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The New York State Gaming Commission announced that the New York Court of Appeals has upheld the 2015 sanctions levied against harness racing trainer Lou Pena, who was found responsible for 1,719 equine drug violations in 675 races. The ruling ends more than six years of litigation and validates the Commission's actions of using veterinarian records to determine if pre-race drug violations had occurred. To read the full article click on this link.

We continue to barrel forward in the 2018 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, closer and closer to the Breeders Crown in late October. With each passing week, the excitement builds just a little bit more. Meanwhile, the overnight action at Pocono continues to impress. A new batch of star performers seems to step forward each week, and these past four racing nights were no different. Let's hand out the Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: INTOVIEW Respect has been hard-earned for this seven-year-old mare trained by Gilbert Garcia-Owen, but success has been easier to come by for her. After going winless in her first 15 races of the year, Intoview found her stride with a condition pacing win at Harrah's at the end of August at 7-1. She then came to Pocono and managed to make a late rally at 5-1 to capture a $15,000 to $20,000 claiming handicap on September 17, winning in 1:53 on a sloppy track. On Monday night, Intoview took on that same claiming handicap group, leaving from post position #4. Yet even with the two consecutive wins, she still went off as the 9-5 second choice. The 7-5 favorite was LK's Nancy Lee, a horse that Intoview had beaten the week before. LK's Nancy Lee set the pace on Monday night, while Intoview made an early first-over move. Driver George Napolitano Jr. couldn't get her immediately to the front, meaning that she was parked around two turns. As they hit the stretch, the top two were joined by pocket horse Rosy Outlook and second-cover closer Tataria. It seemed for a moment about midway through the straightaway that Intoview was staring to drop back. But then she surged again as the line approached, nipping LK's Nancy Lee by a head in a hard-fought 1:52.4. That makes three straight wins, including two straight Monday night features, for the mare, who might just start more betting attention to go along with the victories. Other top pacers this week include: Areyoureadygirl (George Napolitano Jr., Hunter Oakes), a mare who won her second claiming handicap on Monday night in 1:52.3; giving her wins in the last four races that she has been at the Pocono oval; Pembroke Wildcat (Anthony Napolitano, Brittany Robertson), who captured a claiming handicap pace on Saturday night in 1:50, a new career-best and the fastest pacing time of the week at Pocono; and Sir Pugsley (Pat Berry, Ron Burke), who delivered a win in the Saturday night feature pace in 1:50.2. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: D' DREAM One thing we consistently see at Pocono is that horses ship in from all over the place. Sometimes, it's a case of trainers and owners wanting to test the waters at a top track. Other times, horses are purchased from other locations to come and race for a Pocono trainer. The latter seems to have been the case with D' Dream, a three-year-old filly. She had been racing in fair races in the state of Ohio, picking up back-to-back wins on that circuit in the month of August. D' Dream than arrived at Pocono and immediately paid dividends for new trainer Neal Ehrhart, winning a race on September 16 for her first ever pari-mutuel victory. On Monday night, she was at it again, this time against the non-winners of two fillies and mares trotters. Leaving from post position #1 in a field of nine as a 2-1 second choice, the filly settled in third in the early part of the mile as Fair Chase, the 9-5 favorite, set the early pace. When an opening presented itself on the back stretch, driver Mike Simons took advantage, sending D' Dream on a first-over journey. She blew by Fair Chase in a matter of moments and opened up a wide advantage on the rest of the field. It was all academic from there as the filly powered home a 3 ½-length winner in 1:57, a new career-best. Ohio fairs, Pocono bright lights: It's all the same to D' Dream. She just keeps on beating everybody in her path. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Boffin (George Napolitano Jr., Anette Lorentzon), who rolled to the victory in Sunday night's featured condition trot in 1:53.3, the fastest trotting time of the week; Wisenheimer (Steve Smith, Jenny Melander), who rolled to a condition win on Saturday night in 1:55.1; and Jack Rules (Simon Allard, Tony Dinges), who moved up in class on Tuesday night but sill scored his second consecutive win, this one coming in 1:56.2 on an off-track. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: ACTRESS HANOVER The maiden victory for this two-year-old pacing filly will be a memorable one, as she scored in a condition on Tuesday might with Mike Simons driving at 65-1, paying off $140.20 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: KEVIN WALLIS If you like long shots, Wallis was your man this past weekend, winning three races on Saturday and Sunday, all with horses whose odds were greater than 10-1. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: LOU PENA Pena, who was once a training champ at Pocono, found some of the old magic on Saturday night, ripping off three victories on the program. That will do it for this week at Pocono, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at by Jim Beviglia, for Pocono Downs.

