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Wilkes-Barre, PA - The pocket rocket This Is The Plan prevailed on Sun Stakes Saturday night (June 29) at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. He ducked inside pacesetting favorite Western Fame, went to the lead, then held off defending Ben Franklin champion McWicked to take this year's $500,000 Ben Franklin final in 1:48.2, with the 4-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding setting a new mark. Yannick Gingras got This Is The Plan out to command early, then let Western Fame go to the lead near the :26.3 quarter. Western Fame reached the half in :54.2, then turned on the afterburners as McWicked moved first-over, keeping that rival a few lengths behind by going the third split in :26.2 en route to a 1:20.4 three-quarters. Around the turn, though, the field crept closer, with This Is The Plan right on Western Fame's back and McWicked getting closer. In the stretch, the famed Pocono Pike provided the avenue to victory for the winner, as he finished a neck ahead of a never-say-die McWicked, with Western Fame another half-length back. "I thought if I could get a two-hole trip behind Western Fame, we could be at least second," Gingras noted after the race. "He was sharp in his elimination (second to Western Fame), and he was less grabby than he was last week, except maybe late on the turn, but generally he was more relaxed, and he took advantage of the trip." Ron Burke conditions the winner of $917,915 for Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby, and Lawrence Karr. Driver Gingras went to the Franklin winner's circle for the second time, the first with the great Foiled Again in 2013. In the $75,000 Franklin consolation, Highalator bolted out of third before the half, cleared to the three-quarters in 1:20, and went on to the fastest mile of the year on a five-eighths-mile track, 1:48, while leaving his field 4-1/4 lengths behind. Hitman Hill and Filibuster Hanover had argued through bruising early fractions of :25.2 and :53.1, and thus the front end had been softened when Highalator and driver Richard Still made his huge backstretch brush and drew off. The son of Somebeachsomewhere has now won 30 of 64 lifetime starts and $466,528 for trainer Jenny Bier, co-owner with Joann Dombeck and Midsize Construction Inc. PHHA/Pocono    

No horse has ever captured multiple Ben Franklin Pace trophies, and harness racing elimination winners Western Fame and Lather Up are among the group of eight older male pacers that will try to keep returning champion McWicked from becoming the first. Western Fame is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in Saturday's (June 29) $500,000 Ben Franklin final at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono while Lather Up is the 4-1 third choice behind McWicked at 3-1. Western Fame won the faster of last week's two eliminations, defeating This Is The Plan by three-quarters of a length in 1:48.1. It was Western Fame's first start in seven weeks, following a fifth-place finish in an invitational at Pocono. Prior to that loss, the 6-year-old stallion reeled off four consecutive victories on his way to claiming the Levy Memorial Pacing Series championship at Yonkers. "He's back like he was early in the year," said Western Fame's driver, Dan Dube. "You never miss a week (in the six-week) Levy and it's tough. He had a little bit of time off and he's fresh right now. I think if we get some racing luck, the horse is good, we should be all right." Western Fame, who starts from post four on Saturday at Pocono, has won six of nine races this season and banked a career-high $466,300. For his career, Western Fame has won 22 of 76 starts and $1.50 million. Rene Allard trains the horse for owners Go Fast Stable, Stephen Klunowski, B & I Stables, and Gilbert Short. "He's done everything right," Dube said about Western Fame, who has hit the board in eight of his nine races this season. "I like everything about him. He's got good gate speed and when you turn for home, he goes again. He's just a nice horse." Lather Up won his Ben Franklin elimination by a neck over Springsteen in 1:50.1. The 4-year-old stallion has won four of six races this season and earned $95,960 for trainer Clyde Francis and breeder/owners Barbara and Gary Iles. He will start Saturday from post seven with regular driver Montrell Teague. "You never want to be outside that far," Teague said. "Usually when there is that much money on the line they mix it up; that's what I'm hoping for, anyway. But you never know how it's going to work out." Lather Up was one of the sport's top 3-year-olds in 2018, with his 11 wins including the North America Cup. He is among four 4-year-olds in the Franklin's nine-horse field. A 4-year-old has won the Ben Franklin four times in its 12-year history, with the most recent being Luck Be Withyou in 2015. The others came in succession: Vintage Master (2010), We Will See (2011) and Betterthancheddar (2012). For his career, Lather Up has won 19 of 31 races and $1.06 million. "Judging from last year, I didn't think he would have a problem going to the open ranks and going against older horses," Teague said. "He's proved it so far. He's come back and is winning races and it can't get much better than that. He's matured (from last year) and it seems like he's still got the same kind of speed. He was one of the better ones last year so I thought it would translate to the open ranks." The remaining 4-year-olds in the Franklin are Springsteen, This Is The Plan, and Dorsoduro Hanover, who was the 2018 Dan Patch Award winner for best 3-year-old male pacer. McWicked, who leaves from post one Saturday with Brian Sears at the lines for trainer Casie Coleman, finished third in the Franklin elimination won by Lather Up. The 2018 Horse of the Year has one win and two third-place finishes in three starts this season. The 8-year-old stallion could become the first repeat winner of the Franklin but would not be the oldest. That distinction is shared by Foiled Again and Keystone Velocity, who were both 9. Following is the field for the $500,000 Ben Franklin Pace. PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line 1-McWicked-Brian Sears-Casie Coleman-3/1 2-Springsteen-Simon Allard-Rene Allard-5/1 3-Beckhams Z Tam-David Miller-Jamie Macomber-10/1 4-Western Fame-Dan Dube-Rene Allard-5/2 5-This Is The Plan-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-6/1 6-Miso Fast-Corey Callahan-Virgil Morgan Jr.-15/1 7-Lather Up-Montrell Teague-Clyde Francis-4/1 8-Duplicated N-Tim Tetrick-Jim King Jr.-20/1 9-Dorsoduro Hanover-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-12/1 Saturday's card at Pocono also features the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial for 3-year-old female pacers, $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial for 3-year-old male pacers, and $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial for 3-year-old trotters. Racing begins at 7 p.m. (EDT). For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager

Silence is golden. At least it can be for Charlie Dombeck when it comes to Highalator. "He leaves me speechless," Dombeck said when discussing the 5-year-old harness racing stallion, who brings a five-race win streak to his Ben Franklin Pace elimination Saturday (June 22) at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. "I don't mind being speechless for another few weeks." Highalator has won eight of 16 races this year, earning an already career-best $153,310. He has won seven of his past eight starts, with a second-place finish by a half-length preventing him from being unbeaten during that span, which included three triumphs in the Golden Receiver Series and one in the Great Northeast Open Series. On Saturday, he tackles the Grand Circuit for the first time since last year's Graduate Series. Highalator is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the first of two Ben Franklin eliminations, starting from post four with Richard Still driving for trainer and co-owner Jenny Bier. Levy Series champion Western Fame is the 3-1 second choice. "I'm going to be interested to see how he goes with these horses," said Dombeck, who shares with Daryl Bier the breeding credit on Highalator and whose wife Joann is among the stallion's owners. "Really, I shouldn't say I'm shocked, but I'm really very excited about the way he's racing. I think he's the best he's ever been in his life. I think he could have a hell of a year." In 2018, Highalator won a preliminary round of the Graduate Series and finished sixth in the final from post 10. For his career, the son of Somebeachsomewhere-Higher And Higher has won 29 of 62 races and $429,028. He is owned by Bier, Dombeck, and Midsize Construction Inc. "I always thought he was a good horse," Dombeck said. "A lot of times when he got into the big finals he drew terrible or had terrible racing luck, but I always thought he was a nice horse. This year he came back, if you see him up close, he looks like a bull. He's just all muscled out. He just amazes me. "I'm happy for Jenny, she's done a great job. He looks so beautiful when he's going, he's got his head up and he's straight; maybe I'm a little prejudiced. And Ricky Still has done some job. Nobody could have driven him any better than he's been driving him. He's got a lot of confidence in the horse." Highalator seen here winning at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono The top-four finishers from each Ben Franklin elimination plus the fifth-place finisher with the highest 2019 earnings advance to the $500,000 final on June 29 at Pocono. "I just want to be in the hunt at the end of the stretch," Dombeck said. "I've been in this game long enough to know (the ups and downs). When they're doing good, ride it, and that's it. Just hope for the best. "It will be fun. Whatever happens he's a nice horse." The second Ben Franklin elimination finds McWicked, the 2018 Horse of the Year in the U.S. and Canada, as the 5-2 morning-line favorite. Lather Up, a two-time winner in this year's preliminary rounds of the Graduate Series, is the 3-1 second choice. McWicked is making his third start of the season. He won his debut before finishing third in last week's Mohawk Gold Cup Invitational off a nearly one-month layoff. Saturday's card at Pocono begins at 7 p.m. (EDT) and also includes eliminations for the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial for 3-year-old male trotters, Max C. Hempt Memorial for 3-year-old male pacers, and James M. Lynch Memorial for 3-year-old female pacers. For complete entries, click here. Ken Weingartner

Harness racing is a fascinating sport, in large part because of its unpredictability. Coming into Sun Stakes Saturday at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, we previewed the races and focused on the horses that seemed likely to dominate the action. By the time the dust cleared on Saturday night, only one of the four races went even remotely how all of those previews expected it go. And we weren't alone: The races also flummoxed the betting public, as just one of the four huge stakes races on the card went to a favorite. More than that though, the biggest names on the program, for the most part, struggled, while some new, unsung heroes stepped up in their wake. As we take a look back at the four finals from Saturday while keeping a watchful eye on the horizon and the Breeders Crown at Pocono in October, it all comes back down to a powerful lesson: In this sport, nobody knows anything. $300,000 JAMES M LYNCH MEMORIAL PACE (Three-year-old fillies) The favorite in this race was Sidewalk Dancer, who was coming off a hard-luck loss in the eliminations but stood to enjoy a much better post position in the final. Kissin In The Sand, who had beaten Sidewalk Dancer the week before, was saddled with an outside post this time around. Meanwhile Youaremycandygirl, the defending division champion, seemed ready for a big mile on the front end following her own elimination win. Kissin In The Sand did indeed get the worst of it, parked the entire mile outside of pacesetting Youaremycandygirl. But driver Scott Zeron made the best of it, keeping Kissin In The Sand afloat somehow until she surged past Youaremycandygirl to win it by a neck for trainer Nancy Johansson in a career-best 1:49.3 $500,000 MAX C. HEMPT MEMORIAL PACE (Three-year-olds) Lather Up came into the final looking absolutely unbeatable. Winner of his first seven starts on the year, including a triumph in the lucrative North American Cup and a waltz in the previous week's eliminations, he was bet down to odds-on. For whatever reason, he just never fired, starting in the middle of the pack, stalling out on a first-over attempt, and even eventually going off stride. That didn't stop the others in the field for going after the huge purse with everything they had. Dorsoduro Hanover set a nasty pace, leading to the closers coming into the picture. The best of those closers was Springsteen, overlooked at 15-1 despite an impressive record and despite coming from the Rene Allard barn. With Simon Allard in the bike, he glided around the tiring leaders late to win in a career-best 1:48.3. Glory days, indeed. $500,000 BEN FRANKLIN PACE (Free-For-All) McWicked was attempting to become the first horse in history to win both the Hempt and the Franklin, all the more impressive because of the four years elapsed between his Hempt win as a three-year-old. The pride of the Casie Coleman barn has been stellar this year, even when in defeat, and he conjured up a second-over trip in the final as the 3-5 choice. The one thing that didn't go according to plan for the seven-year-old stallion was a pace that was rather tepid. Under normal circumstances, that would make it difficult for a horse coming from off the pace. But McWicked is good enough to overcome such circumstances. When driver Brian Sears called on him for more, he blitzed the leaders and hustled home for the victory in 1:49.3, securing the Hempt-Franklin Daily Double in the process. $500,000 EARL BEAL JR MEMORIAL TROT (Three-year-olds) This race was billed as one where something had to give. Mission Accepted came in from Ohio to win an elimination and stood four-for-four this year. Six Pack, a New York invader, trumped that with seven straight wins dating to last season. And then there was Manchego, the superstar filly unbeaten after 15 career races and trying to beat the boys. It turned out that they all gave. The late-trotting style of Mission Accepted didn't suit a race where there were soft fractions. Meanwhile Six Pack, who grabbed the early lead, and Manchego, who came first-over, weakened each other. Manchego's winning streak went up in flames when she went off-stride, Six Pack wearied, and Crystal Fashion, driven by Tim Tetrick and trained by Jim Campbell, showed them all how it was done by rallying from the pocket to win in 1:51.4 It was another thrilling Sun Stakes Saturday, even if it didn't turn out as quite expected. The surprising results only make the divisions involved more interesting as we head towards the many more stakes races ahead, both at Pocono and elsewhere. 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

Here are photos of the big winners on Sun Stakes Saturday at Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs. Photos by Raymond Lance and Curtis Salonick. Brian Sears won two Sun Stakes as he captured the $500,000 Ben Franklin Open Pace Final with McWicked for trainer Casie Colemen in 1:49.3. In the $500,000 Max Hempt Final for three-year-old pacers saw Springsteen a 15-1 upset winner by a head for driver Simon Allard in 1:48.3. The $500,000 Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial for three-year-old trotters saw Crystal Fashion and driver Tim Tetrick win in 1:51.4. In the $300,000 James Lynch Memorial for three-year-old pacing fillies, it was Kissin In The Sand and driver Scott Zeron, roughing it out on the outside against Yourmycandygirl and just getting up at the finish in 1:49.3. With a great burst of speed in the stretch, Split The House and driver Brian Sears nipped Boogie Shuffle (Dave Miller) at the wire to win the $75,000 Ben Franklin consolaton pace in 1:49.  Split The House won by half a length. Dealt A Winner (Brett Miller) was third. Split The House went off at odds of 14-1 and paid $31.20 to win.  A tick or so faster was Courtly Choice and driver David Miller as they won the $75,000 Max Hempt consolation race in 1:48.4. Brett Miller and Fifydallarbill were able to hold off Moosonee and driver Tim Tetrick to win the $75,000 Earl Beal Jr. Consoltation Trot in 1:52.1. by Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink  

