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With co-favorite Sparky Mark (Simon Allard) off the gate at the start, driver Marc Campbell saw opportunity knocking on the door and sent Take It Back Terry to the front and they held on with ease in capturing the second elimination division of the Gold Cup & Saucer Monday at Charlottetown Driving Park on Prince Edward Island. Now the Allard vs Burke rivalry continues in the Gold Cup & Saucer final next Saturday for the third straight year. Allard won it last year, Burke the year before. The 12th race feature Monday saw local favorite D Gs Camme (Gilles Barrieau) shoot to the early lead from the rail with Big Surf (Jody Jamieson) sneaking into the pocket-seat and a seemingly hung-out-to-dry Take It Back Terry first-over from the start. Then by a brisk :26.4 opening quarter mile, driver Marc Campbell had power with Take It Back Terry as they muscled their way to the lead. But there was only room for a :28 quarter breather to the half in :54.4 before Simon Allard came first-over with Sparky Mark as Lucan Hanover (Jonathan Drury) grabbed the second-over spot. Down the backstretch they raced, Sparky Mark trying to collar pacesetter Take It Back Terry by the three-quarters in 1:23, but it was to no avail as Take It Back Terry was the strong horse, going on to win by one and three-quarter lengths in 1:50.4 with Sparky Mark second best and D Gs Camme third. Finishing fourth and making the final was Lucan Hanover. “It wasn’t the plan at all (going to the front),” Marc Campbell said. “I kinda looked over and saw that Simon (Allard) was off the gate so I figured I would go for it. I saw that Gilles (Barrieau) was going to the front and I figured he would let me go and I wanted to control the pace. “Then Simon came first over up the backstretch and that is where I wanted him,” Campbell said. “It all worked out great.” It was the sixth win this year for Take It Back Terry. The eight-year-old gelded son of Western Terror is trained by Ron Burke and owned by Burke Racing Stable, Weaver-Bruscemi, Larry Karr and Phillip Collins. He paid $4.40 to win. Take It Back Terry By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink.com

WILKES-BARRE PA -- Yagonnakissmeornot, winless since May 13 and having raced only once since July 4, was still assigned the outside post eight in Friday's $30,000 mares open handicap pace at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, and the daughter of The Panderosa bore out the local racing office's judgment by rallying from fifth at midstretch to win in 1:50.1.   Driver Simon Allard got away fourth, just behind Ooh Bad Shark, who had hung a nose loss on "Yagonna" on Sun Stakes Saturday, as the brothers Napolitano argued over the early lead, with Anthony and Monkey On My Wheel ceding the lead to George and favored Inittowinafortune after a searing opener of 26.   Inittowinafortune continued on the front end, hitting the half in 53.3, and as she approached the 1:21.4 three-quarters, there was an interesting two seconds of harness chess. Allard had edged outside with Yagonnakissmeornot, but he did not dash right up, waiting to see what Ooh Bad Shark would do. Allan Davis did decide to vacate the 3-hole with the "Shark," giving the winner valuable cover on the far turn.   In the stretch Inittowinafortune tried to fight off two horses to each side: Monkey On My Wheel on her left in the Pocono Pike and Donttellruss deep in the Pike, along with Ooh Bad Shark to her immediate right and Yagonnakissmeornot widest. In the end Yagonnakissmeornot had the most pace to win by a half-length over Ooh Bad Shark, with Donttellruss another neck back, and Inittowinafortune nosing Money On My Wheel, both beaten by only 1 1/4 lengths for it all.   Yagonnakissmeornot, trainer by Simon's brother Rene (by far the top conditioner at Pocono), raised her bankroll to $258,026 in 2015 and $1,066,242 lifetime for owners Allard Racing Inc, Yves Sarrazin, and Kapildeo Singh.   FINISHING LINES   A reminder that the $2 million+ Super Stakes Saturday card is two weeks from tomorrow, on August 22. Being part of the Pocono Downs 50th Anniversary Week, the card laden with stakes-starring three-year-olds will begin at 5:30 p.m., one hour earlier than the Pocono norm, with a giant fireworks show set for after the races.   PHHA / Pocono              

After adroitly avoiding an offstride Ontario Success early in the backstretch, Sparky Mark, driven by Simon Allard, went on to his second straight victory at the harness racing meeting at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, taking the $24,000 featured pace at the mountain oval on Saturday in 1:50.   Ontario Success had put up early numbers of 26.2 and 55.3, with Sparky Mark on his back.   Driver Anthony Napolitano kicked out the horse's earplugs coming off the second turn, but the pacer misreacted and went offstride, moving to the outside as Napolitano looked for clearance and hollered out about his problem.   Allard and Joe Pavia Jr., guiding first-over Blatantly Best, reacted well in concert with Napolitano, with Allard going inside the runner and Pavia going wide as Napolitano kept his offstride charge between the pair.   From there, Sparky Mark had it relatively easy, storming home in 54.1-27 individually to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Blatantly Best, who was able to retuck in the pocket after the trouble.   The son of Astreos, trained by Simon's brother Rene, continues to get closer and closer to a seven-figure lifetime bankroll, with his lifetime total now at $953,556.   Jerry Connors

WILKES-BARRE PA - A specially-formatted 16-race harness racing card was featured on Belmont Day at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with four races held before the historic doings in Elmont NY and then the remainder starting after the big race.   The race attracting the most attention was the tenth race (held in the evening portion), a $30,000 Open pace, and there was "dancin' in the moonlight" as 2014 Pennsylvania Pacer of the Year Dancin Yankee never looked back in a 1:48.3 victory, going out in 26 and coming home in 26.4 firmly in control. George Napolitano Jr., king of the local driving colony again this year, was named on four horses in the race, and he picked the right one as the son of Yankee Cruiser raised his lifetime earnings harvest over $1.2M for trainer Josh Green and owners Baron Racing Stable and Richard Lombardo.   In the other $30,000 Open pace, Big Boy Dreams marked himself as a 4-year-old to watch as he reduced his mark to 1:49.4 in taking another $30,000 Open pacing contest. The son of If I Can Dream made the front just past the ¼ for driver Simon Allard, set the pace, then rocketed home in 26.4 for his second straight victory after a third-place finish in the Confederation Cup Final. Trainer Rene Allard shares ownership of the winner of over half a million dollars with Robert Hamather and Mary Lou Poliseno.   The ladies were in the spotlight in the last race of the "early" card and the first race of the "later" card.   In the last race held before the Belmont, Blue Chip Matchmaker winner Venus Delight asserted a claim to be the leader of the older female division with a 1:50.2 decision in a $30,000 mares handicap pace, despite not having started since her victory in the Yonkers series final on April 25. But the daughter of Bettor's Delight and driver Jason Bartlett had to work hard for the top money, rallying out of the pocket to catch perhaps the most-improved horse of 2015, Ooh Bad Shark, to tally by a head after grabbing the lead with about 100 feet to go. The winner, who set a personal mark, is trained by Jeff Bamond Jr. for owners Bamond Racing LLC - who might get a fifth straight older pacing mares yearly title, with Anndrovette having won in the last four seasons.   After American Pharoah won the Belmont and the first thoroughbred Triple Crown in 37 years, the Broadway Hall mare Frau Blucher went 4/5 seconds faster in winning, capturing a $30,000 open trot while defeating six males and two females in 1:51.4, 2/5 of a second off her mark and the 4TM world record she set at The Downs last year. Frau Blucher, driven by George Napolitano Jr. for trainer Chris Oakes, made every pole a winning one while raising her career bankroll to $976,932 for owners Hauser Brothers Racing Enterprises LLC and Susan Oakes. (And she'd be over $1M right now but for an inch, as she was deadheated for the win by stablemate Classic Martine in the world record-DH PA Sire Stakes 3TF Championship race in 2013.)   Pocono Finishing Lines: On this 16-race card, two drivers won ten of the races, and only five drivers in all won: George Napolitano Jr. and Simon Allard both had five victories (four of Allard's were trained by brother Rene); Jason Bartlett had 3, Anthony Napolitano had 2, and Marcus Miller had 1. There were a total of seven miles in 1:50 or better on the card, topped by Dancin Yankee's 1:48.3; among the drivers, George Nap had three, and Allard two. PHHA / Pocono  

The weather is heating up and so is the harness racing action at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. This past week saw the first appearances of both the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and The Stallion Series, those showcases for younger horses which bring the finest horses and horsemen to the Downs to strut their stuff for big purses. We also saw Open pace and Open trot action on Saturday night for the first time in 2015. It all leads to a jam-packed edition of the Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK:  RISE UP NOW If you follow sports, it's likely you're familiar with the term "meteoric rise." It's often used (maybe overused, to be frank) when an athlete ascends from anonymity to great success in a short period of time. In the case of Rise Up Now, a 3-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding, he's got a name that seems to fit that term, and he's lived up to it and then some this season. In his 2-year-old season, he picked up just one win in seven races. Yet he started the season off sizzling in overnight races at The Meadows, ripping off three straight victories right away. His next start was on May 9 in Pennsylvania All Stars action at Pocono, a tough test that he passed in stellar fashion by gutting out a win by a nose in a career-best time of 1:50:2. On Saturday night in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes action, Rise Up Now, trained by Brian Brown, was a 2-1 second choice behind Blood Brother, who also won an All Stars race last week and set some nasty fractions on the lead. Driver Simon Allard provided a canny drive for Rise Up Now, sending him first-over on the back before sliding into the pocket behind Blood Brother. In the stretch, Rise Up Now wore down Blood Brother by a length-and-a-half in 1:51:3 on a sloppy track. Five wins in five races while soaring from the lowest condition ranks to Sire Stakes action: I do believe we can freely use that "meteoric rise" term in this case. Other top pacers this week include: Alexas Jackpot (George Napolitano Jr., Marty Fine), who followed up an Open win at Harrah's at Philadelphia by winning Pocono's first Open pace of the 2015 meet in 1:49:3, which matched a career-best and was fastest of the week at Pocono despite coming on a sloppy track; Catalea Seelster (George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes), a mare whose victory in a $15,000 claimer on Sunday night in 1:52:3 was her fifth in a row, with the last four of those victories coming at Pocono; and Caviart Shelley (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), a mare who gutted out her fourth consecutive condition win on Wednesday night in 1:51:3, a new career mark. TROTTER OF THE WEEK:  CLASSIC MARTINE In the first $30,000 Open trot of the season, a pair of distaffers shared the pre-race spotlight. This was by no means a slight on the male horses in the race, all of whom were accomplished veteran trotters with many big wins and copious earnings to their credit. But Classic Martine and Shake It Cerry are no ordinary mares; they rank among the finest in the world. In their previous meeting on May 3 at Miami Valley Raceway in Ohio, Classic Martine, the 5-year-old Classic Photo star from the Chris Oakes barn, overcame a #9 post and 15-1 odds to upend heavily favored Shake It Cerry, who struggled to sixth. This time around, Classic Martine got the betting love at 1-5. Driver George Napolitano took her to the front end and rated the pace very well, making it very unlikely that anyone would run her down in the stretch. Classicality, who had the pocket trip, and Shake It Cerry, who started slow but moved up aggressively around the final turn, both attempted to rally. But Classic Martine never looked worried, keeping a nice margin all the way to the line as she won by 3½ lengths. Her winning time of 1:53:1 was achieved without much urging at all. Right now, it doesn't matter the age or gender facing her, because Classic Martine is going to be a handful for anyone lining up to take her on. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Razor Ramone (Anthony Napolitano, Eric Ell), who arrived from Harrah's and powered his way to a condition win on Saturday night in a career-best 1:53:3; Scorcher Hall (Tom Jackson, Greg White), who moved up in class and racked up his second straight condition won on Tuesday night in 1:55; and It's Not Over (Jim Morrill Jr., Matias Ruiz), who, despite being laid off for two months since a victory in his previous start in California in March, returned strong with a condition win on Tuesday night in a career-best 1:54:1. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK:  MARATHON MAN When a couple of leaders broke stride late, this trotter with Brandon Simpson in the bike came storming home to win a condition on Tuesday night at 75-1 for a $152.60 payoff on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK:  SCOTT ZERON Zeron made the most of his lone appearance at Pocono for the week, ripping off four victories on Sunday night, more than any other driver on the card that evening. TRAINER OF THE WEEK:  BRIAN BROWN Brown, whose base is in Ohio, continues to win big in Pennsylvania, following up success last week in the Pennsylvania All Stars races with a pair of Sire Stakes winners on Saturday night. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@moegansunpocono.com. Jim Beviglia

WILKES-BARRE PA - To modify a Southern expression to its current "home," harness racing trainer Brian Brown is "hotter'n a two-dollar Pennsylvania pistol on a Saturday night."   Trainer Brown, trainer of 2014 divisional and Jugette champion Color's A Virgin and a resident of Delaware OH, may be having himself a two-day party late this September at the famed half-miler, as he already has five different Pennsylvania Sire Stakes-winning three-year-old pacing horses, three fillies and now the two colts who continued the hot trainer's winning ways Saturday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, being among the four winners in the $226,168 first leg of their Sires action.   As the track turned "sloppy" for the fifth race Sires division (Pocono is about 150 miles northeast of Baltimore as the crow flies, and the Preakness rain started about two hours before the storms hit northeast PA), Rise Up Now remained undefeated in five outings this year, tucking in the pocket down the back and then catching leader Blood Brother in the stretch to post a 1½-length 1:51.3 over a newly-christened "sloppy" track. Blood Brother had snapped off splits of 26.1, 55.3, and 1:22.2, but the 53 usage in the odd-numbered quarters did not allow him to hold off the Somebeachsomewhere gelding and driver Simon Allard, who piloted the Brown trainee for King McNamara of Florida, the only non-Buckeye in the ownership group which includes the Strollin Stable, William Robinson, and Country Club Acres.   Brown is now two-for-two seasonally with the Well Said colt Lost For Words, who reclaimed the lead down the backstretch, opened up four lengths turning for home, then held off the late charge of the game little Allbeef N Nobull to win by 1½ lengths in 1:51.4 in the night's second division, when the track was still "fast." Lost For Words, a finalist in both the Governors Cup and Breeders Crown last year, was driven by Jim Morrill Jr. for the three Ohioans who share in Rise Up Now's ownership and another Buckeye, Richard Lombardo.   For years Brown has done very well in the Pennsylvania program, but this year his numbers are only slightly short of unbelievable. He's perfect in five Pocono starts, and at The Meadows he sports a 13-9-3-0 tally, for a Keystone State total of 18-14-3-0 - which produces a mind-boggling state UTR of .870!   McArdles Lightning teamed with driver Anthony Napolitano to post a 6-1 upset in taking the first division, coming from last at the half in the seven-horse field and blitzing his own back two quarters in 54.2 to equal his lifetime mark of 1:51. Steve Elliott conditions the McArdle ridgling (double thoroughbred Triple Crown racewinner American Pharoah is also a ridgling) for the Lightning Stable.   In the final Sires heat, Wazikashi Hanover was a pocket rocket in catching last year's 2YO Sires champion, Yankee Bounty, by 1¼ lengths, with the time on the sloppy track 1:52. Yankee Bounty overcame the outside "eight-ball" to post splits of 27, 57, and 1:24.4, but "Wazikashi," a Dragon Again gelding, was relentless and gained into the 27.1 kicker for trainer Joann Looney-King and the Tri County Stable. Driver Jim Morrill Jr. joined trainer Brown as a double winner in the Sires races.   ***** Also on the Pocono Saturday card were two $30,000 Open events, one for each gait, which were carded in anticipation of next Sunday's $150,000 Invitationals to be raced at the other track that Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen's Association services, Harrah's Philadelphia.   Last year's divisional champion Classic Martine will have an interesting decision to make about "trying the boys" after taking the $30,000 Open trot by 3½ lengths in 1:53.1 on a fast track for driver George Napolitano Jr. and trainer Chris Oakes. The daughter of Classic Photo, owned by Hauser Brothers Racing Enterprises, Susan Oakes, Conrad Zurich, and Ed Gold, made the lead in 27.3, "stole" a 30-second second quarter, and then dashed home in successive 27.4 panels to defeat Classicality, with 2014 Trotter of the Year Shake It Cerry coming from seventh at the half to claim third, another length behind.   On the pacing side, Van Rose Memorial winner Domethatagain and second-place Alexa's Jackpot met again, but this time, two weeks later, the post position advantage was reversed (1-4, respectively, in the Rose to 8-3 Saturday), as was the result, with Alexa's Jackpot winning in 1:49.3 in the off going. Domethatagain motored to the top in 26 flat from his next-to-outside starting berth Saturday, but Alexa's Jackpot was put on the move soon thereafter by George Napolitano Jr., who took both Opens, and posted splits of 54.1 and 1:21.4 en route to the 1¼-length triumph. Trainer Marty Fine shares ownership in the winner with the Highland Thoroughbred Farm.   ***** The week's racing comes to an end at Pocono Sunday night with four $20,000 divisions of the first leg of the Pennsylvania Stallion Series for the three-year-old colts and geldings. Many horses holding promise of developing into good horses are in the Stallion events; one of the more promising is Gallic Beach, making his first start of the year but showing a half-length loss in 1:50.2 at Lexington last fall. He's a son of Somebeachsomewhere out of Western Gallie, a daughter of Western Hanover whose dam is Galleria and whose SBSW half-sister is double Breeders Crown elim winner Galliebythebeach.   PHHA / Pocono