Chester, PA --- Perched third-over up the far side, Independent One ($4.60) circled four-wide en route to a 1:51.4 win in Sunday afternoon's (July 29) $17,000 featured pace at Harrah's Philadelphia.   After racing second from last in the early stages while Xpert Bayama (Corey Callahan) and Commentariat (Andy McCarthy) disputed the lead through fractions of :26.4 and :54.4.   Simon Allard then angled the 4-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding third-over up the far side into a late-developing outer flow. As Rough Odds (George Napolitano Jr.) advanced to press Xpert Bayama on the far turn after a :28.2 third sectional, Independent One stayed right on the helmet of Drinkin Again (Eric Carlson), who swung three-wide to the lead an eighth from home. Independent One vaulted clear as the pace collapsed and beat Drinkin Again by 1-1/4 lengths, while Sossy's King Kong (Brett Miller) rallied from astern to take third.   Independent One captured his sixth career win for trainer Vincent Fusco Jr. In addition to handling the driving duties, Allard shares ownership of Independent One with Bruce Soulsby, Allen Weisenberg and Niss Allen Inc.   Trainer Lou Peña recorded his 3,000th career win in one of two $14,500 sub-featured events, teaming up with Eric Carlson for a 1:52.1 victory with Skyful Of Lighters ($29.40).   The 7-year-old Bettor's Delight gelding was left uncovered with a circuit to go, sustained progress up the backstretch, and wore down pacesetter Cyamach N (Pat Berry) to win by half a length. José Cervantes owns the 20-time winner.   The other sub-featured pace saw Rock The Nite ($6.80, Napolitano) dig deep to parry a stern first-over threat from Grand Teton (Andy McCarthy) to earn his 18th career win in 1:50. Andrew Harris trains the 6-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding for Robert Key.   Multiple players hit the afternoon's 20-cent Jackpot Hi-5 in race five, resulting in a carryover of $1,072.27 to Wednesday afternoon's (Aug. 1) card. First post is scheduled for 12:25 p.m.   by James Witherite, for Harrah's Philadelphia

While the New York State Racing Commission certainly has the right to beat its proverbial chest about what it incorrectly views as a victory for integrity, it has a clear obligation to be both forthright and accurate. That an agency of New York government would issue a release that is so inaccurate is, at the very least, completely disingenuous. For example, consider that while the term “illegally drugged” is used in the release, the alleged “drugs” are, in fact, substances that are permissible to be administered under the Commission’s own rules within a given timeframe.   Further, to say that the case has “finally come to a close” is clearly erroneous. The release conveniently fails to mention that a decision on a motion was issued just last week (April 15) by the State Supreme Court in Schenectady, and that the highly questionable evidence upon which the Commission based its ruling will now be fully litigated in the courts. Contrary to the Gaming Commission’s pronouncement, the case has really just started. Clearly, trumpeting integrity sounds quite hollow when the trumpeter lacks integrity of its own.  ....................................................................................................... Here is Lou Pena's Attorney Andy Turro's response to the Gaming Commission's Press Release concerning its determination of the Pena case. "While we were disappointed about the Commission’s determination, we were not surprised given the that Agency’s record of routinely disposing of such matters in a manner adverse to the subject of its prosecution, especially since hearing officers are, in fact, hired by the Commission itself.  The Commission’s press release also contains misleading statements and omits critical facts.  First of all, Mr. Pena was not charged with administering any “illegal substances.”  Rather, he was charged with administering substances that are expressly permitted to be administered by the Commission’s own rules, but was claimed to have administered them too close to the time of the race.  And while the Commission did hold Mr. Pena responsible for 1,717 charged violations, the Commission’s press release fails to mention there was not a single positive test to support any one of its charges. While the Commission’s release claims that it reviewed “veterinary records,” the Former Chairman of the New York State Veterinary Board who testified at the hearing confirmed that these “records” were no more than billing records.  The Commission’s release also does not disclose that the veterinary provider refused to certify the accuracy of those documents.  For all of these reasons, we intend to continue to pursue Mr. Pena’s legal remedies and we remain confident that in the end,  Mr. Pena will be fully vindicated." by JC for Harnesslink Media  

Schenectady, NY --- The New York State Gaming Commission today issued a $343,400 fine and three-year ban against harness trainer Luis (Lou) Pena, holding him responsible for 1,717 equine drug violations. In 2012, the Commission (formerly the Racing and Wagering Board) took action against Pena after a comprehensive investigation of veterinary records determined that he was responsible for racing illegally drugged harness horses between January 2010 and April 2012. The original hearing and notice detailing all of Pena’s violations, including a list of all the violations by horse, drug, administration date, race date and track can be found here. “We are pleased that this case has finally come to a close and that Mr. Pena is being held responsible for his actions,” Commission Executive Director Robert Williams said. “The Commission takes all allegations of administrations of illegal substances seriously and will continue to uphold the integrity of racing in New York State.” Pena regularly raced horses in New York while stabling them in New Jersey. In 2012, New York, with assistance from racing officials in New Jersey, conducted a thorough review of veterinary records, which illustrated the 1,717 equine drug violations. The violations included a litany of substances, most of which were administered to horses outside the permitted timeframe as set forth by Commission rules, including: Adrenocorticotropic (ACTH), Hormone Betamethasone (Celestone), Steroid Clenburterol (Ventipulmin) Cortisone, Steroid Cromolyn Sodium, NSAID Fircoxib, NSAID Flumethasone, Steroid Glycopyrrolate (Robinul) Gonadorelin or GnRH (Factrel), Hormone Hyaluronic Acid Derivative (Polyglycan, GEL-50) Levothyroxine, Hormone Magnesium Sulfate (MAG) Methocarbamol (Robaxin) After a subsequent hearing and adjudication, Pena and his attorney pursued various legal attempts to avoid his responsibility, all of which were ultimately rejected. Pena never testified to deny that he repeatedly cheated by administering illegal substances to race horses more than a thousand times. by Lee Park, for the New York State Gaming Commission 