Last week's eliminations for this coming week's Sun Stakes Saturday at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono were notable for the way that most of the biggest names were able to sail through to the finals. In many cases, the elimination week can be extremely troublesome for highly-favored horses, but nine of the eleven Sun Stakes elims were won by the favorites, while the other two favorites who came up short did manage to get in by finishing high enough in the order. Although there were some highly-regarded horses who came up short of the finals, the races on Saturday are about as star-studded as fans could have hoped. As we both look back at the elims and preview the finals, you'll note that post position is a big factor heading into this Saturday. A few horses will have to overcome some tough spots to take home the winner's share of the giant purses, while others will benefit from much better posts than they had a week ago. Here's how it all shakes out. Race 9: The James M. Lynch Memorial Pace This $300,000 showcase for three-year-old fillies is distinguished by extremes in terms of the post position draw. Sidewalk Dancer, who actually came up short in her elimination behind Kissin In The Sand, will be the favorite. The reason: She had to deal with an outside post in the elimination, but for the final the Chris Oakes trainee gets the inside post. Meanwhile Kissin In The Sand drew the short straw and will start from the dreaded #9 post. Youaremycandygirl comes in as the defending division champion but has endured an up-and-down year. Although she won her elimination, her front-pacing style really benefitted from soft fractions, fractions she's unlikely to get away with on Saturday night. One to watch who could get you decent odds is the Ron Burke-trained Double A Mint, who was closing fast last week right behind Youaremycandygirl. Race 10: The Max C. Hempt Memorial Pace With $500,000 on the line for three-year-old open pacers, you might expect it to be an incredibly competitive group. But the bottom line is that if Lather Up races like he has throughout this year, he will be tough to beat. Unbeaten this year with a win in the North American Cup as a highlight, he left the pursuit behind late in his elimination. Although Dorsoduro Hanover and Hitman Hill were the other elimination winners, it feels like the one with the best chance of springing the upset is Stay Hungry, a Breeders Crown champion at age two and coming off a third in the elimination despite an awful trip. Springsteen, coming out of the Rene Allard barn, also could be looking to enjoy some glory days on Saturday night, but this is Lather Up's show. He just needs to race to his potential. Race 11: The Ben Franklin Free-For-All Pace On the one hand, McWicked was the easiest winner of Saturday night's three eliminations for the $500,000 showcase for aged pacers, gliding first-over to a comfortable win. But he only had to beat four other pacers in that split, so the task on Saturday night will be considerably more difficult for the favorite. All Bets Off, Sintra, and Filibuster Hanover come out of last week's most competitive race, as All Bets Off won thanks to a DQ of Sintra, who finished first but went inside the pylons to do it. Don't sleep on Filibuster Hanover, who was squeezed in the stretch to suffer his first loss of the year. If the pace gets wild and woolly, which it very well could, Heaven Rocks A, the Aussie invader who came from behind to win his split, could be a major factor, although McWicked also generally comes from off the pace. Race 12: The Earl Beal Jr. Memorial Trot Something has to give in the $500,000 sophomore trotting showcase. Colts Mission Accepted and Six Pack come in undefeated on the year, but the filly Manchego is unbeaten in her career, having passed her first test against the boys in the eliminations, albeit barely over Crystal Fashion. Ake Svanstedt's Six Pack is stuck on the outside, which won't make it easy on his favored style of early speed. The Ohio invader Mission Accepted proved he belonged with a furious rally to win his split. Crystal Fashion must be feeling confident following his near-miss against Manchego, while Patent Leather, Fashion Woodchopper, and Evaluate are all extremely dangerous. If Manchego sustains against this stacked field, it's hard to imagine her losing anytime soon. As you can tell, it should be a thrilling night of racing on Sun Stakes Saturday. Don't miss out on the action. 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 - Here are the fields for Saturday's elimination races to determine the various Championship finalists on June 30's $2,000,000 Sun Stakes Saturday supercard at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Listed are the post position, horse, trainer, driver (in italics if changed at scratch time today), and the morning line odds. The elimination purses are: $35,000 for the Franklin, $25,000 for the Beal and Hempt, and $20,000 for the Lynch. The Championships are $500,000 for the Franklin, Beal, and Hempt, and $300,000 for the Lynch. The top three from each of the three eliminations will return for their Championships except for the Lynch - it has only two eliminations, so the first four and the faster fifth-place horse will come back for the big money. BEAL TROT (3YO OPEN) BEAL ELIMINATION RACE 3 - 1, Patent Leather, trainer Jim Campbell, driver Tim Tetrick, 5-2; 2, Tito, Erv Miller, Marcus Miller, 8-1; 3, Lawmaker, Andrew Harris, Anthony MacDonald, 6-1; 4, Mission Accepted, Jeff Conger, Ryan Stahl, 3-1; 5, Winning Shadow, Jake Huff, David Miller, 12-1; 6, Whats The Word, Rene Allard, Simon Allard, 7-2; 7, Voss Volo, John Butenschoen, Corey Callahan, 9-2. BEAL ELIMINATION RACE 5 - 1, Missle Hill, Tony Alagna, Doug McNair, 5-1; 2, Moosonee, Chris Beaver, Aaron Merriman, 7-2; 3, Evaluate, Marcus Melander, Tim Tetrick, 3-1; 4, Rich And Miserable, Todd Buter, Tyler Buter, 10-1; 5, Fashionwoodchopper, Jim Campbell, David Miller, 6-1; 6, Six Pack, trainer-driver Ã…ke Svanstedt, 2-1; 7, Scirocco Rob, John Butenschoen, Corey Callahan, 12-1. BEAM ELIMINATION RACE 11 - 1, Alarm Detector, Benoit Baillargeon, Trevor Henry, 3-1; 2, Gemologist; trainer-driver Ã…ke Svanstedt, 15-1; 3, Crystal Fashion, Jim Campbell, Tim Tetrick, 4-1; 4, Mississippi Storm, Tom Fanning, David Miller, 12-1; 5, Manchego, Jimmy Takter, Yannick Gingras, 2-1; 6, Fashion Forever, Jim Campbell, Corey Callahan, 10-1; 7, Fiftydallarbill, Bill Crone, Brett Miller, 8-1; 8, Fourth Dimension, Marcus Melander, Brian Sears, 5-1. FRANKLIN PACE (FFA) FRANKLIN ELIM RACE 2 - 1, Easy Lover Hanover, Ben Wallace, Doug McNair, 8-1; 2, Check Six, Ron Burke, Yannick Gingras, 9-2; 3, Missile J, Scott Di Domenico, Matt Kakaley, 6-1; 4, Heaven Rocks A, Ross Croghan, David Miller, 5-2; 5, Western Fame, Jimmy Takter, Andrew McCarthy, 3-1; 6, Split The House, Chris Oakes, George Napolitano Jr., 7-2; 7, Donttellmeagain, Jim King Jr., Tim Tetrick, 12-1. FRANKLIN ELIM RACE 4 - 1, Rockin Ron, Ron Burke, Matt Kakaley, 5-2; 2, Scott Rocks, Hunter Oakes, George Napolitano Jr., 7-2; 3, Waikiki Beach A, Ross Croghan, Scott Zeron, 6-1; 4, McWicked, Casey Coleman, Brian Sears, 2-1; 5, Mach It So, Jeff Bamond Jr., Tim Tetrick, 5-1; 6, Mac's Jackpot, Jeffrey Smith, Brett Miller, 10-1. FRANKLIN RACE 10 - 1, Sintra, David Menary, Jody Jamieson, 3-1; 2, Boogie Shuffle, Mark Harder, David Miller, 8-1; 3, Christen Me N, Jim King Jr., Tim Tetrick, 12-1; 4, All Bets Off, Ron Burke, Matt Kakaley, 7-2; 5, Dealt A Winner, Mark Silva, Brett Miller, 9-2; 6, Filibuster Hanover, Ron Burke, Yannick Gingras, 5-2; 7, Funknwaffles, John Butenschoen, Corey Callahan, 6-1. HEMPT PACE (3YO COLTS) HEMPT ELIM RACE 6 - 1, This Is The Plan, Chris Ryder, Tim Tetrick, 5-1; 2, Daddyofemall, Dan Altmeyer, Mike Wilder, 12-1; 3, Cinnamack, Brian Brown, Scott Zeron, 4-1; 4, Keystone Tenacious, Paul Kelley, Mark MacDonald, 6-1; 5, Dorsoduro Hanover, Ron Burke, Matt Kakaley, 5-2; 6, Springsteen, Rene Allard, Simon Allard, 3-1; 7, Stendahl Hanover, Eddie Sager, Marcus Miller, 20-1; 8, Decoy, Jimmy Takter, David Miller, 10-1; 9, Closing Statement, Joe Holloway, Brian Sears, 15-1. HEMPT ELIM RACE 9 - 1, Whos Better, Brian Brown, Tim Tetrick, 15-1; 2, Sometimesawinner, Rene Allard, Simon Allard, 10-1; 3, Shnitzledosomethin, Dylan Davis, David Miller, 6-1; 4, Hitman Hill, Chris Oakes, Brett Miller, 3-1; 5, I'm A Big Deal, Chris Ryder, George Napolitano Jr., 4-1; 6, Points North, Nifty Norman, Andrew McCarthy, 9-2; 7, Grand Teton, Jimmy Takter, Scott Zeron, 12-1; 8, Stay Hungry, Tony Alagna, Doug McNair, 5-2. HEMPT ELIM RACE 12 - 1, Rock Lights, Katricia Adams, George Napolitano Jr., 15-1; 2, Babes Dig Me, Tony Alagna, Brett Miller, 12-1; 3, Heavenly Sound, Bruce Saunders, Andrew McCarthy. 10-1; 4, Nutcracker Sweet, Jimmy Takter, David Miller, 8-1; 5, Wes Delight, Mark Harder, Corey Callahan, 4-1; 6. Done Well, Brian Brown, Tim Tetrick, 3-1; 7, Lather Up, Clyde Francis, Montrell Teague, 2-1; 8, Courtly Choice, Blake MacIntosh, Mark MacDonald, 5-1. LYNCH PACE (3YO FILLIES) LYNCH ELIM RACE 7 - 1, Carlo's Superstar, Rene Allard, Simon Allard, 12-1; 2, Youaremycandygirl, Ron Burke, Yannick Gingras, 5-2; 3, Alexa's Power, Jim Campbell, Tim Tetrick, 3-1; 4, Double A Mint, Ron Burke, Matt Kakaley, 9-2; 5, Hypnotic Tale, Linda Toscano, David Miller, 4-1; 6, Pass Line Bluechip, Wayne Givens, Montrell Teague, 6-1; 7, Majorsspeciallady, Ron Burke, Brett Miller, 10-1; 8, Ideal Talker, Noel Daley, Andrew McCarthy, 15-1. LYNCH ELIM RACE 8 - 1, Python Blue Chip, Ron Burke, Yannick Gingras, 10-1; 2, I'm Trigger Happy, Tony Osullivan, David Miller, 9-2; 3, Kissin In The Sand, Nancy Johansson, Scott Zeron, 5-2; 4, Solitary, Nick Surick, Marcus Miller, 12-1; 5, Cuts Like A Knife, Bruce Saunders, Tim Tetrick, 15-1; 6, Sansovia Hanover, Ron Burke, Matt Kakaley, 6-1; 7, Serene Stride, Mark Harder, Corey Callahan, 4-1; 8, Sidewalk Dancer, Chris Oakes, Brett Miller, 3-1. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs  

Wilkes-Barre, PA --- French-Canadian harness racing driver Simon Allard, who knew the late Herve Filion well, paid tribute to his early idol after winning the $500,000 Ben Franklin Pacing Championship with Keystone Velocity in 1:49.1. He stood in the sulky a la Herve and Hot Hitter, then unzipped his colors to show a Superman T-shirt underneath on Saturday (July 1) at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.   Keystone Velocity, the 2016 Pocono Horse of the Year, certainly raced like a Superhorse in the Franklin, quarter-moving in front of favorite Mel Mara then letting one go to sit on his back. Through the stretch, Keystone Velocity went to the Pocono Pike and inch by inch gained on the chalk. He went past in the last few yards and won by a head.   Keystone Velocity is himself a remarkable story. Purchased as part of the last crop of supersire Western Hanover - for $3,000, the lowest-priced of the publicly-sold crop - he raced only sporadically through most of his career; this being only the 99th lifetime start for the 9-year-old.   He was purchased by the Allard connections last year, and this year he has already earned $618,000 - more than he did in his career prior to this year - and is second in 2017 money-winnings only to the horse winning the previous race, Fear The Dragon.   Keystone Velocity now has a career bankroll of $1,158,971, with Rene Allard handling the training for Allard Racing Inc., Kapildeo Singh, Earl Hill Jr., and VIP Internet Stables LLC.   "He can race either way, up close or from behind, but I can remember talking to Herve and him telling me, 'Just do it!', so I raced him up close," Simon recalled after the race. "I wasn't sure if I could catch (Mel Mara), but the horse reacted like the other horse had a target on his back, and he just did it, went by."   Keystone Velocity     Ben Franklin Consolation   Scott Zeron, behind Lyons Snyder, alertly defended the pocket leaving and sat the trip behind the noted Pocono lover Luck Be Withyou, the winner of the 2015 Franklin and its 2016 consolation. The duo pulled out nearing head-stretch and overwhelmed the front-runner, stepping off to a 1-1/4 length triumph in 1:49.2 to a $63.40 win mutuel. The son of Well Said, trained by Jimmy Takter, boosted his earnings to $362,758 for owners Jeffrey Snyder and Geoffrey Lyons Mound. Freaky Feet Pete, in his second start of the year, tucked midpack then moved second-over, but was devoid of pace in the last quarter and finished ninth.   Lyons Snyder     Ken Weingartner

