czernyson; 5. Cowgirl Hall, Brian Sears, Deborah Brunet; 6. Cedar Dove, Ron Pierce, Noel Daley; 7. China Pearls, Paul Macdonell, David Drew. Division Two: 1. Real Babe, David Miller, Mark Harder; 2. Maven, Yannick Gingras, Jonas Czernyson; 3. Check Me Out, Tim Tetrick, Ray Schnittker; 4. Intense America, Mike Lachance, Susanne Kerwood; 5. Win Missy B, TBA, Rich Gillock; 6. Beatgoeson Hanover, David Miller, Nifty Norman. 3-year-old male pacers (top four in each elim and fifth place with highest seasonal earnings advance) Division One: 1. Lucan Hanover, David Miller, Casie Coleman; 2. Sunshine Beach, John Campbell, Mark Steacy; 3. Wake Up Peter, Rick Zeron, Tony Alagna; 4. Fool Me Once, Brian Sears, Mark Austin; 5. Apprentice Hanover, Jody Jamieson, Ben Wallace; 6. Captive Audience, Randy Waples, Colin Johnson. Division Two: 1. Vegas Vacation, Brian Sears, Casie Coleman; 2. Urbanite Hanover, Yannick Gingras, John Williamson; 3. Emeritus Maximus, TBA, Tony Alagna; 4. Captaintreacherous, Tim Tetrick, Tony Alagna; 5. Sunfire Blue Chip, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 6. Beach Memories, David Miller, Brian Brown. 3-year-old male trotters (top four in each elim and fifth place with highest seasonal earnings advance) Division One: 1. Bluto, Jimmy Takter, Jimmy Takter; 2. Dewycolorintheline, Ray Schnittker, Ray Schnittker; 3. Fico, Corey Callahan, Staffan Lind; 4. Deadliest Catch, Ron Pierce, John Duer; 5. Smilin Eli, Tim Tetrick, David Smith; 6. All Laid Out, David Miller, Noel Daley; 7. Possessed Fashion, John Campbell, Tom Fanning. Division Two: 1. Caveat Emptor, Ray Schnittker, Ray Schnittker; 2. Royalty For Life, Brian Sears, George Ducharme; 3. Hamdalla, Jody Jamieson, Riina Rekila; 4. E L Rocket, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 5. Spider Blue Chip, Ron Pierce, Chuck Sylvester; 6. Aperfectyankee, Jim Oscarsson, Jim Oscarsson; 7. Creatine, Mike Lachance, Bob Stewart. Open Pace (top seven advance) 1. Warrawee Needy, Jody Jamieson, Mark Ford; 2. A Rocknroll Dance, Tim Tetrick, Jim Mulinix; 3. Bettor's Edge, Tim Tetrick, Linda Toscano; 4. Modern Legend, John Campbell, David Drew; 5. Sweet Lou, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 6. Foiled Again, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 7. Golden Receiver, Corey Callahan, Mark Harder; 8. Michael's Power, Brian Sears, Casie Coleman; 9. Bolt The Duer, Mark MacDonald, Pete Foley. Byes: Clear Vision, Pet Rock. Mare Pace (top seven advance) 1. Economy Terror, Ron Pierce, Chris Oakes; 2. Rocklamation, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 3. Swinging Beauty, Ron Pierce, Ron Burke; 4. Ooh Bad Shark, Howard Parker, William Wiggins; 5. Anndrovette, Tim Tetrick, P.J. Fraley; 6. Monkey On My Wheel, Brian Sears, Casie Coleman; 7. Krispy Apple, Tim Tetrick, P.J. Fraley; 8. Camille, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 9. Shelliscape, David Miller, P.J. Fraley. Byes: Drop The Ball, Feeling You. FINALS, ON OCT. 19 (no eliminations necessary) $500,000 3-year-old filly pace: 1. Parlee Beach, 2. Mattie Terror Girl, 3. Carols Desire, 4. Authorize, 5. Shebestingin, 6. Aunt Caroline, 7. I Luv The Nitelife, 8. Somwherovrarainbow, 9. Love Canal. $600,000 Open Trot: 1. Market Share, 2. Wishing Stone, 3. My MVP, 4. Guccio, 5. Intimidate, 6. Mister Herbie, 7. Arch Madness, 8. Uncle Peter, 9. Sevruga. by Ken Weingartner for HRC
Yonkers Raceway's pair of Friday night harness racing $35,000 co-featured Open Handicaps--for trotters along with prim and proper pacers--were won by Affirmed Action (Jason Bartlett, $19.80) and Warrawee Koine (Bartlett again, $12).
Twenty-nine three-year-old pacing fillies travelled to Woodbine Racetrack Monday evening (December 19) to compete in a trio of $25,000 Niagara Stakes harness racing eliminations with veteran driver Rick Zeron guiding two of the fillies to victory.
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.
John Grasso always believed Affirmed Action was talented. It took a while for the trotter to get the chance to prove it, but he is making believers of others now as well. Affirmed Action, the winner of all three of his starts this year, is the 9-5 morning line favorite in his delayed second-round division of the Horse & Groom harness racing series Thursday (March 17) at Meadowlands Racetrack.