Statement from harness racing trainer Lou Pena's Lawyer Andrew J. Turro; Needless to say, Lou and I were both disappointed that the Third Department did not recognize that the Commission has violated his statutory and constitutional rights as the Supreme Court had previously ruled.  We both are fully committed to the challenges ahead and recognize that the path to justice can be a winding road. We intend to appeal the Third Department's decision to the New York Court of Appeals, the State's highest court, and remain optimistic that in the end, justice will be served and that Lou will be fully vindicated.  The full Court transcript  

Mark Kennedy admits that when he was not in a good place at the end of 2013, but a 2014 New Years resolution got him back on track and it all came together when he drove his first harness racing winner at Cal Expo last Saturday night. Mark is a 31-year-old Colorado native who has a harness pedigree his father is longtime horseman Earl Kennedy and his brother James is one of the top driver/trainers on the grounds. Were a very close family and Ive been around the sport all my life, he said. While Mark had done a lot of grooming and eventually assistant training, events had kept him from his dream of being a harness driver until 2014 rolled around and he made his mind up to change his life. I really did it for my daughter Kinsey and my son Colten, to show them that you can accomplish what you dream, Kennedy explained. The first part of the plan found Mark going back to Pennsylvania and working with Lou Pena, which gave him the chance to be around some very nice horses while getting some excellent first-hand experience. I got my qualifying license last fall, just before I came back to California, and it was thanks to my dad, my brother, Mark Eaton and Gene Vallandingham that I got the chance to get in those qualifying drives. Mark received his P driving license on March 1 and three weeks later was posing for pictures with Fox Valley Largo in his sixth lifetime trip to the post. It was a family affair, with Earl owning the 11-year-old and James doing the training. It was the resolution I made coming true, Kennedy noted. I felt great and it was like a great stress had been lifted from me. It was everything I thought it would be. Sire Stakes, Open Pace command the spotlight A $10,000 California Sire Stakes for 3-year-old pacing colts featuring Uringoodhands and Hi Hos Little Rev and an Open Pace headed by St Lads Lotto top Saturday nights Watch and Wager LLC program at Cal Expo. A 12-race card is on tap with first post set at 6:10 p.m. There will be Saturday and Sunday racing this week, with the trotters and pacers in action on Friday and Saturday night next week, April 3 and 4, with no racing on Easter Sunday. Uringoodhands is a homebred son of Kents On Nuke out of the Surmo Hanover mare Sparks Will Fly who is owned by Mark Anderson, hails from the Gordie Graham barn and will once again have the services of James Kennedy. The dark-hued performer has captured four of the five stakes races decided for the division, with his lone setback being a neck loss to Hi Hos Little Rev in their January 31 meeting. Uringoodhands has made every pole a winning in the three subsequent Sire Stakes, with Hi Hos Little Rev checking in second in each of those races. The latter is a son of Hi Ho Silverheels who carries the banner of Vanessa Gilliam with Bob Johnson training and Mooney Svendsen at the controls. He was runner-up to Uringoodhands in the first stakes gathering on January 17, hung that neck decision on him in the next match-up, and has finished second in the last three big-money match-ups. Laissezmoipicoler, Devils Rein, Loci Machette Man, Sounion and Musician complete the field. There are four wagers on the program that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the Jackpot 6 and Hi-5, which are 10-cent minimum bets; the 50-cent Pick 5; and the 20-cent Pick 4, which has a $25,000-guaranteed pool as part of the USTA Strategic Wagering Program. Last Saturday night there was one perfect Jackpot 6 ticket returning $65,456, not a bad return for a dime investment. By Mark Ratzky, publicity Cal Expo Harness        

This week's racing was filled with the thrilling action we've come to expect of Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. And, to spice things up even further, the Pocono faithful witnessed the matching of a track and world record this week. That record-setting performance kicks off our attempt to sum up all of the action at Pocono this week by handing out the Weekly Awards. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: FRAU BLUCHER This four-year-old mare named after Cloris Leachman's character in Young Frankenstein had scared up a lot of success in the first two years, earning over $900,000 combined in her two and three-year-old seasons. Yet this standout from the Chris Oakes barn went winless in her first five starts this year, including a second against the non-winners of over $10,000 in the last five starts condition at Pocono on August 12 when she was heavily favored. On Tuesday night, she went up against that same condition group, once again as a solid favorite at 4-5. Only this time around, the mare was ready to show her class and then some. Driver George Napolitano Jr. sent her to the lead with a brush on the front stretch. From there, Frau Blucher kept extending her lead until the rest of the field was a distant memory. She was 8 ¼ lengths in front at the line, with the only suspense at that point being how fast she actually went in the victory. The timer showed a ridiculous 1:51:2, which matched the world record on a 5/8-mile oval for four-year-old trotting mares. The horse who set that record back in May at Pocono, Classic Martine, is also trained by Chris Oakes. So that proves that the Oakes barn has a whole lot of talent. But it also proves that Frau Blucher is back on top of her game, so elite trotters all over the country best take heed. Other top trotters this week include: Mistery Woman (Ron Pierce, Jonas Czernyson), a Meadowlands shipper who captured Saturday night's featured condition pace in a career-best 1:52; DC's Piggy Bank (Matt Kakaley, Peter Pellegrino), who picked up his second straight claiming win on Sunday night in 1:56:2; and Inside Broadway (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who powered his way to his second straight claiming victory on Wednesday night, this one in a career-best 1:54:2. PACER OF THE WEEK: LYONS JOHNNY While there were no track records coming from this 6-year-old gelding, he certainly has impressed since August dawned. Considering that he had slumped to back-to-back seventh-place finishes in his last two starts of July, such rejuvenation seemed extremely unlikely at the time. It took a drop down the condition ladder and a barn change to get him in gear again. On August 3, his first start in the Amber Buter barn, Lyons Johnny dominated that lower condition group by 4 ¼ lengths in a career-best 1:50:1. Buoyed by that fine effort, he moved back up in class to face the non-winners of $7,000 in the last five races on Tuesday night. Faced with the prospect of an outside post and a tougher field with several horses sporting solid back class, it seemed like a tough test. With George Napolitano Jr. in the bike, Lyons Johnny aggressively took over the lead with a front stretch move. Although the fractions were quick, he stayed strong up front and sped clear of some late pressure for his second straight win, this one coming in 1:50:3. Another move up in class could be in the near future for this suddenly red-hot pacer. Honorable mention on the pacing side goes to: Victorydazewillwin (Simon Allard, Daniel Munson), who notched his second straight win over the $15,000 claimers on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:50:4; It's That Time (Anthony Napolitano, Kevin Lare), whose victory in a claiming handicap on Saturday night came in 1:49:2, a new career-best and the fastest pacing time of the week at MSPD; and All Fired Up (George Napolitano Jr., Lou Pena), who sprung from the pocket for his second straight claiming handicap victory on Wednesday night, doing it in a career-best time of 1:51:3. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: GUANTANAMO BAY 2-year-olds are some of the most unpredictable horses, as this freshman pacer with Kevin Wallis in the bike showed on Sunday, winning at 30-1 for a $62.80 payout on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: Kevin Wallis The veteran driver has been finding his rhythm of late at Pocono, as evidenced by four wins this week, two of which came with horses at odds of longer than 15-1. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: Tony Alagna Alagna has won a high percentage of his races this season at Pocono, and Sunday night he picked up wins with two of the three horses he sent to the gate. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at by Jim Beviglia, for Pocono Downs        

Gatka Hanover defeated previously unbeaten Speak To Me to highlight Pennsylvania Sire Stakes action on Wednesday night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. There were four $67,347 Sire Stakes divisions held for two-year-old trotting fillies. Speak To Me came into her division having won her first four races in convincing fashion. But on Wednesday night, it was Gatka Hanover (Muscle Massive-Girlie Tough), trained by Ron Burke and driven by Matt Kakaley, who pounced from the pocket to defeat Speak To Me by 1 ½ lengths in 1:56:1. Gatka Hanover now has four wins in six lifetime starts, including three Sire Stakes victories without a loss. The other Sire Stakes winners on Wednesday night at Pocono: Wild Honey (Cantab Hall-U Wanna Lindy), driven by Yannick Gingras and trained by Jimmy Takter, who won her third straight Sire Stakes race in 1:55, fastest Stakes time of the night; Jersey Strong (Muscle Massive-Vacation’s Over), driven by Tim Tetrick and trained by Mark Harder, whose convincing win in 1:56:2 was her third in as many tries at the Pocono oval; and Sweet Thing (Chocolatier-Berdine Hanover), driven by Charlie Norris and trained by Homer Hochstetler, who worked hard on the front end to keep off all comers for her second Sire Stakes win in 1:56. Pocono Downs Week In Review It's always difficult to pick the best horses in a particular week at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs due to the extreme competitiveness of the harness racing action. This week has proved more of a pickle than most because there are a lot of horses on hot streaks who deserve consideration. On Saturday night, for example, six of the thirteen winners picked up at least their second win in a row. I'm not sure if there's a specific reason for this glut of winning streaks, but I am sure that this is a fine edition of the Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: SANDBETWEENURTOES In Saturday night's Pennsylvania Sire Stakes action for three-year-old pacing fillies, all eyes were on this powerhouse from the barn of trainer Larry Remmen. It's been an incredible sophomore season for this filly, especially considering she raced just once as a 2-year-old and finished out of the money. Instead of taking time to get her racing feet wet, she's come out of the box with seven wins in seven races this year, including a couple Sire Stakes wins and a victory in the $212,500 Mistletoe Shalee at The Meadowlands. While the field on Saturday was solid, many were fillies who had already come up short behind Sandbetweenurtoes in races this season. Included among those was Allstar Rating, who finished behind the unbeaten filly three times this year. But in her last start, Allstar Rating dominated in the Adioo Volo at The Meadows, giving her the confidence that things might be different this time around when she faced her arch rival. Sure enough, Allstar Rating made the lead while Sandbetweenurtoes fell much further behind the pace than is her custom. Once she started making her move for her regular driver Brett Miller though, there was no chance of stopping her. She hustled past Allstar Rating to win by a half-length in 1:50, making her eight-for-eight and also solidifying her status as the dominant force in the age group. Honorable mention on the pacing side goes to: Gold Deuce (George Napolitano Jr., Lou Pena), who continues to dominate the lower claiming ranks, winning his fourth straight on Sunday night in 1:52; Speed Again (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who burned up the track in a condition win on Saturday in 1:48:2, fastest time of the week at Pocono; and Crimson Cruiser (Jim Morrill Jr., Douglas Hamilton), who overcame an outside post on Friday night and picked up a claiming win in 1:52:1, his third victory in a row. TROTTER AND LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: WESTERN CREDIT It's rare that our categories overlap and one horse can claim two Weekly Awards in one shot. Yet Western Credit's recent run has been as unlikely as it has been impressive, more than meriting the embarrassment of riches. This gelding came into his race on August 3 without a win in 21 races in 2014, yet trainer Eric Mollor, who also did the driving that night, had the six-year-old rolling late for an upset win in 1:55:4 at 14-1. On Tuesday night, Western Credit was at it again, this time with Brett Miller in the bike and stepping up the condition ladder to face the non-winners of $10,000 in the last five races. The fans gave him even less of a chance this time around, putting him at 37-1. Miller sent him first-over early in the mile, which seemed like a tough journey for any horse, let along one with such long odds. It turned out to be strategic brilliance on Miller's part, since the sloppy track that night seemed to favor on trip on the outside. Western Credit did the rest, working hard to pick off everyone in front of him before holding off JC's Jake in the lane to win it in 1:55:1. At those towering odds of 37-1, the gelding paid off $77.80 on a $2 win ticket. Suddenly, that 0-for-21 to start the year is a distant memory. Western Credit is two for his last two and ready to take on all comers. Other top trotters this week include: Whata Donato (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), a mare whose winning time in a condition on Tuesday night of 1:53:3 was the fastest trot of the week at Pocono despite sloppy conditions; Well Built (Tim Tetrick, Chris Ryder), a 3-year-old who knocked off mostly older horses in a condition victory on Tuesday night in a career-best 1:54:1 in the slop; and Gematria (Tom Jackson, Fred Grant), who picked up her second consecutive win, this one in Stallion Series action on Wednesday night in 1:58:3. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: David Miller Miller always steps up his game for stakes or series action and Tuesday night he was at his best, winning three times, including a pair of victories in the Stallion Series. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: Mark Ford Ford always seems to manage great efficiency with however many horses he enters at Pocono, as he showed on Friday night by picking up a pair of training victories. by Jim Beviglia, for Pocono Downs