He might not be the same beast he was in the past, but Mach It So still has a little King Kong in him. Mach It So, an 7-year-old harness racing gelding with 36 career wins and $1.81 million in earnings, faces eight foes in Saturday's $500,000 Ben Franklin Stakes for older male pacers at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Trained by Jeff Bamond Jr. for owner Bamond Racing, Mach It So starts from post five with driver Tim Tetrick and is 12-1 on the morning line. "He's kind of under the radar," said Bamond Jr., who with his father has owned Mach It So since September 2012. "I guess I'd rather be under the radar and making $2 million than everyone talking about you and not doing anything. I'll take it. He's not flashy, but he gets the job done." When Mach It So was younger, then-trainer Nifty Norman said the horse wasn't the biggest or strongest, but thought he was King Kong. It's a description that has stuck with Mach It So. "I always remember that quote," Bamond said. "He doesn't look like that much, but he kind of still has that to him, which is kind of cool. Around here, he thinks he's the king of everything. He's a cool horse. "He'll always try. He always gives you an effort. Whether he's good enough or not, he doesn't pack it in. He'll always give you a shot." The Franklin is one of four stakes finals Saturday at Pocono, with the $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. for 3-year-old trotters, $500,000 Max C. Hempt for 3-year-old male pacers and $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial for 3-year-old female pacers. Ariana G, the Dan Patch Award-winning filly who is 3-for-3 this season, is the morning line favorite in the Beal as she looks to take down eight male rivals; North America Cup champion Fear The Dragon and stablemate Downbytheseaside are the top choices in the Hempt while the top four finishers in the Fan Hanover Stakes - Bettor's Up, Agent Q, Tequila Monday and Idyllic Beach - are ready for a rematch in the Lynch. Mel Mara, who is a nose from being undefeated this year in four starts, is the 5-2 morning line choice in the Franklin. Mel Mara, Keystone Velocity and Dealt A Winner were elimination winners last weekend. Mach It So finished third in the elimination won by Keystone Velocity, but was beaten by only a half-length. "I thought he raced well," Bamond said. "He drew good for the final. He's kind of a trip horse; I don't think he's going to cut the mile and win. Right in the middle, it seems like you can do whatever you want. It'll be an interesting race. "These finals sometimes get crazy. Hopefully they mix it up a little bit." Mach It So's biggest career victory came in the 2015 William R. Haughton Memorial, where he defeated a field that included Foiled Again and State Treasurer. He also won the 2015 Bobby Quillen Memorial and finished second in the 2016 Quillen, behind Wiggle It Jiggleit. He was second in both the 2015 and 2016 TVG Free For All Series championships, losing last year to Always B Miki, and was third in the 2015 Breeders Crown. This season Mach It So has won two of 11 races and hit the board a total of seven times, with his two victories coming in his last four starts. "I think it took him a little bit longer to get going than he normally does, but I think he's getting good at the right time," Bamond said. "Hopefully Saturday is the best time." Racing at Pocono begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The night's stakes finals are races nine through 12. Following is the field for the Ben Franklin, which is race 11. For the complete card, click here. PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Line 1-Keystone Velocity-Simon Allard-Rene Allard-3/1 2-Mel Mara-Corey Callahan-Dylan Davis-5/2 3-All Bets Off-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-4/1 4-Rockin Ron-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-6/1 5-Mach It So-Tim Tetrick-Jeff Bamond Jr.-12/1 6-Rock N' Roll World-Brian Sears-Jeff Cullipher-20/1 7-Dealt A Winner-David Miller-Mark Silva-5/1 8-Boston Red Rocks-Brett Miller-Steve Elliott-10/1 9-Shamballa-Scott Zeron-Rick Zeron-15/1 Ken Weingartner

Columbus, OH --- He is a harness racing world champion and one of the few horses to possess the distinction of besting Always B Miki and Sweet Lou, yet Mel Mara has not visited the winner’s circle for a stakes race since he captured the 2012 edition of the Ontario Sire Stakes Gold final at Flamboro Downs over that year’s Little Brown Jug winner Michael’s Power. His connections are hoping this is the year the 8-year-old stallion collects his fair share of hardware beginning with a victory in his $35,000 Ben Franklin elimination on Saturday (June 24) at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. “We have a different plan with him for this year,” said Robert Cooper, his co-owner. “We supplemented him to this very same race last year, but he already had a number of starts in him. We would like to space his races out a bit more throughout the year so we have a fresh horse. Right now he is a happy horse and Dylan (Davis, his trainer) is very happy with him. We think he’s coming into the race very well off his win in 1:48 at The Meadowlands last weekend.” With his regular pilot Corey Callahan at the controls the son of Lis Mara-M L Revrac will commence his journey on Saturday evening in what should be the first of many 2017 stakes engagements. Mel Mara will leave from the rail in the third of three eliminations. He is the 2-1 morning line selection, but faces a field that includes the ever dangerous Rockin Ron (7-2, Yannick Gingras), Rock N' Roll World, who paced the swiftest mile of the season (1:48.3) at Hoosier Park (5-1, Brian Sears) and a potent horse-for-the course in Luck Be Withyou (3-1, George Napolitano Jr.). “We know there are a lot of very nice pacers in this race,” Cooper said. “And not just in Mel’s elimination but all three of them. The difference this year is we don’t have Always B Miki and Wiggle It Jiggleit, so there is no clear leader in the division but with those kinds of horses in this race, we know we are going to have to be very fast to win.” Mel Mara was privately purchased by Cooper and J&T Silva Stables in April 2016 from Brittany Farms and Riverview Racing. Prior to competing for his new connections, Mel Mara had amassed $468,364 from 51 trips to the post. Since switching barns, the stallion has earned $265,600 and his lifetime record now stands at 74-20-12-7. In just three starts this season, he is just a nose from being undefeated and has been visually impressive in all three of his miles. “We gave him a nice long turnout over the winter down at Hunterton Farms in Kentucky with Steve Stewart,” Cooper said. “Steve does such a terrific job and Mel came back to us looking like a million bucks.” There are several other differences for Mel Mara than when he was in the same position last year. In fact, 2016 marked the first full year of campaigning for him after a layoff of nearly 16 months and the stallion also struggled through some issues with his feet that certainly hampered his performances. “He is absolutely sound and knock on wood his feet are perfect,” Davis said. “We are also going to ship him really early to Pocono so he will have some time to adjust. We are also going to race him more rather than train him all this year. Like he didn’t train hard this week and did a lot of swimming. That’s not because he’s not healthy, but he’s a hard horse for me to train. He just wants to go fast all the time and can be headstrong. “That’s why I like to warm him up a couple of trips before each of his races. The first time he goes out and goofs around being a show-off. Then the second time he starts to settle down when he gets his mind on business. “You can do anything you want with him in a race and he’s great to drive, but ideally we would like to have a prep race, if you want to call it that, before he goes into a stake so he’s not off for three weeks or so before, like he was at certain times last year. I just think that kind of program will work best for him. “That is one of the advantages of having a smaller stable in that you can take all the time to find out what you need to do that works for the horse, what they like and they don’t like, and that’s what we are doing with Mel.” The Davis family also spends many hours just lavishing affection on the horse. “He just has so much personality,” Davis said. “My wife and my 6-year-old feed him bags of carrots every Sunday and he’s such a smart horse that you don’t hear a sound out of him when my six-month-old is around. “Mel is the kind of horse that screams and hollers and tosses his head around to get attention. He wants people to look at him and it’s hard not to because he does have that personality. He’s also such a beautiful horse and when you look at other horses, then look at him, you see the difference. “He is definitely spoiled, but he is the kind of horse that deserves it. I’m really looking forward to this year with him because he is such a happy, healthy horse right now.” Like Davis, Cooper has a tremendous amount of faith in the stallion and is eagerly anticipating his appearance at Pocono Saturday night. “I just want the horse to have the opportunity to really show himself,” Cooper said. “He’s had some tough luck in big races and has always went up against the best horses. Then he didn’t race for a year and a half. “We think he deserves to win a race like the Franklin, the Haughton or the U.S. Pacing Championship. Sure Dylan and I would like to win those races too, but when I say this, it’s really about the horse. Mel is a world champion and he should have his picture taken in one or more of these races because of the kind of horse he is. We are hoping this is his year.” For a look at all the entries for Saturday at Pocono, click here. by Kim French, USTA Internet News Editor 

Columbus, OH --- Although he did not capture the 2016 Horse of the Year crown, Wiggle It Jiggleit still received a tremendous outpouring of emotion from some very devoted admirers who were not intimate with the harness racing sport. From the raucous crowd chanting his name as he led the post parade for last year's Little Brown Jug, to the many parents who whispered in their children's ears as they held them aloft to witness such a great horse, Wiggle It Jiggle has undeniably achieved superstar status. Unfortunately, his legions of fans have three long months to wait before the 5-year-old gelding returns to competition and commences a season that could be every bit as spectacular as Horse of the Year Always B Miki's final campaign. "He'll come back in the Ben Franklin June 24," said his owner, George Teague Jr. "There was no sense in bringing him back this month after all the hard racing he did the last two years. The last thing I want to do is pound him into the ground early this year in a spot like the Levy. It's a long year and we have the TVG and Breeders Crown at the end of October and in November. "I thought about putting him in the Battle of Lake Erie, but that's a little too early (June 3). We will start training him in three weeks, then just qualify him a few times before the Franklin." With his last appearance on Oct. 28 in the $421,000 Breeders Crown final, where he relinquished the lead to Always B Miki in the stretch to finish second, the 2016 O'Brien Award winner as Canada's Older Pacing Horse of the Year has now been on vacation for four months. Wiggle It Jigglit has virtually been an iron horse for the last two years with an astonishing resume of 51-38-10-2. The only occasion the son of Mr Wiggles-Mozzi Hanover has not been in the trifecta was a fourth place finish in the $319,400 Cane Pace in 2015. Conditioned by Clyde Francis and steered by Teague's son Montrell, the horse has banked just over $3.9 million, accumulated multiple world records and various track standards in a simply stellar career. Teague is certainly more than justified in providing Wiggle It Jiggleit with some extended time to rest and relax, which the gelding appears to be relishing. "I realize people are probably wondering about him," Teague said. "I know when a horse is not racing for that long when they usually are out there all the time, I would be asking if something was wrong, but he's just fine. He's here with me out back where I can look out my window and watch him. "We started jogging him about two weeks ago, but I just have him turned out all the time. We jog him and put him right back out. He's with another horse, Western Ace, who is 14, and it's actually really funny to watch; he follows Ace around everywhere. It's like that's his mother or something. He's really a different horse out there than when he is in his stall. You can go right up to him and pet him." Teague is referring to the fiery temperament and unpredictable antics Wiggle It Jiggle has displayed on the track, in the paddock and in the winner's circle throughout his career. Unlike many champions, the gelding does not enjoy having his picture taken and hammers that preference home with alacrity. "He is not a horse that likes attention, that's for sure," Teague said. "He likes to be left alone and do his thing. You have to watch him even when he's jogging because a horse turns around and starts pacing when he's out there, he wants to go. That's just who he is." Despite the absence of Always B Miki who handed Wiggle It Jiggleit four of his losses after epic battles, the older pacing division is still stocked with the likes of the classy All Bets Off, U.S. Pacing Championship winner Shamballa, the talented Split The House and returning rivals Freaky Feet Pete and Wakizashi Hanover. Both Freaky Feet Pete, a world champion himself, and Wakizashi Hanover, the 2015 North America Cup winner, own the distinction of defeating Wiggle It Jiggleit and possess outstanding credentials of their own. At this junction, however, Wiggle It Jiggleit is assuredly the marquee attraction among his colleagues and expectations are incredibly high that the gelding may not only best Always B Miki's mark, but leave his own unique entry in the history books. Even with all the hype surrounding his horse for 2017, Teague does not feel pressured to outpace Always B Miki or establish new records. In fact, he has another goal, one that reflects how generous he has been with presenting Wiggle It Jiggleit to his fans and spending so much of his own personal time to offer insight to the multitude of inquires about his horse. "My only hope is to keep him a healthy, happy horse so we can have him around for several more years," Teague said. "He needs to have the time to find another horse to pass the baton to that can make people want to continue to turn on the TV to watch races and to come to the track. He has generated so much interest in the sport and that is so exciting to watch. He has so many people that follow him and I'm proud of what he has done for racing; so that's his job now and we just have to make sure he has the opportunity to do that. "From where I am sitting, this is the best seat in the house. I just get to watch it all unfold myself, as Clyde (Francis) and Big Mike (Taylor, his caretaker) do all the work. Without them there would be no way all the travel would not have taken a toll on him. I'm the lucky one; those two make everything happen. They deserve all the credit for this horse." by Kim French, USTA Internet News Editor

The 2017 schedule for the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono includes four consecutive nights of racing, and a double-header on Kentucky Derby day, according to Vice President of Racing, Dale Rapson.  A total of 134 race nights and 135 cards are planned for the new season.  Racing opens at the renowned 5/8 mile oval in Wilkes Barre, PA on Saturday, March 18th, with limited days of racing in March, including Tuesday, March 21st; Saturday, March 25th, and Tuesday, March 28th.  In April, racing moves to Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday, with Sunday, April 2nd the 1st leg of the Bobby Weiss Late Closing Series for 3 and 4 year olds, named for the beloved former Director of Track Maintenance.  Bobby retired in 2011, and was responsible for the record-breaking track surface that is maintained today.  The series continues throughout April with the finals on May 2nd and 9th.  There will be no live racing on Monday, April 3rd or Sunday, April 16th. The prestigious $2 million Sun Stakes Saturday is set for Saturday, July 1st, and will feature the Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial 3-year-old Trot; the James Lynch 3-year-old Filly Pace; the Max Hempt 3-year-old Colt & Gelding Pace; and the Ben Franklin Free For All Pace.  Eliminations will take place on Saturday, June 24th.  Kentucky Derby day, May 6th, features a double-header with two Pocono live race cards.  Post Time for the first card will be at 11 a.m., and the second will be immediately following the 143rd running of the Derby.  The $50,000 Van Rose Memorial Pace for 4 YO & up will take place on the night card, honoring the late well-known local sportswriter, who was a fixture covering Pocono throughout the years.  In between, there will be the Run for the Roses Hat Review and a huge party on the track apron.  Live racing will immediately follow the second and third legs of the Triple Crown, the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.  Monday, September 4th will be the PA Sire Stakes Championship Finals for the 2YO future superstars with estimated purses of $260,000.  Also on the stakes schedule are the PA All-Stars for 2 & 3YO  in July: and the 3YO PA Stallion Series and PA Sire Stakes starting in May. Post Time for Sunday nights is 7:30p.m., with all other nights 6:30p.m.  In September, October, and November, Monday night Post Time will switch to a 4:30p.m. Post.  The 52nd season of live racing concludes on Saturday, November 25th.  ***Stall applications are now being taken for the 2017 season by calling Luann Reynolds at 570-831-2125.  Special reduced rates are being offered for the new season.  by Jennifer Starr, for Pocono Downs