Taking advantage of a pocket trip behind the pace-setting Purity, Let's Go Higher ($3.80) struck the front in upper-stretch, holding clear of a late bid from The Filly Princess to win Friday evening's (May 15) featured $10,000 Mares Open Pace at the harness racing meeting at Vernon Downs. Simon Allard settled into the pocket with the seven-year-old Cole Muffler mare, drafting behind 17-1 outsider Purity (Claude Huckabone, Jr.) through sectionals of :26.4, :55.1, and 1:23.1. At the top of the stretch, Let's Go Higher vacated the pocket, pushing clear of a tiring Purity at the eighth pole and edging clear by 1-3/4 lengths in 1:50.2. The Filly Princess (Truman Gale) rallied late off a tracking trip to take second, while Table Talk (Bart Dalious) kicked cover to take third after racing from the back of the pack early.   Heidi Rohr trains Let's Go Higher for owner Jesse DeLong.   Saturday evening's 14-race pari-mutuel card features four divisions of the New York Sire Stakes for three-year-old pacing fillies, with Ron Burke trainee Sassa Hanover (2-1 morning line favorite, Andy McCarthy up) making her three-year-old debut in the evening's $30,450 fifth race. Post time is 6:45 p.m., with a non-wagering Excelsior event carded for 6:30 p.m. James Witherite

Harness racing driver Simon Allard visited Building Blocks Learning Center, 1082 Highway 315, Plains, PA, on Friday morning, May 15, for their Career Day. One of the leading drivers at the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, and wearing his colors, Simon spent the morning explaining all about harness racing, complete with all equipment; bales of hay and straw; feed; and even a real live horse! When the horse trailer with Priceless Edition pulled up, the children cheered in delight. One by one, each age group were led out to listen to Simon describe what he does "for a living", and to meet the very friendly horse, and even feed him carrots and apples! Simon even showed them a race on his laptop so they could see how he drives during a race. Children were even treated to a seat on his sulky, and Simon led them around to see what it felt like during a race. Shown are the children ages 3-5, and seated on the horse is Allard's daughter, Amelia. Photo by Curtis Salonick, track photographer. Jennifer Starr

Yagonnakissmeornot, benefiting from her versatility and the hot team of driver Simon Allard and trainer/brother Rene, moved off second-over cover to catch pacesetting Ooh Bad Shark and record a half-length victory in a $30,000 mares open handicap pace Wednesday at the harness racing meeting at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.   Coming off a win in the Chip Noble Pace at Miami Valley and a second in the Blue Chip Final at Yonkers before that, Yagonnakissmeornot left from post seven in the eight-horse field and tucked fifth early as Ooh Bad Shark assumed the lead after the 26.4 quarter and posted middle splits of 55.2 and 1:23.   Simon Allard had the daughter of The Panderosa in high gear midway on the final turn, and by midstretch it was apparent that the winner would catch the frontstepper, and she did in 1:50.3, with "Kiss"'s own last half 54.2 over an oval not known to be favorable to closers.   Yagonnakissmeornot, now a career winner of $971,366, paid $4.20 in winning for Allard Racing Inc, Yves Sarrazin, and Kapildeo Singh; second choice Anndrovette, assigned the outside post eight, had traffic trouble and finished off the board.   This mares open was well-placed 11 days before the $150,000 Betsy Ross Pace on Sunday, May 24 at the other track serviced by the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen's Association, Harrah's Philadelphia, and this coming Saturday's card at Pocono has a pair of $30,000 opens, for free-for-all trotters and pacers, from which may emerge contenders for the May 24 Philly card's $150,000 Maxie Lee Trot and $150,000 Jerry Taylor Pace.   Also this weekend at Pocono is Pennsylvania Sire Stakes / Stallion Series action for three-year-old pacing colts; in a reversal of the normal sequencing, the Sire Stakes horses will go on Saturday and the Stallion Series sections on Sunday.   Jerry Connors

