Day At The Track

Draw held for $2,120,000 Sun Stakes Saturday

06:24 AM 26 Jun 2018 NZST
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WILKES-BARRE PA - Divisional bragging rights, not to mention loads of cash, will be on the line this Saturday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, as the northeastern Pennsylvania track hosts the $2,120,000 Sun Stakes Saturday Championship.

The $300,000 James Lynch Pace Championship for sophomore harness racing fillies leads off the four consecutive finales in race 9; following in this order are the other three Championships, all worth $500,000: the Max C. Hempt Pace Championship for three-year-old male pacers; the Ben Franklin Pace Championship for free-for-allers; and the Earl Beal Trot, an open event for three-year-olds. There was sufficient interest to warrant scheduling $75,000 consolation events for the Hempt (race 2), Franklin (race 4), and Beal (race 7).

In last week's eleven elimination races determining the Championship participants, the average win price was $3.80 and there were twelve horses sent off at even money or less. This week's Championships should prove to be much more competitive and more evenly-distributed on the tote board, with the elim winners all clashing, the luck of the draw a big factor, and some longshots last week who made powerful performances looking to be in the thick of things again this Saturday.

Here is an overview of the four Championship races in order of presentation, with the post position, horse, trainer, and driver of the final underneath, and then a paragraph on those races which have a consolation.

JAMES LYNCH PACE CHAMPIONSHIP (stake record 1:49.2, shared by American Jewel [2012], Fancy Desire [2014], and Pure Country [2016])

The horses who put in the most demanding performances last week had varying luck at the post draw: two of them drew the 1-2, while the other drew the outside post nine.

Youaremycandygirl looked to be back to her 2017 divisional championship-winning form in the elim, winning in 1:51.3, although only by a neck over Ron Burke stablemate Double A Mint (who drew post seven). It seems like she should be able to utilize her speed from post two, with Yannick Gingras again scheduled for sulky duty. (Burke has a third filly here, Sansovina Hanover.)

The other elimination went even faster, 1:51.1, and it was taken by Kissin In The Sand by a half length over Sidewalk Dancer. But in the Lynch Championship, "Kissin" was unlucky enough to draw post nine and will have a hard time getting a good trip for trainer Nancy Johansson, though hot-driving Scott Zeron will certainly try. The horse she beat by a half-length, Sidewalk Dancer, moves from post eight to post one for driver Brett Miller and trainer Chris Oakes, and she was outside a long way to get the lead only to be overhauled late; certainly a better trip seems likely for her.


1, Sidewalk Dancer, Chris Oakes, Brett Miller; 2, Youaremycandygirl, Ron Burke, Yannick Gingras; 3, Serene Stride, Mark Harder, Corey Callahan; 4, Sansovina Hanover, Ron Burke, Louis Philippe Roy; 5, I'm Trigger Happy, Ross Croghan, David Miller; 6, Alexa's Power, Jim Campbell, Tim Tetrick; 7, Double A Mint, Ron Burke, Matt Kakaley; 8, Hypnotic Tale, Linda Toscano, David Miller also listed; 9, Kissin In The Sand, Nancy Johansson, Scott Zeron.

MAX C. HEMPT PACE CHAMPIONSHIP (stake record 1:47.3, McWicked, 2014)

All pre-race conversation about the Hempt Championship will likely start with Lather Up, although the colt drew the not-easy post seven in the field of nine. Lather Up was probably the most impressive performer in the Sun Stakes Saturday eliminations, starting from post seven (!), making the lead, then powering off in the stretch with plenty appearing to still be in the tank, winning in 1:49 for driver Montrell Teague. Lather Up, 7-for-7 this year for trainer Clyde Francis, is beginning to draw comparisons to another recent superstar from this barn, Wiggle ... something or other.

The other two elimination winners got more favorable starting spots and will be conceding nothing to the likely favorite. Hitman Hill has post two for trainer Chris Oakes and driver Brett Miller off a wire-to-wire win in 1:49.3; Dorsoduro Hanover, who had been the early leader in the "glamour division" before Lather Up's recent skein of outstanding form, is no slouch himself, winning in 1:49.4 last week to take his 2018 record to 4-for-5 for trainer Ron Burke and driver Matt Kakaley. You could plead a decent case for many of the other Hempt entrants as well.


1, Nutcracker Sweet, Jimmy Takter, David Miller; 2, Hitman Hill, Chris Oakes, Brett Miller; 3, Springsteen, Rene Allard, Simon Allard; 4, Dorsoduro Hanover, Ron Burke, Matt Kakaley; 5, Stay Hungry, Tony Alagna, Doug McNair; 6, Shnitzledosomething, Dylan Davis, Yannick Gingras; 7, Lather Up, Clyde Francis, Montrell Teague; 8, Wes Delight, Mark Harder, Corey Callahan; 9, This Is The Plan, Chris Ryder, Tim Tetrick.