Always B Miki shines in Ben Franklin Trainer Jimmy Takter says Always B Miki is a horse that will be long remembered in the future. For now, Takter and the 5-year-old pacer’s connections are more than enjoying the stallion’s present. Always B Miki won his highly anticipated showdown with Wiggle It Jiggleit and Freaky Feet Pete in Saturday’s (July 2) $500,000 Ben Franklin Pace at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Always B Miki defeated Freaky Feet Pete by three-quarters of a length in a stakes- and world-record-equaling 1:47, with Wiggle It Jiggleit finishing third. The time equaled the fastest mile in history on a five-eighths-mile racetrack. Always B Miki, who also won in 1:47 last week at Pocono, shares the record with Sweet Lou. Wiggle It Jiggleit went to the lead off the starting gate, but Freaky Feet Pete left quickly from post six and got to the front following an opening quarter-mile in :25.4. Always B Miki, who started from post seven, was moved to the lead by driver David Miller prior to the halfway point, reached in :53, and then was pressured on the outside by first-over Wiggle It Jiggleit. Always B Miki and Wiggle It Jiggleit battled each other around the final turn, but Always B Miki repelled the challenge before holding off an inside bid from Freaky Feet Pete. “I knew David was going to be aggressive,” Takter said. “We talked about it and he said he wasn’t going to sit and wait for something to happen. He was in it to win it. “The way the race unfolded, he had to work hard. It wasn’t given to him. I knew that Wiggle It (Jiggleit) would come right away. He did the right move. He hoped the :53 (half) would have stung my horse a little bit and then he’d come at him. But I have to say all three of those horses raced a heck of a race. They all raced fantastic.” Wiggle It Jiggleit and Freaky Feet Pete both got warm ovations from the large crowd at Pocono as they made their ways back to the paddock. History’s fastest pacing mile is the 1:46.1 time-trial mark established by Cambest in 1993. The fastest time for a race mile is 1:46.4, which is shared by four horses. “The track is not really as fast as it was last week and it’s a colder evening,” Takter said. “If it was a warm evening, I think they would have gone a second faster. This is not Miki’s favorite (track size). He’s more a big track horse. But he’s handling the small track better and better.” Always B Miki has won five of seven races this year and nine of 11 since returning from injury last October. He is owned by Bluewood Stable, Roll The Dice Stable, and Christina Takter. For his career, Always B Miki has won 23 of 42 starts and earned $1.56 million. “He’s one of those horses that people are going to remember for a long, long time,” Takter said. Sent off as the 8-5 second choice behind favorite Wiggle It Jiggleit, Always B Miki paid $5.20, $3.00 and $2.20. Montrell Teague, Wiggle It Jiggleit’s driver, said his trip didn’t work out as he envisioned. “He raced good, it just wasn’t the ideal trip that I thought I was going to get,” Teague said. “Like I said, you can’t go in there with a game plan. It’s a horserace, you never know what’s going to happen. “The biggest surprise was there weren’t as many leavers. I was thinking five of them were going to come out of there, but it was just the main three. (Always B) Miki left the gate good and got his good trip.” Trace Tetrick, the driver of Freaky Feet Pete, was happy with his horse’s effort. “It was a great race,” Tetrick said. “The trip kind of worked out like I thought it would. I was hoping to press and land on the front and control it, or get moved on by either Montrell or David. “David took me as long as I needed to go, I just needed a little longer stretch to beat him.” The Western Ideal 5-year-old stallion Luck Be Withyou continued his career-long love affair with Pocono, taking the $75,000 Ben Franklin consolation in 1:47.4. Luck Be Withyou, who had an outside post in his Franklin elim and couldn’t enter contention, drew the rail for the consolation and would not cede the lead through amazing fractions of :25.4, :52.4, and 1:19.4, then was kept alive through the stretch by Pocono’s leading driver, George Napolitano Jr. while also lowering his lifetime best by a tick. Winner of the 2013 Breeders Crown and the 2015 Franklin championship at Pocono, Luck Be Withyou, conditioned by Chris Oakes when on the local scene, has earned the majority of his $1,195,281 career bankroll over the red clay oval for owner John Craig. Southwind Frank wins Earl Beal, Jr, Memorial Driver Yannick Gingras tucked his whip and breathed a sigh of relief at the wire as he and Southwind Frank won the $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial in 1:52.4, part of Sun Stakes Saturday (July 2) at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. After coming out of last week's elimination with a virus, Southwind Frank-Gingras' best hope for his first Hambletonian win-was back to his championship form. Last year's divisional champion got away fourth as Hollywood Highway took the lead from post 2. After a break by Hollywood Highway near the quarter pole, reached in :27.3, Southwind Frank took the lead the first time past the grandstand. Southwind Frank led the field through the half in :56.2 and three-quarters in 1:24.4 before holding off stablemate Dayson-who made a break-and coming home in :28 flat to win by 2-1/4 lengths. Trolley was second with Bar Hopping third. Southwind Frank paid $2.40 to win. A son of Muscle Hill out of Flawless Lindy, Southwind Frank is trained by Ron Burke for Southwind Frank Partners. The Gingras-Burke combo narrowly missed their respective first Hambletonian win last year when the filly Mission Brief was edged by Pinkman. "I've been thinking about Hambo since the Peter Haughton last year," said Gingras. "We are aiming for that first Saturday in August. All these starts just build up to that. We want to win them all, but the main goal is Aug. 6." Co-owner Jerry Silva of J&T Stables was part of the Muscle Hill ownership team when he won the 2009 Hambletonian, but is looking forward to another Hambletonian win with this colt. "This is the 'Frank' that we had last year," he said. Mr. Beal, a former owner, trainer and driver who died in 2009, served as president of the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen's Association, where he was instrumental in bringing casino gaming to Pennsylvania racetracks, fought for increased simulcasting opportunities in the Keystone State, and ensured that county fair racing continued in Pennsylvania through tough times. This is the sixth edition of the Beal Memorial, which was won last year by eventual Trotter of the Year Pinkman in 1:51.3. Milligan's School, winner of his first two seasonal efforts but then offstride in his next two, raised his 2016 record to three for five with a $21.80 upset in the $75,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial consolation. Driver Andy Miller and trainer Julie Miller had their son of Yankee Glideon his best behavior and in top form for this event, as he came first-over, then held off Love Matters, who followed his cover, by three-quarters of a length. The final clocking of 1:53.2 lowered his speed badge by a tick for the ownership of Stroy Inc. Racing Hill is much the best in Max Hempt As fireworks popped overhead, Racing Hill made some fireworks of his own in winning the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial final in a rated 1:49, part of Sun Stakes Saturday (July 2) at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Sent off as the 3-5 favorite off a 1:49.1 elimination win last week, Racing Hill took the lead from Boston Red Rocks shortly before the quarter in :25.4. Driver Brett Miller then took the son of Roll With Joe – Chasing Ideals through a second quarter in :29. “That’s what makes this colt such a tremendous colt,” said Miller. “He can go very fast and then the next quarter he can go very slow. Being that handy makes him very deadly.” No one was catching Racing Hill tonight, as he led the field to the three-quarters in 1:22 and sprinted home to win by 2-1/2 lengths. JK Will Power was second with Boston Red Rocks third. “I’ve got so much confidence in this colt, and every week he is giving me even more confidence,” said Miller. “Coming down the stretch, I was saying to myself, ‘I don’t even need to pull the earplugs,’ and he’s the kind of colt that when I pull the earplugs, he just takes off. He’s just sharp.” Tony Alagna trains Racing Hill for owner-breeder Tom Hill of the United Kingdom. He now has two wins, three seconds and a third in six starts this year, good for $450,340 in seasonal earnings. Alagna said the colt’s next engagement will be the Meadowlands Pace. “Hopefully we get another shot to go to the Meadowlands on his home track and have some luck there,” he said. Mr. Hempt was the man behind Hempt Farms in Mechanicsburg, Pa., whose horses with the “Keystone” moniker won nearly every major race in the sport. A Hall of Fame inductee in 1980, Mr. Hempt was also a USTA director and president of the Hambletonian Society. He died in 1999 at age 79. Formerly known as the William E. Miller Memorial at Rosecroft Raceway from 1955-1994 and the Joseph B. Banks Memorial from 1995-1999 at Pocono, the Hempt Memorial has been contested since 2000. Wiggle It Jiggleit won last year’s edition in 1:48.2. Pure Country is at her best in James Lynch Pure Country and driver Brett Miller made their way to the front near the midway point and never relinquished the lead from there, winning Saturday’s (July 2) $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial for 3-year-old female pacers by a half-length over Blue Moon Stride in a stakes-record-equaling 1:49.2 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. I Said Diamonds led the field to the opening quarter-mile in :27, but soon gave up the top spot to Darlinonthebeach. Pure Country was on the move ahead of Blue Moon Stride in the outside flow and made her way to the lead as the group reached the half in :54.2. Darlinonthebeach slowed on the backstretch and did not finish. Pure Country reached three-quarters in 1:22.1 and paced home from there to win for the fourth time in seven starts this season. Blue Moon Stride was followed by Lindwood Beachgirl in third and I Said Diamonds in fourth. It was Pure Country’s third major victory of the campaign, having captured the Miss Pennsylvania and Fan Hanover earlier this year. “She’s just classy,” winning trainer Jimmy Takter said. “Brett didn’t have any other choice than to go forward. I was a little worried. I know (Blue Moon Stride) is a pretty good horse sitting in the back there. We had to work very hard to go to our spot, but I know (Pure Country) is tough to get by.” A daughter of Somebeachsomewhere out of the mare Western Montana, Pure Country has won 14 of 17 career races and earned $1.19 million. She is owned by Diamond Creek Racing. Last year, Pure Country won all 10 of her races and was named the Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old female pacer. “She’s getting more professional,” Takter said. “As a 2-year-old it’s a little easier to be a little dominant. There are a lot of good fillies out there. They have to work for every race.” Pure Country, the 7-5 favorite, paid $4.80 to win. Darlinonthebeach’s trainer Nancy Johansson told DRF Harness’ Derick Giwner that her filly suffered from atrial fibrillation. Call Me Queen Be, forced to go :26 to the quarter in her Lynch elimination and understandably tiring, was very strong coming off a fast pace in the $50,000 Lynch Consolation, moving to the lead on the far turn past backstretch brusher Sail To The Beach and going on to a two length triumph, equaling her lifetime mark by stopping the timer in 1:50.3. Scott Zeron handled the daughter of Somebeachsomewhere, the 3-5 choice of the large group of fans gathered for the giant card, for trainer Ross Croghan and the ownership of Let It Ride Stables Inc. and Dana Parham. The Lynch Memorial is named in honor of the late James M. Lynch, who did some amateur driving and worked as a groom as a teenager, but made his mark years later as a race official, most notably as the director of racing at Liberty Bell for its entire 23-year existence. Lynch, who passed away in 2000 at the age of 78, also was a horse owner and director of the U.S. Trotting Association. by Ken Weingartner, T J Burkett and PHHA/Pocono Downs