August 1-7, 2014; At this point in the season, it's typical for 3-year-old horses at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs to be battling against others of their own age in Stallion Series or Sire Stakes action. Yet our two top performers of the week that was at Pocono dared to take on older horses. Not only did they survive, but they thrived. Here are the details of both their exploits and those of the other top performers as we hand out the Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: LUCK BE WITHYOU This 3-year-old colt from the Chris Oakes' barn started the season in Canada but quickly found a home at Pocono with a condition win on June 28 in 1:50:1. He then battled his way to a 7th in finals of the prestigious Meadowlands Pace before returning for an even more impressive victory in a blistering 1:48 on July 19. On Saturday night, Luck Be Withyou faced his sternest test yet by going up against the non-winners of $22,500 in the last five races grouping. Among the competitors he would have to face were Meirs Hanover and Bolt The Duer, a pair of veterans as talented and as tested as there are in the sport. If the relative inexperience of Luck Be Withyou was ever going to be a factor, this was the race. At the top of the stretch, the 3-year-old was staring at the tail of Bolt The Duer, who had set the pace and done so in reasonable fractions. Yet Luck Be With You was ready for the challenge when driver George Napolitano Jr. asked for another gear. He sped by a stunned Bolt The Duer and held off fast-closing E Street Plan for the win in 1:49:2. Even though the time wasn't as flashy as his previous win, this victory was the best evidence yet of this sophomore's incredible talent. Other top pacers this week include: Show Runner (George Napolitano Jr., Lou Pena), a mare whose victory in Friday night's featured condition pace in a career-best 1:50:3 was her second straight win; Gold Deuce (George Napolitano Jr., Lou Pena), who powered to a win over $10,000 claimers on Saturday night in 1:50:4, a career-best and his Third Straight win; and Mach It So (Andrew McCarthy, PJ Fraley), who picked up a win in Saturday night's featured Preferred Handicap pace in 1:48:2, a new career-best and the fastest time posted this week at MSPD. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: REVRAC HARBOUR This award was probably a little overdue for this 3-year-old colt from the barn of trainer Tony Alagna. From June 3 to July 1, he ripped off four consecutive wins at Pocono, topping out with a back-to-back career-best miles of 1:54:1 in wins over the non-winners of four condition. He traveled to the Meadowlands after that and struggled against some of the top trotters in the country in a pair of stakes races. Revrac Harbour returned on Tuesday night to face all older horses in a non-winners of $13,000 in the last five starts condition trot. Back at Pocono again, he found his stride quickly by making a move to the front end early in the race. Yet Picture This, the race favorite, lurked behind him In The Pocket for much of the mile and enjoyed a much better trip. In the stretch, Picture This took to the inside passing lane and briefly seemed like he was about to get past. That's when driver Scott Zeron coaxed just a little extra effort from an already-taxed Revrac Harbour, who dug in and surged back in front in the final strides in 1:55:4 on a sloppy track. That makes it five wins in the last five races he's started at Pocono, with this maybe the gutsiest yet. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Zooming (Tyler Buter, Amber Buter),who shipped in from New York for a condition win on Saturday in 1:51:4, easily the week's fastest trotting time; Waldorf Hall (Corey Callahan, Jim Raymer), who churned through the slop for a condition win on Tuesday in 1:53:4; and Swiss Lightning (Anthony Napolitano, Kevin Lare), who ripped off his fourth straight claiming victory on Wednesday night in 1:54:4, matching his career-best in the process. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: RESCUE PLAN It's not often George Napolitano Jr., the meet's leading driver, pilots a long shot, but this condition pacer was at 42-1 when G-Nap steered him to victory on Tuesday night for a $87.60 win payout on a $2 ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR. Who else could it be this other than George Nap, considering that he won seven of the thirteen races on the card on Saturday and nearly pulled off a 20-win week. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: CHRISTIE COLLINS Collins' barn has been steadily gaining momentum in the summer months, and her trainees picked up three more wins this week, including a double on Friday. That will do it for it this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at Jim Beviglia          

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review As the month of August dawns, the racing action at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs has reached a fever pitch. Five nights a week, outstanding trotters and pacers, often at the peak of their powers, are tested by some of the fastest action in the country. Drivers, trainers, and owners are also involved in these daily battles, their fires stoked by both their competitive natures and by the lure of the big purses. All of this combines to make the action at this time of year particularly exhilarating. It also makes choosing the Weekly Awards a difficult task, but here we go. PACER OF THE WEEK: GIANT SCULPTURE Winning streaks are difficult enough to sustain at a single track. Compiling several victories in a row while shipping from track to track is an even tougher task. After all, each track has its own bias that favors a certain style of pacing or trotting, meaning that a horse has to be versatile enough to handle that kind of variety. Giant Sculpture has proven just that kind of versatility in recent weeks. The 6-year-old gelding picked up the first victory in his recent hot streak at Pocono on July 12, beating a field of $20,000 claimers in a career-best 1:49 with a strong first-over effort. He was claimed from that race and joined the barn of Christie Collins, who brought him to Harrah's at Chester to knock off a condition field with a late rally in 1:51:3. On Saturday night, he was back at Pocono facing a $20,000 to $25,000 claiming handicap group. Despite being saddled with the outside post in a field of eight, Giant Sculpture found some cover on the outside to help him advance through the field. In the stretch, he blew by the tiring leaders with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike to win in 1:50:3. Not only has he achieved this three-race streak on two different tracks, he has managed to do it in three different classes. Versatile, varied, and, most importantly, victorious: That's how Giant Sculpture has been rolling of late. Other top pacers this week include: Fitz's Z Tam (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who overcame an outside post to defeat a claiming handicap field on Sunday in 1:51:2, giving him two in a row; Gold Deuce (Joe Pavia Jr., Lou Pena), who won his second straight claimer on Friday night and did so in a career-best 1:51: and Clint Westwood (Anthony Napolitano, Ron Burke), whose condition victory on Saturday night in 1:49:4 gave him four wins in his last five. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: TEAM SIX This 4-year-old stallion from the Erv Miller barn has been steadily improving throughout the 2014 season, but he has really peaked lately. A conquest of the non-winners of four at Pocono on July 8 gave him his first win of the season. He quickly followed that up with a rallying condition win at Harrah's in 1:54:1. He then moved up the ladder to face the non-winners of $12,500 the last five starts at Pocono on July 22, putting in a good effort to finish third. On Tuesday night, he stayed in the same class but didn't have to face either of the two horses who finished in front of him in the previous start. He did have to face off with Canadian Wildcat, who set the early pace and dug in when Team Six tried to get by on the outside. For two of the three turns, Team Six was parked on the outside, a predicament which usually spells doom for a horse's chances. Driver Marcus Miller never panicked though, keeping Team Six right alongside the leader without taxing him too much. In the stretch, Canadian Wildcat finally wore down a bit and Team Six kicked on past for the victory in 1:53:2. That winning time was a career-best despite the tough trip and extra distance, meaning that this stallion should be primed for even better stuff when the racing breaks do even out and go his way down the road. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Political Desire (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), whose victory in a condition trot on Saturday night came in a career-best 1:52:4, which was also the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono; Whata Donato (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who notched a career-best mile of 1:53:1 in a condition victory on Tuesday; and Overandovervictory (Marcus Miller, Douglas Hamilton), who shipped in from Tioga for a condition victory on Sunday night in a career-best 1:53:4. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: JACKSONS MINION He broke stride in his debut, but this 2-year-old trotter driven and trained by Tom Jackson atoned for it his second time out Friday night and won at 28-1, paying off $59.60 to win. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: Tom Jackson The veteran of the Pocono racing wars had an interesting week, picking up four victories, all of which came aboard horses scoring their maiden victories. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: Rene Allard It was a monster week for the meet's leading trainer, as he had two nights of four wins or more and had more victories than all but one driver for the week. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at by Jim Beviglia, for Pocono Downs

At 10am PT this morning, Donald "Thunder" Valentine was laid to rest at the Lind Brothers Funeral Home in Carmichael, California.   He was 61 years old. He is survived by his wife, a daughter and a host of horsemen and women that were touched by his smile and laughter, and sense of optimism. He had been battling heart issues for the last five years and had a short hospital stay before succumbing to heart failure. Thunder lived life on his own terms. Never more than a few strides away from a track or training center, he enjoyed training in California during the 2000s and most recently worked for long-time friend Lou Pena on a private farm in northwestern Pennsylvania. His equine pride and joy was a horse named "Bomb Breeze" that won his share of Invitational Paces at Cal-Expo in the mid-2000s. It was hard to tell if Thunder was winning races or hitting a rough patch as the man was one that loved life, lived it to its fullest, and exuded an aura of optimism. As a tall and strong man, his Stature was always diminutive when compared to the ear-to-ear smile he so often sported. In an industry where competitors often speak harsh words about one another, Thunder was the type that saw glasses being half full, even if they were 90% empty. He had a disposition that uplifted you and made you smile, no matter the circumstances. Anyone wishing to send condolences may do so to his family to 4559 Bomark Way, Sacramento, CA 95814. Plans are in the works for a fund-raiser and scholarship trust to be set up for his daughter, age 13, this fall once Thunder's "home" track of Cal-Expo begins racing again.  

On Kentucky Derby day at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, we held our annual doubleheader, bookending thoroughbred's most famous race with a pair of harness racing cards for the overflow crowd. That means we had even more racing action than usual at Pocono this past week. And that, in turn, means that it was even tougher than usual choosing from among the best performances. Yet that's what we've attempted to do with this edition of the Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: DANCIN YANKEE The feature event on Saturday night and of the entire week at Pocono was The Van Rose Memorial, a $50,000 invitational pace held in honor of the longtime area Sportswriter and great friend to the sport of harness racing in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Van certainly would have loved Saturday night's race, considering the stellar field it contained and the outstanding performance of Dancin Yankee. Dancin Yankee, a 6-year-old stallion from the Josh Green barn, was fresh off the rugged Levy series at Yonkers, where he finished 5th in the $567,000 final. As the 3-1 second choice in the Rose, he stayed back from a blistering early pace which produced fractions that were unsustainable even for the caliber of pacers in the race. On the back stretch, driver Brett Miller sensed his chance and sent Dancin Yankee first-over to easily take the lead. From there, he kept extending his advantage until it was just about insurmountable at the top of the stretch. Even with closers like the race favorite Dovuto Hanover attempting to rally, Dancin Yankee stayed strong and came home in front by 3 ¼ lengths, an eye-opening margin considering the quality of the field. Even more impressive was his winning time of 1:49, a new career mark despite the fact that the track had been downgraded to good condition due to rainy weather. Other top pacers this week include: Codey Shark (George Napolitano Jr., Lou Pena), whose condition victory on Saturday afternoon in 1:52:3 was his third straight; Sky Desperado (Anthony Napolitano, Steve Salerno), who switched barns but still managed his second straight $25,000 claiming win on Saturday night and matched his career-best time of 1:51:1 in the process; and Dealmaker (Ron Pierce, Joseph Poliseno), who picked up his second straight $15,000 claiming win on Wednesday night and did it in a new career-best of 1:50:4. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: HARBOR POINT There wasn't an Open or Preferred trot on the schedule this past week at Pocono. Instead, the highest trotting purse of the week was the $21,000 up for grabs in a condition trot on Saturday night pitting non-winners of $27,500 in their last four starts against each other. As a result, the top trotters on the grounds jammed into this field, many either dropping down in class or shipping in from other tracks for the race. Yet the horse who was made the 3-5 favorite was one who was actually moving up in class. Harbor Point had faced a lower condition field in his previous start but scored in such convincing fashion in a sizzling 1:53:2 that it was impossible for the bettors to ignore him, even in such heady company. Driver Ron Pierce raced him like the best in the field, gunning him to the front end early. Pierce did an excellent job rating the speed on the front end, so that Harbor Point was plenty strong enough to hold off any late challengers. Even with the move up in class, the 5-year-old gelding from the Mark Ford barn picked up his second consecutive win in 1:54 on a good track. This trotter is on a roll and seems ready to take on all comers as long as this hot streak persists. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Frenchmen (Simon Allard, Pierre Paradis), who picked up his second straight front-trotting win on Sunday night over the $7,500 claimers, this one coming in a new career mark of 1:56:4; Skyline Road (Jim Morrill Jr., William Mullin), who took a big step up the condition ladder on Wednesday night but still scored his second straight win, this one coming in a career-best 1:53:3; and Affirmed Action (Mike Simons, John Grasso), who went gate-to-wire to win Wednesday night's featured condition trot in 1:53:4. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: HUMILITY This pacer had been up the track in his previous two $25,000 claimers, but he reversed that trend on Saturday night with Marcus Miller in the bike at 36-1 for a $74.60 win payout on a $2 ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR. George is a candidate to win this award every single week at Pocono. This week he picked up multiple wins in four out of the five racing cards that were held. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: Ron Burke Burke, as always, is in the hunt to be the top trainer in the Pocono standings, and he helped his cause on Saturday night by scoring three training victories. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at by Jim Beviglia, for Pocono Downs        