WILKES-BARRE PA - Kentucky Derby Day meant a doubleheader of harness racing action at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with the $50,000 Van Rose Memorial Invitational Pace on the evening card taken by the hot Domethatagain in 1:49, and Whom Shall I Fear and Cruzado Dela Noche both notching 1:55 triumphs among four division of a $128,000 Pennsylvania All-Stars event for sophomore trotting colts in the early card's headliner. . Two-hole tactics took Domethatagain, a son of Bettors Delight, to victory in the richest race of the year to date, the $529,000 Levy Final at Yonkers last Saturday, and tonight Domethatagain also parlayed sitting the golden chair to victory in the Van Rose Memorial. Bandolito left strongly from the rail and Domethatagain went out quickly just to his right, discouraging outside leavers from engaging in a brutal fight, and driver Simon Allard sat right on the back of the pacesetter with the winner through splits of 26.1, 55, and 1:21.3.   Allard guided the winner into the famed Pocono Pike passing lane, quickly overtook the leader, and then held off the late bursts of two horses shipping in from Mohawk, Alexa's Jackpot and Modern Legend, who completed the board spots. Simon and his brother, trainer Rene Allard, have been next to lethal at Pocono, especially on Saturdays, and tonight proved no exception, boosting the lifetime bankroll of Domethatagain to within hailing distance of $850,000 for Allard Racing Inc., Robert Hamather, and Bruce Soulsby.   In the afternoon quartet of trotting features:   Whom Shall I Fear, the full brother to Father Patrick and Pastor Stephen, had to work harder than his brothers usually did in their victories over the last few years, but the son of Cantab Hall kept on grinding steadily to edge pocketsitting Wicker Hanover by a neck in 1:55 to keep the 1-20 favorite's seasonal record perfect in three seasonal starts. If you read "Pastor Stephen" and "Father Patrick," you know trainer Jimmy Takter can't be far behind, with Corey Callahan handling sulky duties for lessee Brixton Medical Inc.   Cruzado Dela Noche, a 1:53.4 Grand circuit winner at Lexington last year, was impressive in his seasonal debut, matching that 1:55 clocking by rallying from nine lengths back at the half to catch frontstepping favorite Suit And Tie by 1¼ lengths. Keeping it "all in the training family," Nancy Johansson, daughter of Jimmy Takter (and trainer of JK She'salady), conditions Cruzado Dela Noche, and husband Marcus Johannson was in the sulky behind the son of Muscle Massive for Courant A B.   Another native of Sweden, Ã…ke Svanstedt, was in Victory Lane in a third cut after the Andover Hall colt Real DJ Hanover played "pocket rocket" in overhauling pacesetter Piercewave Hanover by a head. The 1:56.2 clocking, in his 2015 debut, was a lifetime mark for the winner, who is trained and was driven by Svanstedt, also co-owner with Torbjorn Swahn.   The fourth division was won by Pocono's "Trot Man," diamondgaited driving specialist Mike Simons, and the Yankee Glide colt Boots N Chains, rallying from the two-hole after leaving from outside post seven to catch pacesetting Jacksons Minion by a neck in 1:55.1. Trainer John Butenschoen had his charge sharp for his first start of the campaign while winning for William Wiswell, Jean Goehlen, and Eugene Schick.   PHHA / Pocono  