This Week: Ben Franklin Pace, Earl Beal Jr. Memorial, Max C. Hempt Memorial and James M. Lynch Memorial finals, The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; Cleveland Trotting Classic, Northfield Park, Northfield, Ohio; Tompkins-Geers, Tioga Downs, Nichols, N.Y.; Miss Versatility, Mohawk Racetrack, Campbellville, Ontario; and Landmark Stakes, Historic Track, Goshen, N.Y. Schedule of events: The Grand Circuit spotlight will once again be on The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono this Saturday night (July 2) as the track will host four lucrative stakes finals in the $500,000 Ben Franklin for older pacers, the $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial for 3-year-old trotters, the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial for 3-year-old male pacers and the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial for 3-year-old filly pacers. Also on Saturday, Northfield Park will host the $180,000 Cleveland Trotting Classic for older trotters, while Historic Track will card eight Landmark Stakes for 2- and 3-year-olds of both sexes and gaits. A trio of Friday night (July 1) stakes open the Grand Circuit action this week with the Tompkins-Geers at Tioga Downs and the Miss Versatility at Mohawk. At Tioga, there will be two divisions in the $77,380 Tompkins-Geers for 3-year-old male trotters and two divisions in the $55,380 Tompkins-Geers for 3-year-old filly trotters. Mohawk will host a pair of C$30,000 divisions in the Miss Versatility for older trotting mares. Complete entries for the U.S. races can be found by clicking on this link. Mohawk entries are available at this link. Last time: Last weekend's Grand Circuit action opened up on Friday night (June 24) at Meadowlands Racetrack with the $200,000 Arthur Cutler Memorial for older trotters. Displaying no ill effects after being away from the races for almost a month, Resolve powered down the road to an easy one length win in the Cutler. Resolve, the even-money favorite, was sent away fast from post seven and had the lead at the quarter in :27.1. Trainer-driver Ake Svanstedt did a masterful job of rating the second fraction, which was timed in a sleepy :30 as they hit the half in :57.1. Obrigado, the 2-1 second choice fresh off wins in the Maxie Lee and Charlie Hill Memorial, vacated the four hole at the seven-sixteenths and grinded his way into contention at three-quarters, which went in 1:25.4. Then Svanstedt hit the gas and Resolve responded with a final quarter of :26.3, leaving Obrigado behind while opening up a safe lead. Flanagan Memory, who went a third-over trip, closed well through the stretch to end up a no-threat second. Obrigado held third. Resolve trotted the mile in 1:52.2 for owner Hans Enggren. Social media was abuzz when Wiggle It Jiggleit captured the first of three $30,000 Ben Franklin eliminations on Saturday (June 25) at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, but the horse that many considered to be the star attraction was overshadowed by his two colleagues that triumphed in the two following divisions and establishes a contest in the $500,000 final on Saturday (July 2) that may very well be epic. Wiggle It Jiggleit is the 2015 Harness Horse of the Year, and is the top-ranked horse in the industry poll. Trained by Clyde Francis and owned by George Teague Jr. Inc. and Teague Racing Partnership, the gelding won his Franklin elimination in 1:48.1. Which was the slowest elimination. By a full second. Because world records were set in the other two cuts: first the 5-year-old pacing stallion Always B Miki took his Franklin elimination in 1:47, equaling Sweet Lou's all-time world record for a five-eighths-mile track (set in the Franklin final two years ago) and missing the all-time race record by a single tick, and then Freaky Feet Pete was off by himself much of the other elimination and still crossed the wire in 1:47.1, a world record for a 4-year-old pacing horse on a five-eighths-mile track. Always B Miki now has won four of six races and $91,500 this year, and 22 of 41 races and $1,319,576 lifetime. Jimmy Takter has brought the pacer all the way back from injury to the top of his game for owners Bluewood Stable, Roll The Dice Stable, and Christina Takter. Freaky Feet Pete is now five-for-six in 2016 and an amazing 29-for-33 in his career, with $1,224,050 in his till for trainer Larry Rheinheimer and owners Mary Jo Rheinheimer and Marty Rheinheimer and he completed the "Indiana-sired" sweep of the Franklin eliminations. Complete recaps of the weekend races, including the other six Pocono stakes eliminations, are available at the Grand Circuit website. Grand Circuit Standings: In 2016, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farm is the sponsor for the 2016 Grand Circuit awards. Here are the current leaders: Drivers: 1. Jordan Stratton - 191.5; 2. David Miller - 170; 3. Yannick Gingras - 167; 4. Tim Tetrick - 166; 5. Matt Kakaley - 130. Trainers: 1. Ron Burke - 258; 2. Jeff Bamond Jr. - 170; 3. Peter Tritton - 139.5; 4. Rene Allard - 125; 5. Jimmy Takter - 118. Owners: 1. Harry von Knoblauch - 139.5; 2. Bamond Racing - 112; 3. Burke Racing Stable - 72.6; 4. Weaver Bruscemi - 62.85; 5t. George Teague Jr. Inc. - 51.25; 5t. Teague Racing Partnership - 51.25. Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will be taking place next week at Tioga Downs, Meadowlands Racetrack, and Yonkers Raceway. Tioga will host Tompkins-Geers races for 3-year-old colt and filly pacers; The Meadowlands will host the Graduate Series finals for 4-year-old pacers and trotters, Meadowlands Pace eliminations for 3-year-olds and a Reynolds division for 3-year-old filly trotters; and Yonkers features Lawrence Sheppard eliminations for 2-year-old pacers. by Paul Ramlow, for the Grand Circuit