WILKES-BARRE PA - Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs hosts the three remaining $30,000 Championship races in the Bobby Weiss Series this Tuesday and Wednesday, with the late-developing three- and four-year-olds racing for the glory in the male trot and female pace divisions the first day and the lady trotters then closing out the quartet of series finals. It's hard to make a case against a horse who has won all four of his series prelims, each week posting the fastest clocking of all divisions and last week the fastest of all (1:53.3), and no one doubts that the Justice Hall gelding Ray Hall will be the one to beat as he starts from post four Tuesday for trainer Mark Harder and driver Tim Tetrick. His main challengers figure to be You Rock My World (post seven, driver Scott Zeron), who after recording 3-2-2 finishes behind Ray Hall finally got away from him in the post draw and posted his own victory, and Sixteen Mikes (post five, driver Mike Simons), who had won three Weiss prelims before challenging Ray Hall last week and finishing third. Also to get some support will be Time To Quit (post six), who won one series leg, was second to Ray Hall last week, and starts for the powerful Burke/Kakaley team. The filly pace has several intriguing contenders, but based on recent "hotness" one would give the edge to the Dragon Again filly Prima Dragon, who went 2-2-1-1 in her Weiss prelims, including the fastest of all the prelims, 1:52.4, on April 8. She'll begin from post two for trainer Mike Dowdall and hot-driving Brett Miller, who had four wins at The Downs on Saturday. The Burke/Kakaley trainer/driver pairing always seems to have a contender in these series, and they have a good one here in Envious Hanover, who drew just inside Prima Dragon. "Envious" was the only three-time prelim winner, but the one defeat came to Prima Dragon in that April 8 mile, though she was only a head shy at the wire. Wednesday's Weiss Championship for trotting distaffs is thought as a "coronation ceremony" for Perfect Alliance, a daughter of Credit Winner who is eight for eight this year, including the fastest division in all three of the Weiss prelims in which she competed (fastest 1:53). The Julie Miller-trained mare will start from post six for driver Yannick Gingras, who took over her sulky seat last Wednesday after her regular driver (and Julie's husband) Andy Miller was injured in a racing accident the night before at Yonkers. FINISHING LINES - The first Weiss Championship, for male pacers, was held this past Saturday and was won by the Kent's On Nuke gelding A Stitch In Time, overcoming post nine for driver George Napolitano Jr. and trainer Lou Pena in spectacular fashion - making the lead past a 26.1 opener and then posting devastating middle fractions of 53.1 and 1:20.1 en route to a 1:48.3 triumph, only 2/5 off the world record for 4YO pacing geldings on "f"-size tracks (ironically, one of the co-holders of this world mark, Dynamic Youth, won on the Saturday Pocono undercard). From the PHHA at Pocono Downs

A Stitch In Time, unbothered by an outside post, put together a dominant performance to win the $30,000 final of the Bobby Weiss harness racing series for three and four-year-old pacers Saturday night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Despite drawing the outside post in a field of nine, A Stitch In Time (Kent's On Nuke-Sheza Gimmie Girl), a four-year-old gelding trained by Lou Pena, was made the 6-5 favorite based on a 1:49:3 win in the final preliminary leg. Driver George Napolitano Jr. maneuvered him into fourth around the first turn while Getitoffyourchest set the early pace. A Stitch In Time quickly brushed to the lead on the front stretch, set a big lead with imposing fractions, and came home comfortably in front of Trys Little Prince by 1 ¾ lengths in a career-best 1:48:3. Getitoffyourchest finished third. Owned by A Piece Of The Action LLC of Culver City, CA, A Stitch In Time won for the seventh time in eleven races this year. It was his 18th lifetime victory and pushed his career earnings to $89,549. by Jim Beviglia, for Pocono Downs    

Abelard Hanover made a second move late to rally for a thrilling victory in Saturday night's featured Preferred pace at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The race carried a purse of $25,000. Leaving from post position #6 in a field of eight at 7-1, Abelard Hanover (Rocknroll Hanover-Allamerican Coed), a 6-year-old gelding trained by Donald Billings, gunned to the early lead and set a screaming pace of :25:3 to the quarter-mile marker. Eighteen then pulled the pocket to take the lead back, giving Abelard Hanover cover and a much-needed breather. That pair stayed in those positions in the stretch, when driver Jonathan Roberts coaxed another move from Abelard Hanover in the passing lane to win by a neck over Eighteen in 1:48:4, fastest time of the Pocono 2014 meet so far. Mustang Art finished third. In other action Saturday night at Pocono, A Stitch In Time and UF Rockin Dragon each won thei respective $15,000 divisions of the Bobby Weiss series for three and four-year-old colts, stallions, and geldings on the pace. A Stitch In Time, driven by George Napolitano Jr. and trained by Lou Pena, won his split in a career-best 1:49:4, while UF Rockin Dragon, driven by Mark MacDonald for trainer Mark Ford, picked up his win in 1:51:4. by Jim Beviglia, for Pocono Downs      

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