We are already a month into the harness racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, our 50th campaign in case you haven't heard. This coming week the action will really get spicy with several rounds of Pennsylvania All Stars races and the Van Rose Memorial Pace highlighting the schedule. As for the week gone by, let's take a look at the top performers and hand out another edition of the Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: SPARKY MARK One of the biggest stories of the early part of the season at Pocono has been the dominance of the training-driving combo of brothers Rene and Simon Allard. This dynamic duo has been pretty hard to beat on any racing night, but that's especially been the case on Saturday nights, where they have been winning at a ridiculous pace in the high condition paces as well as the claiming ranks. Saturday night's featured condition pace for winners of over $25,000 looked like it would be a showcase for Foiled Again, the sport's all-time biggest earner with nearly $7 million in the bank at age 11. He was looking for his first win of the season, and this figured to be a spot where he could get it done. But the Allard brothers and their rugged 8-year-old stallion Sparky Mark had other ideas. Sparky Mark, who had lost his last start in this same class by just a nose to Ideal Matters, didn't worry about anyone else in the field; he had been facing excellent competition all year long anyway, so the big names of Foiled Again and Bolt The Duer didn't faze him. When the dust cleared, it was Sparky Mark who came out on top, holding off Luck Be Withyou by a half-length in 1:49:2. That marked the fastest mile of the season to date at Pocono, and it marked the biggest win yet at Pocono in 2015 for Simon and Rene Allard, who just can't seem to be stopped. Other top pacers this week include: To Beach His Own (George Napolitano Jr., Marty Fine), who continues to roll against the toughest claimers on the grounds, picking up his third straight win on Saturday night in 1:50:2; Catalea Seelster (George Napolitano Jr., Nicholas Gampietro), who captured Sunday night's feature for claiming mares in 1:52:3, giving her four straight wins, the last three coming at Pocono; and Ooh Bad Shark (Jim Morrill Jr., William Wiggins), who put together a huge mile to win Wednesday's featured condition pace for mares, stopping the six-race winning streak of Show Runner and stopping the timer in 1:49:2, a new career-mark and tied for the fastest this season at Pocono. TROTTER OF THE YEAR: SOCIAL DELIGHT Sometimes the winning time fails to tell you everything you need to know about a performance. For a good example, take a look at the case of Social Delight. The 4-year-old mare from the barn of trainer Jerry Ray came into Pocono having won two of her previous three starts at Saratoga Harness. In her first try at Pocono, she rolled on the front end in a non-winners of five condition for a win in a career-best 1:54:1. On Tuesday night she faced the same group from a tough #7 post, but she couldn't hold the lead early, instead ceding it to Czech It Out. That trotter was able to set very soft fractions to the half-mile marker, giving the impression that she'd be tough to catch. Social Delight would have to win an all-out sprint in the stretch against a fresh horse and do so while coming from behind. That's exactly what she did though. Driver Jim Morrill Jr. coaxed something extra out of her and she sped by Czech It Out in the final strides for the victory. That makes it three wins in a row, including two straight at Pocono, and four out five in 2015. And though the winning time of 1:55:3, almost a second-and-a-half slower than her mark from last week, may have said otherwise, this winning effort by Social Delight may have been her finest yet. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Emerald Bling (George Napolitano Jr., Robert Horowitz), a mare who won her second straight condition trot on Tuesday night, this one coming in a career-best 1:57:1; Cadillac Cruiser (Simon Allard, Pierre Paradis), who followed up a claiming win last week with a condition win on Sunday night in 1:55:2; and P L Eureka (George Napolitano Jr., John Barchi), who picked up his third straight handicap victory on Wednesday night in 1:54:3. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: MACK BARON Staging a furious rally from far back in the pack, this pacer with Matt Kakaley in the bike upset a field of claiming pacers on Sunday night at 36-1, paying off $75.80 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MATT KAKALEY He's so steady that you might overlook him, but that would be a mistake considering he had another winning week with three straight racing nights of multiple wins. TRAINER OF THR WEEK: MARTY FINE Fine picked up a pair of wins on Saturday night and another on Sunday, and all three of those horses were making his first start in his barn following a claim. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. Jim Beviglia

WILKES-BARRE PA - Major Uptrend overcame post eight and snapped the harness racing streak of Victory At Last, who had won in the first three legs of the Bobby Weiss Series at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, by posting a 1:51.3 triumph in one of two $15,000 cuts of the fourth and final preliminary for male pacers Saturday. In the other division, YS Lotus posted the fastest Weiss clocking all year, 1:50.2, to stamp himself as a major danger in next Saturday's $30,000 Championship.   Major Uptrend went up to challenge his barnmate in the Ron Burke stable, Victory At Last, past the 27 opener, and from there the altered son of Somebeachsomewhere was in control, stopping the timer in 1:51.3 while 1¾ lengths to the good of Victory At Last, for owner Howard Taylor. It is interesting that driver Matt Kakaley, who had driven Victory At Last to his three previous Weiss wins, choose to go with Major Uptrend, whom he had also won with last week, and the decision proved to be a Weiss wise one.   YS Lotus, whose last six races had taken place in an 18-day span (competing in both Yonkers Sagamore Hill Series and the Weiss), seemed to like this week's having seven days between starts, as he made an early move to the top and stayed in front, defeating Shadow Margeaux by ¾ of a length. The If I Can Dream gelding earned a new speed badge with the 1:50.2 clocking while winning for driver Simon Allard, trainer/brother Rene, and owner Yves Sarrazin. In all, the Brothers Allard had an extraordinary night at Pocono, teaming up for victory seven times on the 14-race card.   In $22,000 overnight events, the Classic Photo gelding Zooming zoomed home from next-to-last at the half to handle the trotters in 1:52.4 for driver George Napolitano Jr., trainer Amber Buter, and owners Steve Oldford, Oldford Farms LLC, and Tyler Buter. On the pacing side driver Jim Morrill Jr. rallied Mustang Art out of the pocket to hang a nose defeat on frontstepping Somethinginthewind in 1:50 (the new "even time" at Pocono?), the Artiscape gelding parading back to Victory Lane for trainer Jim McGuire and owners Max Walton and Greg Papaleo.   Pocono hosts its first Sunday card of the year tonight/(tomorrow night), with the first race set for a 6:30 start. The mountain track now will have live racing on Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.   PHHA / Pocono

