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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 jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. by Jim Beviglia, for Pocono Downs  

Coming up in this space next week, we'll be providing all of the results and commentary on the eliminations for Sun Stakes Saturday, with the elims on the 23rd of June and the finals coming up the following Saturday. These races will feature a large majority of the sport's finest performers at this time, so there should be a lot to discuss. In the meantime, two horses who know their way around stakes-level competition are at the top of the heap for this edition of the Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: SCOTT ROCKS For the past five years or so, this gelding could be counted on to drop in at Pocono every once in a while to face off against some of the toughest pacers on the grounds, and more often than not he would come out victorious. The difference this year is that his longtime trainer Chris Oakes handed his handling over to his son Hunter. In his first try at Pocono in the 2018 meet on June 9, Scott Rocks, now age eight, came up just short in a $21,500 condition pace behind Boston Red Rocks, who had to pace the fastest mile of the season at Pocono just to beat him. On Saturday night, Scott Rocks was back at it, facing off against a group of $17,500 condition pacers for a slight drop in class. As per usual, Scott Rocks came off the gate well, but others were rushing to the lead as well in the early going and through the front stretch. At one point driver George Napolitano Jr. tipped the gelding to the outside for what would have been a second-over journey around the second turn. But then George decided against it and utilized about a split-second window to tuck Scott Rocks back in at the pylons. Scott Rocks was still sitting third-in as they rounded the final turn, and it looked like there might not be an opening for him to come on late. But the waves of horse flesh parted just in time for him to make a flying rush to the finish line, upending the game pacesetter First Class Horse by a length-and-a-half in 1:48.4, easily the fastest time of the week at Pocono. It was a memorable way to get his first win of the year, and it's a good time for Scott Rocks to be peaking as he heads into the eliminations for the Ben Franklin Pace on the weekend. Other top pacers this week include Maxdaddy Blue Chip (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who came up a winner in Saturday night's featured condition pace in 1:50.1; Unbeamlievable (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who captured Monday night's featured claiming handicap pace for mares in 1:52.1, her second straight win at Pocono and third in a row overall; and No Easy Day (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who followed up a win at Harrah's with a condition win at Pocono on Tuesday night in a new career mark of 1:50.2. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: HOMICIDE HUNTER Like Scott Rocks, Homicide Hunter has been a stalwart in the Chris Oakes barn for many years. Unlike Scott Rocks, however, Chris is still the man in charge of Homicide Hunter, and he has witnessed the six-year-old gelding as he has taken off on one of his characteristic hot streaks in recent weeks. It started when he picked up a win in the Great Northeast Open Series at Pocono on June 3 on a sloppy track in 1:55.3. He went much faster than that the following week at Scioto when he captured the Hill Memorial in a world-record-matching time of 1:50.3. Coming off those two victories, it might have seemed like he would be an overwhelming favorite to win another Great Northeast Open race at Pocono on Sunday night. But one of the horses he was facing, Marion Marauder, came in with a record as much if not more accomplished. Marion Marauder had been scratched sick from the Hill, denying fans an opportunity to see a clash of the titans in that race. But they battled on Saturday night, with Marion Marauder taking the early lead and Homicide Hunter getting parked around turn two before he made the front himself. Although there were seven other top-flight trotters in the field, the showdown between Homicide Hunter and Marion Marauder seemed an inevitability. Indeed, in the stretch, Marion Marauder gathered momentum from the pocket and pulled up right alongside the leader in the passing lane. But Homicide Hunter simply found one more burst of energy and hustled to the line a neck in front in a winning time of 1:52.2. His third straight win wasn't a world record, but it was impressive nonetheless for the caliber of trotter he beat in that stretch duel. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to Joey Pro (Matt Kakaley, John Hallett), who picked up his second straight condition win on Sunday night and did so in a career-best 1:55; Haveitalltogether (Eric Carlson, Andy Miller), who followed up a condition victory with a win against the Pennsylvania All Stars for three-year-old colts and geldings on Sunday night in a career-best 1:53.4; and Lindy's Big Bang (David Miller, Nifty Norman), who posted the fastest time among winners of the Pennsylvania All-Stars for sophomore male trotters on Sunday night with a career-best mile of 1:52.2. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: CARMENS BEST This pacer's first win of the year, with Anthony Napolitano in the bike, proved a surprise, as he beat a bunch of claimers on Saturday night at 20-1, paying off $42 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ERIC CARLSON Carlson's picked up multiple victories three nights in a row this week, highlighted by a surprising win in the Pennsylvania All-Stars with Haveitalltogether. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: NIFTY NORMAN Norman always seems to bring in a high percentage of winners, and he chalked up two more at Pocono this week, including a Pennsylvania All-Stars victory with Lindy's Big Bang on Sunday night. 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 Bevigila, for Pocono Downs

It was a great week for all of horse racing with the stupendous Triple Crown-winning performance by Justify in The Belmont Stakes. That kind of thing reminds everyone what special athletes these horses are, and we at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono are privileged to get to see them do their thing up close and personal four nights a week. We see great performances on the regular, and the best of those from this past week get the spotlight as we hand out the Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: MAJOR TRICK In many cases, the horses that take home the Weekly Awards are those who are in the midst of winning streaks. Yet in the case of Major Trick, his previous race to his start on Saturday night in a $30,000 to $40,000 claiming handicap pace was a loss by a half-length in third to Eastend Eddie. That loss snapped a string of three consecutive wins for the seven-year-old gelding. Major Trick, a popular claiming commodity even at the high price, rejoined the barn of trainer Hunter Oakes in his Saturday night attempt to atone for the loss. Leaving from post position #4 in a field of nine as a 6-5 betting favorite, Major Trick sat third early in the mile. A speed duel materialized in front of him, and the fractions spiraled quickly out of control. Sensing that the leaders were tiring, driver George Napolitano Jr. sent Major Trick for a quick first-over move on the back stretch, and he was on the lead in just a matter of moments. But it also made him a target for the closers, especially considering how close he had been to the blistering pace. In the stretch, both Our Dragon King and Our Regal Ideal were closing with a head of steam. But Major Trick showed himself to be none the worse for wear, closing strong to hold of Our Dragon King by a half-length. The proof of his excellence was in the winning time of 1:49.4, which established a new career mark. Major Trick has now won four of his last five races, and it seems like another prolonged winning streak could be starting right after the one that was just broken. Other top pacers this week include: Unbeamlievable (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who followed up a win at Harrah's with a victory in Monday night's featured claiming handicap for mares in 1:53.4; Boston Red Rocks (Anthony Napolitano, Jake Leamon), whose condition win on Saturday night came in 1:48.4, fastest time of the 2018 meet to date; and Mach It So (George Napolitano Jr., Jeffrey Bamond Jr.), who came up victorious in the Great Northeast Open series on Saturday night as an 11-1 shot in 1:49.3. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: OSTRICH BLUE CHIP For handicapping purposes, there were a couple of red flags that might have dissuaded you from putting your money on Ostrich Blue Chip on Saturday night. On the one hand, the four-year-old mare from the Rene Allard barn was coming off a sharp win on May 28 at Pocono in 1:54.3. But the negatives for her condition trot on Saturday night included the fact that she would be leaving from the difficult #9 post and would be jumping a few rungs on the condition ladder to face the $14,000 group. But the mare was driven by Simon Allard as if she was the no-doubt favorite and not a 6-1 third choice, which was the reality of the situation. She quickly hustled to the front end from the outside post in a rapid :26.4 for the opening quarter. That made it seem like she would be vulnerable, and, indeed, the favorite TSM Photo Bugger came brushing up on the back stretch to challenge. But when he reached Ostrich Blue Chip, she accelerated again and left him hanging on the outside. From there, it was just a matter of sealing the deal, and Ostrich Blue Chip was able to do that with aplomb. She withstood yet another charge from the game TSM Photo Bugger at the end of the mile, coming home three-quarters of a length in front. The winning time of 1:53.1 was a new career-best and also the fastest trotting time posted at Pocono this week. For all of those red flags, Ostrich Blue Chip was the one who took home the green, as in the winner's share of the $14,000 purse. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: LMC Mass Gem (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who moved up in class to capture Sunday night's featured condition trot, winning in 1:56.3 in the slop for his second straight victory; Skates N Plates (Anthony Napolitano, Andrew Harris), who stepped up the condition ladder to pick up his second straight win on Monday night, this one coming in 1:55.4; and Manchego, the three-year-old filly superstar who stayed perfect, two for two this year and 14 for 14 lifetime, with a Pennsylvania All-Stars victory on Tuesday night in 1:52.4, matching her career mark. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: HIGHLAND DYNAMITE Dynamite, indeed: This trotting filly, with Simon Allard driving, pulled a stunner in Pennsylvania All-Stars action Tuesday night, winning at approximately 124-1 to pay off $250.80 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR. The milestones just keep on coming for Pocono's 10-time driving champion, as his win on Monday night with Myidealson N was the 9,000th driving victory of his illustrious career. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JENNIFER LAPPE Lappe sent out a pair of New Zealand-bred winners on Saturday night, each of whom managed a new career-best with their victory: Motown N in 1:50.1 and Seel The Deal N in 1:51.1. 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

Our Pacer and Trotter of the Week for this edition of the Weekly Awards have something in common. Both horses were struggling in the early part of the 2018 season coming off big harness racing campaigns a year ago. Both dropped down in class and picked up a win which seemed to ignite their confidence to move back up in class and beat even tougher horses the next time out. And both figure to be major factors going forward now that they've found their stride. Here is the lowdown on their exploits, as well as all of the other exciting action this past week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. PACER OF THE WEEK: THE WAYFARING MAN Last year as a five-year-old, this gelding from the Ron Burke barn put together a stellar season, earning over $110,000. He started this season off against the toughest pacers at Yonkers and Harrah's but wasn't able to do much damage. Then when he arrived at Pocono, he was saddled with back-to-back #9 posts, which he wasn't able to convert into anything better than a seventh-place finish. On May 26 he dropped into the $11,000 condition group, and, even with another forbidding post (#8), The Wayfaring Man rolled to a sharp victory in 1:50.2. On Saturday night, he moved back up the condition ladder to take on a $12,500 group, leaving from post position #6 as a 9-2 third choice. With Eric Goodell in the bike, The Wayfaring Man flashed with good early speed, then allowed race favorite YS Lotus to assume control of the lead. YS Lotus set nasty fractions, but The Wayfaring Man hung close in the pocket nonetheless. By the time they hit the stretch, YS Lotus was starting to feel the effects of the rapid pace. The Wayfaring Man, on the other hand, came rushing up to take the lead once he had a clear look in the stretch. But his work wasn't done, as Urban Renewal uncorked a late move and pulled up just about even at the finish line. When the dust settled, the photo showed The Wayfaring Man just out in front by a nose. His second straight victory came in a nifty winning time of 1:51.2, as he seems poised to hit the same heights that he reached a year ago. Other top pacers this week include: Baby Kitty (Pat Berry, Eric Foster), who picked up a condition pacing win in Saturday night's feature in 1:49.2, which was a new career-best and matched the fastest pacing time this week at Pocono; Tequila Monday (Brian Sears, Hunter Oakes), who followed up a win at Yonkers by scoring in the Great Northeast Open Series for mares on Sunday night in the slop at Pocono in 1:51; and Sidewalk Dancer (Brett Miller, Chris Oakes), who came in off a Sire Stakes win at Harrah's and posted the fastest winning time of three divisions of the Pennsylvania All Stars for three-year-old fillies on Monday night with a 1:51.3. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: FRASER RIDGE The move from three-year-old to four-year-old is often fraught with peril for Standardbreds. Horses go from facing primarily others of their own age to taking on experienced horses who are often much older than them. Fraser Ridge glided through his first two seasons of racing, earning six figures both years. But this year proved to be a bit confounding, at least to start things off, as the stallion trained by Chris Beaver found himself winless after three races. Things started to cook for Fraser Ridge on May 26 at Pocono. Facing a $14,000 condition trotting group, he was cut loose on the front end and smoked the field to the tune of a sizzling mile of 1:52.1. He was back at it again on Sunday night, this time moving up to the $17,500 conditioners and facing an outside post in a field of seven. But the strategy was the same for driver George Napolitano Jr., as he sent Fraser Ridge to the front end with a swooping move around the first turn. On a sloppy track, Fraser Ridge was able to open up a big lead and dare everyone to try to make their way through the muck and try to catch him. Nobody got even close. The winning time was a modest 1:55.4, but that was due to the sloppy conditions more than anything else. The proof of Fraser Ridge's dominance came in his comfortable margin of victory over some high-class trotters. It looks like his four-year-old season might be as productive as his first two racing years after all. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: In Secret (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), an 18-1 long shot who stunned a field in the Great Northeast Open Series on Sunday night in the slop in 1:54.4; Homicide Hunter (George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes), who captured a division of the Great Northeast Open Series on Sunday night in just his second start of the year, winning in 1:55.1 in the slop; and Star Studded Cast (George Napolitano Jr., Gliberto Garcia-Herrera), who won his second straight claiming handicap and his third in his last four on Monday night, this one coming in 1:54.3. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: WILLIE B WORTHY This trotting gelding started Sunday night off with a shocker in the first race, winning a condition with Marcus Miller in the bike at 37-1, paying off $77.20 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ERIC GOODELL Goodell was a regular once upon a time at Pocono, and he still does damage in his sporadic appearances, such as on Saturday night when he rang up three victories. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JENNIFER SABOT Sabot made the most of limited starters on Saturday night, sending out horses from her barn in three races and picking up wins in two of them, with pacers Some Playa and Drunken Terror. 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. Jim Beviglia

This past week brought the hottest temperatures of the year to Northeastern Pennsylvania. Needless to say, that also meant that the harness racing was faster than it has been all season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. It seemed like each new race brought another career-best mile. In addition, the fastest pacing time of 2018 was matched, while a new fastest trotting time of the meet was laid down as well. Those are some of the accomplishments that were in the running on a competitive week for the Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: PA'S CORN SQUEEZIN It isn't often that we get shippers from California at Pocono, so this six-year-old mare was a bit of an anomaly right from the start. Her performance since arriving is the true reason that she stands out. Pa's Corn Squeezin immediately began dominating the distaff claiming pacers upon her arrival, winning her first four races. She picked up wins for three different barns during that streak, with the latest of those victories on May 21 coming in a career-best 1:52. On Monday night, Pa's Corn Squeezin faced a $12,500 to $15,000 claiming handicap group from a #8 post in a field of nine in her first start under the guidance of trainer Jake Huff. She went off as the 7-5 second choice and made the lead around the first turn, but it took some effort to get by race favorite Macho Chick. She then had to deal with a persistent first-over charge from LK's Nancy Lee. All of that meant that the fractions were quite burdensome, certainly faster than any she'd had to deal with in her winning streak. By the home stretch, Pa's Corn Squeezin had shaken both Macho Chick and LK's Nancy Lee but was getting leg-weary. 40-1 long shot Dilly Dali, on the other hand, had stayed back from the early speed and was rallying heartily. Driver George Napolitano Jr. asked Pa's Corn Squeezin for just a little bit more in the final strides, and she held off Dilly Dali by a head in 1:53.1. It was her fifth consecutive win since coming from the West Coast wasn't her fastest, but it just might have been her gutsiest. Other top pacers this week include: Lawrencetown Beach (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), whose condition victory on Saturday night came in a career-best 1:49, which also matched the fastest time of the 2018 meet at Pocono; Nocturnal Beach (Yannick Gingras, Gareth Dowse), who moved up the condition ladder to win his second straight on Saturday night, doing so in a new career mark of 1:49.1; and Major Trick (George Napolitano Jr., Hunter Oakes), who outpaced a claiming handicap group on Saturday night for his third straight win and did it in a career-best 1:50.2. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: EVALUATE The racing in the early part of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes circuit has been especially spicy, and Saturday night's three divisions for three-year-old colts and geldings on the trot was no different. In the very first split of the night, the even-money favorite was Captain Morgan, who had won his first two starts of the year, including a Sire Stakes at The Meadows in convincing fashion. Among the horses that Captain Morgan beat in that race at The Meadows was Evaluate, who closed well but came up short in second in what was his first start of the year. On Saturday night, Evaluate left from post position #1 in a seven-horse field as a 7-2 second choice, with the favorite Captain Morgan starting right to his outside in the #2 post. Once again Captain Morgan fired out to the early lead. The difference this time around was that Evaluate was able to stay a bit closer early in the race, so that when he moved first-over for driver Corey Callahan on the back-stretch, he didn't have nearly as far to come to corral the pacesetter. The fractions were ripping throughout the mile as Captain Morgan tried to shake Evaluate, the colt from the Marcus Melander barn. But Evaluate stayed after it despite getting parked around the final turn, and he eventually surged past the favorite late. He ended up winning by 1 ¼ lengths and put up a sizzling winning time of 1:51.4 in the process. That was easily his fastest trotting time of his young career and set the mark for the fastest in the 2018 meet to date at Pocono. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Whats The Word (Corey Callahan, Janice Connor), who won a Sire Stakes race on Saturday night in a career-best 1:53.2 to give him two straight in the Sire Stakes and three in a row overall, with two of those victories coming at Pocono; Fraser Ridge (George Napolitano Jr., Christopher Beaver), who handled a condition trotting group on Saturday night in a career-best 1:52.1; and Rich And Miserable (Tyler Buter, Todd Buter), who followed up a Stallion Series win at The Meadows with one at Pocono on Sunday night, the latter coming in a career-best 1:55 to match the fastest Stallion Series split of the night. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: HALLIE'S COMET In a condition pace on Sunday night, this Comet came rallying through the night sky with Tom Jackson in the bike for the upset win at 19-1, paying off $40.40 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: TYLER BUTER Buter has been making the most of limited driving opportunities, including on Sunday night when he led the entire Pocono driving community with three victories. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: ANETTE LORENTZON Lorentzon sent out two trotters on Sunday night and they both came back with big wins: Spartan in a Stallion Series race for three-year-olds and Perfect Stick in a $17,500 condition. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. by Jim Beviglia, for Pocono Downs  

One of the many things making the harness racing action at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in 2018 even more exciting than usual is the brand new Great Northeast Open series. Pocono and Harrah's at Philadelphia will be hosting these races all through the spring and summer for the best aged pacers and trotters around. It will all culminate with big-money Finals held at Pocono in September, meaning that the horses will be battling in the preliminary legs not just for the excellent purses, but also for the chance to nab the really huge payday at the end. This edition of the Weekly Awards is highlighted by horses who triumphed in the series this week in thrilling fashion. PACER OF THE WEEK: AGENT Q Winning in your first start off a significant layoff is difficult against anyone, let alone a field of crackerjack distaffers. Yet that's what faced Agent Q in her 2018 debut on Sunday night in the $30,000 Open pace for mares. In addition to that, her return to racing for the first time since back-to-back stakes wins in November to end her three-year-old season would have to come from an outside post in a field of eight stars. Not an easy task, even for a mare with over $1.1 million in earnings in her first two years of racing. Driver David Miller didn't push Agent Q, who went off as the 5-2 second choice, early in the mile, preferring instead to let her sit at the back of the pack. Lady Shadow took the early lead and had to deal with Pure Country pressuring her first-over. Agent Q, making her first start in the Chris Oakes barn, saved ground until the 5/8-mile marker, when she started moving on a three-wide path behind the cover of Elliesjet N. Still, Agent Q was last at the three-quarter pole, albeit closing the margin, as Pure Country took over the lead. Once Miller guided the mare to a clear look at the leaders, there was simply no stopping her. She eclipsed the entire field until Pure Country was the last one in front of her, eventually nipping her at the line to win by a nose in 1:52.3 on the off track (good condition.) Consider her first test against aged mares passed with flying colors, especially considering everything she had to surmount to get the victory. Other top pacers this week include: Soho Wallstreet A (Marcus Miller, Ross Croghan), who followed up a win at The Meadowlands with a victory in Saturday night's featured condition pace at Pocono in 1:50.4 in the slop; Pa's Corn Squeezin (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), a mare who is now three-for-three since coming from California after a claiming handicap win on Monday night in 1:53.3; and Eclipse Me N (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), a mare who moved up in class to win her second straight, doing so in the Tuesday feature condition distaff pace in a career-best 1:50.1. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: WILL TAKE CHARGE Will Take Charge, a five-year-old gelding who did very well in the early part of the year in Canada for trainer Jeffrey Gillis, was made the 3-5 favorite on Sunday night in the $30,000 Open trot after just missing in his last start at The Meadowlands behind the great Hannelore Hanover. But then the thing that every trotter dreads befell him at the beginning of the race: He went off stride. Even though driver Tim Tetrick was able to get him back and trotting relatively quickly, Will Take Charge found himself last in an excellent field of seven. At that point, most probably wrote him off and looked to the horses at the front of the pack, as Sutton set a measured pace that looked like it would hold up when push came to shove. Will Take Charge didn't give in, however, moving third over on the back stretch and hoping for the best. As they entered the final turn, all eyes once again turned to the favorite, as Tetrick spun him off the cover and he came bounding up to threaten the leaders. In the stretch, despite the reasonable fractions that were maintained, the rest of the field appeared as if they were trotting in molasses. Will Take Charge swept right by for the win by a comfortable two lengths over Smalltownthrowdown. The winning time of 1:53:4 might seem modest, until you consider that the track was only in good condition and he had to give up that early ground because of the break. If he gets a clean trip, it will be a blast to see what Will Take Charge can really do. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Star Studded Cast (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), whose winning time in a claiming handicap trot on Monday of 1:54.1 was a career-best and faster than anybody at Pocono this week not named Will Take Charge; Holy Halibut (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who now has wins in two of his last three races following a claiming handicap victory on Monday night in 1:56.1; and Tyson (Jason Bartlett, Edwin Gannon Jr.), who sprung an upset in a $21,500 condition trot on Sunday night in 1:56. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: SERIOUS SAVANNAH This gelding came into his condition trot on Tuesday night winless in 2018, but he wasn't anymore after rallying at 22-1 with Marcus Miller in the bike to pay $46.80 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: JIM MORRILL JR. Morrill's win with Indy Ingot from last to first capped off a three-win night on Sunday and also gave him 7,000 driving victories in his outstanding career in racing. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: HUNTER OAKES The young conditioner had one of his finest nights ever on Saturday night at Pocono, ripping off four wins on the program. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. Jim Beviglia

This past Saturday, The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono used the occasion of The Kentucky Derby to show off our exceptional harness racing product. This meant a whole lot of stakes races, including four finals of the Bobby Weiss late closer series, each carrying a purse of $30,000, and two separate divisions of the Van Rose Memorial pace, each featuring some of the best aged pacers in the world and toting a purse of $50,000. We're going to give the Weekly Awards a week off and use this space to highlight that cluster of outstanding races. VAN ROSE MEMORIAL (FIRST SPLIT) Rodeo Romeo was bet down from 8-1 to a 6-5 favorite, as bettors believed in him despite the fact that he was the lowest career earner of anybody in the field. But the six-year-old stallion trained by Chris Ryder showed off the speed he has been displaying in this, his breakout season. Driver George Napolitano Jr. gunned him to the front and he took it from there, holding up some of the bigger names in the field, including second-place Dr J Hanover, who finished 1½ lengths back. Rodeo Romeo paced the mile in 1:49.2, a new career-best and the fastest time posted at Pocono so far in the meet. WEISS FILLIES AND MARES TROT I M Fishin had dominated the distaff trotting portion of the Weiss, winning the last three legs in pretty decisive fashion. But she had to push hard early for the engine in the final, and