Day At The Track

The Downs at Pocono 2021 season preview

12:20 PM 01 Feb 2021 NZDT
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The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono 2021 Season Preview

The 2021 harness racing season has arrived at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. It's an earlier start than we've had in the past, which in turn gives our fans an earlier chance than usual to dig into all the action. It all gets underway on Saturday, February 6, the first of 137 racing days on the new season's schedule.

Let's start off by taking a look at that schedule, so you'll know when the live racing takes place. After Opening Day, Pocono returns a week later (no racing on Super Bowl Sunday) for a February racing schedule of Saturdays at 12:30 PM ET and Sundays at 5 PM ET. That's the way it stays until March, when we add a third day: Mondays at 12:30 PM ET.

In April, Pocono gets up to full gear by adding Tuesdays at 12:30PM ET, and that's the way we stay throughout the rest of the spring and summer months. In October, the final month of the season, Pocono reverts to Saturday, Sunday and Monday racing until Closing Day, scheduled for Saturday, October 30.

Over the years, Pocono has built a reputation as having some of the most competitive overnight racing action (non-stakes races) in North America. In February and March, the track will pay tribute to the claiming division with the Game of Claims, a series which inaugurated last year and features combined purses of $145,000 for the four series finals.

The next series to come down the block will be the Bobby Weiss Series, named after Pocono's longtime track superintendent. In the Weiss series, three-year olds take center stage. This series culminates from April 24 to 27 with a quartet of $40,000 finals.

It's at that point that the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, Pennsylvania All-Stars, and Pennsylvania Stallion Series all kick into gear. Featuring two and three-year-old horses from the Keystone State, these races draw in some of the best racing talent, lured as they are by the massive purses. In addition, those horses in the Sire Stakes and Stallion Series know they have to perform well if they want to get to the finals, which push the purses even further skyward (more on that in a bit.)

On Saturday, August 21, it's the return of Sun Stakes Saturday, the biggest racing day of the season at Pocono, one which puts the track at the epicenter of the harness racing universe. For many years now, the track has hosted the $300,000 Max Hempt Memorial (for three-year-old pacers, the $250,000 James Lynch Memorial (for three-year-old filly pacers) and the $300,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial (for three-year-old trotters,) and will do so again in 2021.

The new addition this year is the Delmonica Hanover stakes. This is a race named after a legendary trotter who won her division four times in the 1970s. In her honor, the top three-year-old trotting fillies will be going at it for $250,000. When you combine the stakes and consolation races on tap that day, a total of $2.1 million will be on the line in a single racing card.

As we mentioned earlier, the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes bring together the very best horses in the state throughout the summer. And, on Saturday, September 4, Pocono will host the three-year-old PA Sire Stakes championships, which will crown the overall winners and award over $1 million dollars in purses in the finals alone.

In other words, there will be a lot on the line at Pocono in 2021. That goes also for the heavy competition in the paddock area among the drivers and trainers. Pocono boasts one of the most talented communities of horsemen and horsewomen anywhere, and that will surely be on full display again this season.

Anticipation is high among all of us who work at Pocono. This will be my fourteenth season calling the races at the track, and I still get the same level of excitement as I ever have for a new season. It's a season that feels extra-special, one where the gratitude we all have for having such an enjoyable place to come to work each day might be at higher level than ever.

We just can't wait to get started. In that spirit, we hope to see you all on Opening Day and throughout the 2021 campaign at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.

That will do it for now, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegasunpocono.com.

 

Jim Beviglia

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