TORONTO, January 8 - It may have been a very frosty evening, but that didn't get in the way of some impressive fillies and mares in round one of the Blizzard Series Thursday night at Woodbine. A total of 24 three and four-year-old pacing fillies and mares were split into three $16,000 divisions in the first leg of the three-week series for non-winners of two races or $30,000 lifetime as of October 31, 2014. The windchill throughout Thursday night's card made the conditions feel below -20 Celsius, while the Ontario Racing Commission judges allowed a two-second variant. In the opening division, Artistic Fusion lived up to her 1/9 billing, cruising to a 1:56.1 victory. Driven by Sylvain Filion, Artistic Fusion sprinted out quickly to grab the early lead, but would have to take back to second in the first turn, as a pesky Spiritina drove on to overtake the lead through an opening quarter of :27.2. However, Filion wasted no time removing Artistic Fusion and quickly took back the front with the four-year-old mare. After posting fractions of :58 and 1:27, Artistic Fusion put her rivals in the rearview mirror and opening up a massive advantage in the stretch and jogged to a 7 ¾ lengths victory in 1:56.1. Deuces For Charity, who was first up in the third-quarter, finished second, while Docs Hollywood finished third. Artistic Fusion is trained by Joe Agostino and has been on a roll over the last few months. The daughter of Artistic Fella won the Autumn Series final back on November 28 and finished second in the Niagara Series final on Boxing Day. She is now one for one to start 2015 after scoring five victories from 19 starts last year for owner Mike Foote. Artistic Fusion's career earnings now exceed $78,000. She paid $2.30 to win. The second division was a battle from start to finish between the two favourites with A Fearless Affair coming out on top. Badlands Love and Sylvain Filion, the slight even-money favourite, grabbed the early lead, while A Fearless Affair and Simon Allard, the second choice at 6/5, got in the two-hole right behind the leader. Badlands Love set fractions of :27.3, :57.2 and 1:27, but as she reached the three-quarter pole Allard popped the pocket with A Fearless Affair to take their best shot at the leader. In the stretch, A Fearless Affair took a slight advantage early in the lane, but put Badlands Love to bed in the final-eighth of the mile to score a 3 ¼ lengths victory in 1:55.4. Badlands Love held on for second, while Onyourmarknatava got up to take the show spot. A Fearless Affair is trained by Shawn Robinson for owner Robert Hamather and is coming off a three for 15 season last year. The four-year-old daughter of Western Ideal is now one for one this year and now has four career victories and earnings of over $50,000. She returned $4.50 to win. In the third and final division, Mappos Moenhay went to the front and never looked back winning in 1:57.3. Driven by Jody Jamieson, Mappos Moenhay cleared to the front as the field hit the opening quarter in :28.3. The four-year-old daughter of Real Desire would go on to hang up fractions of :59.2 and 1:28.3, before pacing a final-quarter of :29 to hold off her rivals. All The Ladies turned in a strong final-quarter to finish second over P L Hurricane in third. Mappos Moenhay is trained by Jean Guy Belliveau for owners Carol and Hailee Campbell and is coming off a six victory season last year from 26 starts. The leg one victory is her eighth career victory and pushes her bankroll to over $42,000. The clocking of 1:57.3 equaled her lifetime mark. Mappos Moenhay returned $5.10 to win. Winter series action continues Friday night at Woodbine with the first leg of the Snowshoe Series for three and four-year-old pacers. Post time is 7:25 p.m. by Mark McKelvie, for WEG Communications

There was no stopping driver Alfie Carroll during the Monday evening program at The Raceway at Western Fair District, as the sulky sitter scored a touchdown and kicked the point after. Carroll had the hottest hands of them all as noted in the seven-win performance he manufactured over the course of the 14-race card. In the midst of what has been a career season, Carroll got on the scoresheet with Little Turk (1:57.3) in Race 3. He went on to win the next three races in succession thanks to wins with Monster In Law (1:56.4), Off By Heart (2:00.1) and Billy White Sell (1:59.2). To view the rest of this story click here. Driving triples for Allard-Jamieson at Woodbine The Monday evening program at Woodbine Racetrack featured a festive edition of “anything you can do, I can do better” between reinsmen Simon Allard and Jody Jamieson. The sulky sitters took turns exchanging victories on the 11-race program before each of them finished the card with three trips to the winner’s circle. Jamieson drew first blood thanks to his win with Vague Traces (1:54.1) in Race 2, and he came right back to take Race 3 with Escuela (1:54.1). Allard then got on the scoresheet thanks to his win in Race 4 behind Sky Desperado (1:51.3). He was back to victory lane in Race 7 thanks to the hard-closing skills of No Bu (1:50.4). To view the rest of this story click here.

Yagonnakissmeornot, the older half sister to top harness racing three-year-old, Always B Miki, was also a winner Saturday night at Pocono Downs in the $35,000 Mares Open Handicap Pace. Assigned outside her five rivals, Yagonnakissmeornot followed along in third before springing into action late in the mile and edging out another Breeders Crown hopeful, Krispy Apple, for the 1:50.4 victory. Krispy Apple had cut fractions of :27.2, :56 and 1:23.1 before being collared by the quick-closing favorite in the final strides. Spirit Of Desire finished one length behind off a pocket trip. Rounding out the finish order were Campanile, Western Empress and 'Crown' contender Regil Elektra. Simon Allard drove the winner of 14 races and over $500,000 this year for his brother, trainer Rene Allard. Yagonnakissmeornot is owned by Allard Racing Inc. of Saint-Esprit, Que., Yves Sarrazin of La Presentation, Que. and Kapildeo Singh of Yorktown Heights, New York. She has drawn post five in the 11-horse field for next weekend's $281,250 Breeders Crown Mares Open Pace at Meadowlands Racetrack.whose connections anted up the $31,250 supplemental fee to enter next weekend's Breeders Crown. She is a five-year-old daughter of The Panderosa. by Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink.com

It was a dark and grey night - literally - at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, as eight grey and roan horses went behind the gate for the annual Grey Ghost and Poltergeist Pace on Wednesday night. On a cool night and a track listed as sloppy after rain throughout the day, the Invitational Race, the fourth on the card, got underway at 7:25pm. Six Gun, trained by Nick Sodano and driven by Anthony Napolitano, shot out of the gate quickly, followed by the Tyler Buter-driven Jonsie Jones, the powerhouse mare shipping in from Yonkers, and Delco Rocknroll, another Yonkers shipper with Andrew McCarthy in the bike, and Gotta Love Him, last year's winner of this race, settled into fourth, with Pocono's leading driver George Napolitano Jr. in the bike. Waltzacrossthewire took a bad step early and was way back. Fractions were quick,and Delco Rocknroll took over at the half in 54.4, leading the ghostly greys. Putnams Storm with Pat Berry in the bike shot past and stole the lead at the ¾ pole, but I'm Blue Too, racing for the new barn of Rene Allard and driven by Simon Allard, sailed past to win by 4 lengths. Delco Rocknroll finished third. Final time was 1:51.4 I'm Blue Too (General Aidid - Broadway Melody) now has 8 wins from 18 starts for the season. Pocono Downs Week In Review The race was sponsored by the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Goshen, NY, who were on hand with an exhibit honoring the great trotter Greyhound. The night was also a fundraiser for the trotter's exhibit at the museum, and commemorative wristbands were sold. The Winner's Circle was filled with children of Pocono horsemen, in costume, and representatives of the Harness Racing Museum. The adage says that speed kills, and nowhere is that more accurate than in the sport of harness racing. Sometimes it pays to be patient and wait for an opportunity to rally in a race, but the most surefire way for a horse to take all the variables out of the equation is to head straight for the front end of the field and go as hard as it can, trusting in its ability to get home above all else. Our top two award winners displayed some serious top-end speed this week. Let’s take a look at their exploits and hand out the Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: SPEED AGAIN It’s always fun to watch a horse improve within the course of a season. When last we saw Speed Again, the 5-year-old gelding from the Ron Burke barn put together an outstanding performance on August 9, scorching a mid-priced condition field in a career-best 1:48:2. Propelled by that big mile, he moved up to face tougher competition in his stint at Harrah’s at Philadelphia. First he performed well in a trio of races against the winners of over $25,000 grouping at Harrah’s, hitting the board twice and winning once. In his final start there, he stepped up to an Open Handicap group and rolled on the front end to win by two lengths in 1:50:4. His return to Pocono on Saturday would also come in the Open group, against a field that included P H Supercam, a powerhouse who had captured three straight Open Handicaps at Yonkers. None of that mattered to Speed Again and driver Anthony Napolitano when they powered to the front end right from the first few steps of the race. P H Supercam lurked behind him in the pocket for the whole mile, but Speed Again had an answer for him in the front stretch, holding him off to score by a neck in 1:49. Considering he’s already beating Open fields with consistency, any more improvement by Speed Again would almost be unfair. Other top pacers include: Lark Seelster (Anthony Napolitano, Luis Collazo), a mare who moved up in class on Tuesday night and scored her second consecutive condition win, this one coming in 1:52:1; McBoogie (George Napolitano Jr., Dean Eckley), who moved up in class and switched barns but still tore up a $15,000 claiming group on Saturday night in 1:52:1 for his third straight win; and I’m Blue Too (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who rallied for a victory in a career-best 1:51:4 in Wednesday night’s Grey Ghost & Poltergeist Pace, Pocono’s annual Halloween-themed race featuring only grey and roan pacers. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: HEZATRAIN This 5-year-old gelding from the barn of trainer Allan Johnson hit a bit of a bumpy stretch in his season in September and October. After winning five out of seven races to start his campaign, he suffered a streak of four straight races both at Pocono and Saratoga without even hitting the board. He returned to MSPD on October 21 and found his stride against our lowest condition group, rolling to a romping win in a new career-best time of 1:53:3. Feeling confident once again following that win, Hezatrain moved back up on Tuesday into a condition for non-winners of $8,000 in the last five starts. Once again driver George Napolitano Jr. was determined to hustle the gelding to the front end, but on his effort to get there he encountered some traffic on the first turn and was forced to make an early three-wide move. Even though Hezatrain reached the lead before the front stretch ended, such a tough journey to get there threatened to make him vulnerable. Those concerns were doused as the race progressed. Hezatrain easily fended off any pressure, lengthening the lead until he was comfortably out in front of the rest. He was able to gear down in the final strides and still beat the rest of the field by a solid four lengths with a winning time of 1:54:3. That’s two straight romps for Hezatrain, a trotter who’s back to his winning ways as the season winds to a close. Honorable mention on the trotting side includes: Rossini (Howard Parker, Jim Raymer), who dominated a condition field on Saturday night in 1:52:2, a new career-best which matched the fastest of the week at MSPD; Proud Moment (Ron Pierce, Rene Allard), who went a career-best mile of 1:52:2, tied for the fastest trot of the week, to win Tuesday night’s featured claiming handicap trot; and Four Starz Speed (Ron Pierce, Rene Allard), who made it two in a row and three of his last four with a claiming handicap victory on Wednesday night in 1:55. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: LINDY’S FIREWORKS On a wild Tuesday night full of upsets, this trotting filly topped them all, winning a condition easily with Anthony Napolitano in the bike at 85-1, paying off $172.40 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANTHONY NAPOLITANO Anthony’s finest year at Pocono continued with a –win week, including victories on Saturday with 24-1 shot Salevster Stallion and on Tuesday with 85-1 bomber Lindy’s Fireworks. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: MIKE WATSON Watson has been threatening to crack the Top 10 of the Pocono training standings all year long, and his pair of victories on Saturday night will certainly help his cause. That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. by Jennifer Starr and Jim Beviglia, for Pocono Downs  

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