Consolation: Probably the most highly-regarded consolation horse who didn't make his way to his final, Done Well, will have no easy time of it in this event, as he must surmount the outside post nine for trainer Brian Brown and driver Tim Tetrick. Courtly Choice can be tougher with the switch from post eight to post four.

BEN FRANKLIN PACE CHAMPIONSHIP (stake record 1:47, shared by Sweet Lou (2014) and Always B Miki (2016)

McWicked, who won the Hempt Pace Championship in 2014 in a time of 1:47.3 which still stands as the stakes record, comes to the Franklin Championship as the likely chalk after a series of powerhouse off-the-pace performances in 2018, including his elimination win last week in 1:48.3, fastest of the three elim races. Though Pocono is generally not a "closers" track, McWicked has drawn post two, from which he can work out good race placement for trainer Casie Coleman and driver Brian Sears.

Heaven Rocks A, a champion in his native Down Under and an emerging force on the North American scene, draws post four for trainer Ross Croghan and driver David Miller off his 1:49.3 elim win, and may not yet have found his best stride Stateside. The other elimination offered more questions than answers: Sintra, the favorite, crossed the wire first in 1:48.4, but was placed back for a violation of the pylons rule in the stretch, thus elevating All Bets Off to first and the title of "longshot of the elims" (at a $9.00 mutuel. All Bets Off will start from post five for trainer Ron Burke (who qualified three for the Franklin finale) and driver Matt Kakaley, while Sintra must contend with post seven for trainer David Menary and driver Jody Jamieson.

RACE 11 -- $500,000 BEN FRANKLIN PACE CHAMPIONSHIP - Free-For-Allers

1, Mac's Jackpot, Jeffrey Smith, Brett Miller; 2, McWicked, Casie Coleman, Brian Sears; 3, Donttellmeagain, Jim King Jr., Tim Tetrick; 4, Heaven Rocks A, Ross Croghan; 5, All Bets Off, Ron Burke, Matt Kakaley; 6, Rockin Ron, Ron Burke, Louis Philippe Roy; 7, Sintra, David Menary, Jody Jamieson; 8, Filibuster Hanover, Ron Burke, Yannick Gingras; 9, Western Fame, Jimmy Takter, Andrew McCarthy.

Consolation: The horses in the Franklin Consolation have among them 205 lifetime wins and $9,825,733 in earnings, and an average mark of 1:48.1 - and this is the consolation! Mach It So may be well-regarded from the rail after setting a fast pace and finishing fourth in his elim; he won the Commodore Barry at Philly two starts ago.

$500,000 EARL BEAL TROT CHAMPIONSHIP (stake record 1:50.2, Father Patrick, 2014)

Stake recordholder Father Patrick was a pupil of trainer Jimmy Takter, and this year Takter rolled the dice and sent his undefeated champion filly Manchego in "against the boys." Manchego ran her lifetime win streak to 15 with an elimination win in 1:52.4, fastest of last week's three Beal events. But the gelding Crystal Fashion missed only a nose to the top filly, and both will have to have their "A" game as they square off in the Beal: Manchego from post six, with Yannick Gingras up, and Crystal Fashion from post four for trainer Jim Campbell (who has three Beal starters) and driver Tim Tetrick.

Champions outside of Pennsylvania won the other two eliminations: Ohio invader Mission Accepted rolled to his eighth win in a row in 1:53.2 for driver Ryan Stahl and trainer Jeff Conger, and got a good draw in post three, while Six Pack, a 1:53.3 elim winner to remain perfect in four 2018 starts, was not fortunate at all for trainer Ã…ke Svanstedt, forced to begin from the outside post nine.


1, Lawmaker, Andrew Harris, Anthony MacDonald; 2, Patent Leather, Jim Campbell, Brian Sears; 3, Mission Accepted, Jeff Conger, Ryan Stahl; 4, Crystal Fashion, Jim Campbell, Tim Tetrick; 5, Fashionwoodchopper, Jim Campbell, David Miller; 6, Manchego, Jimmy Takter, Yannick Gingras; 7, Mississippi Storm, Tom Fanning, David Miller also listed; 8, Evaluate, Marcus Melander, Tim Tetrick also listed; 9, Six Pack, trainer-driver Ã…ke Svanstedt.

Consolation: A wide-open event; perhaps the best line was turned in by 2017 Breeders Crown champion Fiftydallarbill, who had to endure an interference break while eight just past the half, yet rallied to be fourth, just photoed from a chance to race for the big money.

FINISHING LINE - There is also a horse on the card who is a former Breeders Crown and Ben Franklin winner, both right on the local surface. He has higher earnings by far than any horse entered tonight, and more than most of the entire fields - a harness racing world record $7,577,638.

His name is Foiled Again. He starts from post two in the third race. And if the 14-year-old wins, it will be the 100th victory in his storied career.

From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

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