After last weekend's three Ben Franklin Pace eliminations produced two of the three fastest miles in harness racing history on a five-eighths-mile track, horsemen and fans are anticipating an extraordinary encore in Saturday's $500,000 final at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Five-year-old stallion Always B Miki won his Franklin elimination in 1:47, equaling Sweet Lou's record for the fastest-ever mile on a five-eighths oval. Freaky Feet Pete followed with a 1:47.1 victory in his elim, setting the record for the fastest mile by a 4-year-old on a five-eighths track. Prior to those two performances, 2015 Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit won his Franklin elimination in 1:48.1. Earlier this season, the 4-year-old gelding posted a 1:47.3 triumph on the five-eighths oval at Harrah's Philadelphia. The Ben Franklin Pace final is the first-ever meeting of all three horses in the same race. The event is part of Pocono's Sun Stakes Saturday, which also includes stakes for 3-year-old pacers and trotters. "As a fan, it's just tremendous," said Mitchel Skolnick, who is one of the owners of the Jimmy Takter-trained Always B Miki. "We wait years for horses like this to come along, and to see the three each at his best, it's special. Hopefully, everyone gets what they're expecting (on Saturday)." History's fastest pacing mile is the 1:46.1 time-trial mark established by Cambest in 1993. The fastest time for a race mile is 1:46.4, which is shared by four horses. Many people believe the record for a race mile --- if not the time-trial clocking --- could fall in the Franklin final. "It's a possibility if it all goes the right way," said Larry Rheinheimer, who bred Freaky Feet Pete and trains the stallion for his wife Mary Jo and son Marty. "But I don't worry about that until afterwards. My goal is to be the first one across the finish line. The time? We'll take that when it comes. I was excited with the (1):47.1 and the 4-year-old record. It will be a good race regardless. I'm excited." Added George Teague Jr., who owns the Clyde Francis-trained Wiggle It Jiggleit, "If it's a night like the other night and the weather is warm with no wind, I think it's possible they can go (1):46 and a piece or thereabouts. It's perfect the way it worked out from the other night's races. They all won, and won in big fashion. "The buildup for this race is great. There's a lot of buzz." Wiggle It Jiggleit, the No. 1-ranked horse in the current Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll, has won eight of 11 races this year. He brings a four-race victory streak to the Franklin final, with his triumphs including the Battle of Lake Erie and Dorothy Mullin Invitational. A son of Mr Wiggles-Mozzi Hanover, Wiggle It Jiggleit has won 31 of 38 lifetime races and earned $2.63 million. He has finished worse than second only once in his career. Wiggle It Jiggleit is the Franklin's 5-2 morning line favorite and will start the race from post No. 3 with driver Montrell Teague, the son of George Teague Jr., in the sulky. Wiggle It Jiggleit won his elimination by 1-1/4 lengths. "I'm not going to kid you, I'd rather be 1-9 going for $500,000 than have to race those two horses," the elder Teague said, laughing. "I'd be stupid to say anything differently. But to be a part of this, it's definitely a lot of fun. I'm excited. I'm all pumped up. I love our chances. I still think we have the best horse in the game. I'm sure the other two think they have the best horse in the game, too. Now it's prove-it time." Always B Miki, the No. 2-ranked horse in the sport's poll, has won eight of 10 races since returning to action from injury last October. The son of Always A Virgin-Artstopper has won 22 of 41 career starts and earned $1.31 million. He is owned by Bluewood Stable, Roll The Dice Stable, and Christina Takter. In his elimination, Always B Miki raced on the outside for much of the mile, but was able to overtake pacesetter Mel Mara at the top of the stretch and pull away for a 3-3/4 length win. "I don't think I've been more impressed with a horse that I've trained than I was with him in that race," said Jimmy Takter, who will watch Always B Miki and driver David Miller start from post No. 7 in the Franklin final. "I was so proud of him. "Personally, I think this is probably as exciting a race coming up that there ever was. All the drivers have confidence in their horse. They all think they're going to win it. All three raced fantastic last weekend; they all looked great. It's going to be a horserace." Freaky Feet Pete, the fourth-ranked horse in harness racing's Top 10, has won five of six races this year and 29 of 33 lifetime starts. The son of Rockin Image-Skyway Lori has finished worse than third only once in his career and earned $1.22 million. He won his elimination by 5-3/4 lengths and will start the final from post six with regular driver Trace Tetrick. "Pete raced good; I was real happy with him," Rheinheimer said. "He came out of it good, eating good and everything, so we're ready to go. I think it will be a good race. It'll probably come down to whoever gets the breaks and the racing luck." In addition to the "Big Three," the Franklin final includes Canada's 2015 Horse of the Year State Treasurer plus world champions Mel Mara, who defeated Always B Miki earlier this season, and Always At My Place. Add in Shamballa and the 10-horse field features seven horses that have won in 1:48 or faster. Below is the Ben Franklin field followed by the fields for the remaining stakes Saturday at Pocono: $500,000 Ben Franklin (Race 11; estimated post time 9:55 p.m.) PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-ML 1 - Mel Mara - Corey Callahan - Dylan Davis - 6/1 2 - Shamballa - Scott Zeron - Rick Zeron - 8/1 3 - Wiggle It Jiggleit - Montrell Teague - Clyde Francis - 5/2 4 - State Treasurer - Tim Tetrick - Ian Moore - 15/1 5 - Sunfire Blue Chip - Brett Miller - Jimmy Takter - 12/1 6 - Freaky Feet Pete - Trace Tetrick - Larry Rheinheimer - 3/1 7 - Always B Miki - David Miller - Jimmy Takter - 4/1 8 - All Bets Off - Matt Kakaley - Ron Burke - 20/1 9 - Rock N' Roll World - Jim Morrill Jr. - Ron Burke - 30/1 10 - Always At My Place - Yannick Gingras - Ron Burke - 10/1 Always At My Place starts from the second tier $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial (Race 9; estimated post time 9:08 p.m.) PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-ML 1 - JK Fannie - Jim Morrill Jr. - Nancy Johansson - 10/1 2 - I Said Diamonds - Matt Kakaley - Matias Ruiz - 5/1 3 - Newborn Sassy - Tim Tetrick - Jo Ann Looney-King - 4/1 4 - Lindwood Beachgirl - Yannick Gingras - Mark Steacy - 12/1 5 - Skinny Dipper - Scott Zeron - Ross Croghan - 20/1 6 - Darlinonthebeach - David Miller - Nancy Johansson - 3/1 7 - Pure Country - Brett Miller - Jimmy Takter - 5/2 8 - Blue Moon Stride - Andrew McCarthy - Mark Harder - 6/1 9 - Penpal - Pat Lachance - Pat Lachance - 15/1 $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial (Race 10; estimated post time 9:31 p.m.) PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-ML 1 - More Dragon - Jim Morrill Jr. - Ron Burke - 20/1 2 - Racing Hill - Brett Miller - Tony Alagna - 5/2 3 - Western Fame - George Napolitano Jr. - Jimmy Takter - 12/1 4 - JK Will Power - Yannick Gingras - Ron Burke - 6/1 5 - Talk Show - Scott Zeron - Steve Elliott - 8/1 6 - Boston Red Rocks - Tim Tetrick - Steve Elliott - 5/1 7 - Katies Rocker - David Miller - Jim Campbell - 4/1 8 - Control The Moment - Randy Waples - Brad Maxwell - 7/2 9 - Big Top Hanover - Matt Kakaley - Ron Burke - 15/1 $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial (Race 12; estimated post time 10:20 p.m.) PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-ML 1 - Reigning Moni - Scott Zeron - Jimmy Takter - 10/1 2 - Hollywood Highway - John Campbell - Staffan Lind - 15/1 3 - Truemass Volo - Eric Goodell - Douglas Hamilton - 12/1 4 - Dayson - Jim Morrill Jr. - Ron Burke - 3/1 5 - Trolley - Marcus Miller - Erv Miller - 6/1 6 - Brooklyn Hill - David Miller - Jonas Czernyson - 5/1 7 - Southwind Frank - Yannick Gingras - Ron Burke - 5/2 8 - Dice Man - Ake Svanstedt - Ake Svanstedt - 20/1 9 - Bar Hopping - Tim Tetrick - Jimmy Takter - 4/1 by Ken Weingartner/Harness Racing Communications/USTA  

What can they possibly do for an encore? That's the question on the lips of anyone who was lucky enough to witness the spectacular performances during last Saturday night's eliminations for Sun Stakes Saturday coming up on July 2 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Elimination races can sometimes feel like formalities, with the favorites shuffling along without much movement in the hopes of sneaking into the finals. But the races on Saturday were almost uniformly thrilling, with the eliminations for the Ben Franklin free-for-all pace in particular going down as some of the most memorable races that Pocono has ever hosted in its half-century plus of existence. It's important to note that the other three sets of eliminations held on the night possessed their own share of standouts and surprises. In the Max Hempt eliminations for 3-year-old pacers, favorites Control The Moment and Racing Hill delivered in their respective splits and seem headed for a showdown in the final. Pure Country reasserted her dominance among three-year-old pacing fillies in her elimination for the James Lynch, winning despite a tough first-over grind. And Bar Hopping provided the biggest upset of the night, handing 1-9 favorite Southwind Frank just his second career loss in an elimination for the Earl Beal for three-year-old trotters. In all fairness, the night really began with Race 10, the first of three consecutive races on the card that would serve as eliminations for the Ben Franklin pace, which carries a $500,000 purse for the finals. The top three finishers in each race would punch a ticket (although that got a bit complicated, as you'll read in a moment.) And the very first elimination gave Pocono fans their first 2016 glimpse of Wiggle It Jiggleit, the sport's preeminent superstar. Among the 22 wins that Wiggle It Jiggleit amassed in his ridiculously successful 2015 3-year-old campaign were a pair of huge stakes wins at Pocono. He came into Saturday night with seven wins and three places in ten starts so far in 2016 against the very best competition. As a 1-9 favorite, the four-year-old gelding trained by Clyde Francis didn't have an easy time making the lead, clearing just past the half. He then had to deal with a strong first-over charge on the back stretch from Always At My Place, who pulled up even at one point. Driver Montrell Teague knows how to coax something extra out of Wiggle It Jiggleit, which is what he did in the stretch on Saturday night. The gelding stepped away from the pursuit to win in a scorching 1:48:1, a length-and-a-quarter in front of State Treasurer. Meanwhile Always At My Place faded to a a dead heat for third with Shamballa, meaning that there will be ten horses eligible for the Franklin final, with four of them coming from the first division. As for the other six finalists? Well, the second split featured Always B Miki as the 1-5 favorite. The 5-year-old stallion from the Jimmy Takter barn won three of his first five races this year and was coming into the elimination off an incredible 1:47:1 victory at Tioga. But it looked like his chances might be doomed on Saturday when he was strung out around the clubhouse turn by Mel Mara, who set the pace on the inside. Driver David Miller never gave in with Always B Miki. He was still battling it out with Mel Mara even as he had to endure a second turn on the outside and even as the fractions bordered on the sadistic. Always B Miki then uncorked one more burst of speed to free himself from Mel Mara and the rest of the pursuit. He crossed the line in 1:47, matching the fastest time ever on a 5/8-mile oval. All Bets Off came on late for second, while Mel Mara managed to dig deep to hold on for third to make the final. After that world record performance, it seemed like expecting even more drama was greedy. But we still had one elimination to go, and it featured the amazing Midwesterner Freaky Feet Pete in his Pocono debut. Trained by Larry Rheinheimer, the four-year-old stallion came into the eliminations with a staggering career record of 28 wins in 32 career starts and over $1.2 million in the bank. Were it not for Wiggle It Jiggleit's exploits, we'd likely be talking about Freaky Feet Pete as the sport's dominant superstar. Based on his performance on Saturday night, the jury may still be out on that. From the inside post, driver Trace Tetrick grabbed the lead early with Freaky Feet Pete, and it was a lead that no one would take away. In what appeared to be an effortless performance, the stallion clipped fraction after stunning fraction without seeming to break a sweat, until he was well in front of the rest of the standout field and crossing the line in 1:47:1, which broke the world record for 4-year-old stallion pacers on a 5/8-mile oval. Rock N'Roll World and Sunfire Blue Chip were nowhere in the ballpark with Freaky Feet Pete but at least snuck into the final by finishing second and third, respectively. Three Ben Franklin eliminations and three incendiary performances. The final should be an incredible showdown, as should the three other huge stakes races to be contested on Sun Stakes Saturday. Don't even think about missing it. 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  

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