the fractions that she posted were almost a couple seconds faster than her previous wins at every pole. Lurking in the pocket was Via Lattea IT, an Ake Svanstedt trainee, who came into the final with three straight near-miss seconds but still no wins in her career. With Simon Allard in the bike, Via Lattea IT rallied up the passing lane to surprise I M Fishin, winning for the first time ever in a scorching time for the class of 1:54.4. WEISS COLTS, STALLIONS AND GELDINGS TROT This was the most wide-open of any of the Weiss finals coming in, with Archbald made the even-money favorite even though he broke stride in two of the four preliminary legs. He stayed flat in this race, but a slow start meant that he could only rally to third. Instead a speed duel between long shot Photo Bomber and 9-2 third choice Stormont Manpower raged for much of the back stretch and final turn. Once Stormont Manpower, trained by Bob Bresnahan Jr. and driven by Jim Morrill Jr., won that duel, he had to fend off the charge of Chas Hanover to win by a nose in a career-best 1:56.4. VAN ROSE MEMORIAL (SECOND SPLIT) This race was expected to feature Keystone Velocity, but the Levy champ was scratched by the judges prior to the race. Rockin Ron took the early lead in the race, with Anthony Napolitano guiding the Ron Burke trainee to relatively soft fractions. The only problem was that he carried Mach It So, the 6-5 favorite, right behind him in the pocket. When they reached the stretch, both Rockin Ron and Mach It So were bursting with energy. Although Mach It So got to within a head, Rockin Ron found a way as the 2-1 second choice to prevail in 1:50.2. WEISS COLTS, STALLIONS AND GELDINGS PACE Another Ron Burke trainee, the four-year-old gelding Riggle Wealth, was made the 1-2 favorite in this group after winning the final two legs. The key in this race, with a lot of horses in the field having speed to burn, was getting to the front end, and Riggle Wealth managed to do that after a contested first turn. Driver Jim Morrill Jr. was able to rate him well to the half, leading to an extremely quick second half of the race. But Riggle Wealth proved up to the challenge, holding off a late charge on the outside by Mach N Cheese to pick up the win in 1:51.2. WEISS FILLIES AND MARES PACE Perhaps the night's gutsiest performance was turned in by Kimberlee, a three-year-old filly trained by Erv Miller who came into the final unbeaten in four races in 2018. As the 4-5 betting favorite, she had to work hard just to get the lead, and then she was pestered by a first-over charge on the back stretch from Sharen Hanover. Even after she dispatched that one, Kimberlee had to deal with the pocket-sitting Jewels For Real, who threatened in the lane. But when the dust cleared, it was still Kimberlee and driver Marcus Miller on top, picking up her fifth consecutive win to start the year in a career-best 1:53.0. It was an outstanding night of racing featuring some well-deserved winners. And it's really just the tip of the iceberg for what's to come in the 2018 meet at Pocono. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. Jim Beviglia

Next week in this space, we will be profiling all the happenings from our Kentucky Derby evening card, which is filled up with all four finals of the Bobby Weiss late closer series and two divisions of the Van Rose Memorial pace featuring some of the finest aged pacers in the world and kicking off the Great Northeast Open series, which will continue throughout the spring and summer at Harrah's at Philadelphia as well as at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Here now are the finest performances of the past week at Pocono, highlighted in our Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: STRAWB'S CHIPPIE Every once in a while, a horse will ship into Pocono with a gaudy record at other tracks and be unable to match that level of success once it reaches the top levels of competition here. Strawb's Chippie initially looked like she might fall into category. The seven-year-old mare had amassed wins in four of her first five starts on the New York harness circuit to begin 2018. But her first two starts at Pocono in this meet were less distinguished, as she came away with a second and a sixth in two races against the $15,000 to $20,000 claiming handicap pacing mares. The tide started to turn for Strawb's Chippie when she joined the Rene Allard barn on April 16. She located her front-pacing stride that had garnered her so much success in New York and ripped off back-to-back wins while leading at every pole with winning times of 1:56.1 in the slop and 1:52.3, the latter a career-best. She joined the Hunter Oakes barn following a claim and took on the same grouping on Monday night from an outside #8 post as a 4-5 betting favorite. Even though the barn changed, the strategy didn't for the mare. Driver George Napoitano Jr. cut her loose early to reach the early lead and she played keep-away from there. Despite a solid challenge from Warrawee Qually in the lane, