Day At The Track

Mohegan Sun Pocono Week in Review

10:24 AM 11 Jul 2018 NZST
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Yannick Gingras, harness racing
Yannick Gingras was named Driver of the Week at Pocono Downs
USTA photo

Just because Sun Stakes Saturday is now in our rear-view mirror here at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, that doesn't mean the stakes season has slowed up any.

This past week featured Pennsylvania All-Stars action for two-year-old trotters, and we have Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and Stallion Series races for two-year-old pacers coming up. When you factor in the excellent overnight racing taking place night in and night out, we are at a truly exciting point in the season, one which we'll now chronicle by handing out some Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: ZANE HANOVER

This four-year-old mare trained by Bruce Saunders made an immediate impression when she arrived from Harrah's on July 1. Facing a group of five-year-old and younger distaffers for a purse of $17,000, she controlled matters on the front end for a victory in 1:52.4. Zane Hanover was back at it on Sunday night, this time facing winners of four but no more than seven races for that same purse of $17,000. She left from post position #4 in a field of six as the even-money favorite.

In the previous win, Zane Hanover was able to get to the lead with relative ease and pace fractions that weren't overly daunting. It was a different story on Sunday though, as Big City Betty fought hard to keep the lead, forcing faster fractions from the favorite as she took over on the front stretch. Big City Betty stayed right in the hip pocket of Zane Hanover, leading to numbers on the timer at the second and third poles that were a couple seconds faster than in her earlier victory.

For many horses, that would have spelled doom. But driver George Napolitano Jr. called on the leader for more late, and she responded. Big City Betty came on strong in the lane, but Zane Hanover held her off to pick up the victory by a length in 1:51.1. The winning time was more than a second-and-a-half faster than the week before, but the bottom line is that she has collected two victories in a row against excellent competition at Pocono.

Other top pacers this week include: Davids Coming Home (George Napolitano Jr., Gareth Dowse), who picked up his second straight condition win at Pocono and third straight victory overall, doing so in a career-best time of 1:53.3; Feeling Cam Lucky (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who followed up back-to-back wins at Harrah's with a condition victory at Pocono on Saturday night in 1:51; and Skippin By (George Napolitano Jr., Nick Surick), a mare whose 1:49.4 winning time in Sunday night's featured distaff condition pace was a career-best and matched the fastest of the week at Pocono.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SPLITSVILLE

When you are trying to move up the ladder in the harness racing world, versatility is a good quality to have. Whereas a horse might be able to control a lower-quality field with no problems, moving up in class requires figuring out ways to handle tougher competition. Splitsville, a nine-year-old gelding trained by Karen Fread, was faced with that dilemma on Monday night. After winning his previous race in relatively comfortable fashion on the front end, he stepped up to face an $11,000 group on Monday night.

Not only was he moving up in class, but Splitsville was also saddled with the extreme outside post in a field of nine. That meant that driver Brett Miller couldn't realistically entertain thoughts of another cozy, front-trotting win. So instead, he kept Splitsville back from the early fray, a wise move considering the way the front end bunched up with horses trying to grab the lead. At the three-quarter pole, the gelding was three-wide in sixth, but the others who had worked hard for the engine were beginning to falter.

At the top of the stretch, Splitsville had worked himself into fifth position and, more importantly, had a clear path to the finish line. Miller coaxed a furious late charge out of him and he passed everybody in front, eventually winning by a half-length over Show Biz Hall in 1:56.4. Not bad considering he went off at 5-11 odds, and especially impressive considering the wide journey he had to take to pick up that second consecutive victory.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Gural Hanover (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who scored a condition victory on Sunday night in 1:53.2, the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono; Fashion Possessed (David Miller, Jim Campbell), whose first career start was one to remember, as the two-year-old colt captured a Pennsylvania All-Stars race in 1:56.4, matching the fastest All-Stars time of the evening; and Sonnet Grace (Rod Allen trainer and driver), who followed up a Sire Stakes win at The Meadows in her debut with a victory Tuesday night in a Pennsylvania All-Stars race on Tuesday night in 1:56.2, the fastest time in five All-Stars splits that evening.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: SUDDENLY SAM

Neither a #9 post nor a 1-9 favorite blocking his path could stop this condition pacer driven by Marcus Miller from a victory on Monday night at 48-1, leading to a $99 payout on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: YANNICK GINGRAS

Gingras enjoyed the Pennsylvania All-Stars action throughout Monday and Tuesday night, leading all drivers with three victories in those $30,000 races for two-year-old trotters.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: MARCUS MELANDER

Melander owned the Pennsylvania All-Stars action on Monday night for two-year-old trotting colts and geldings, as his trainees won three of the six divisions.

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

by Jim Bevigilia, for Pocono Downs

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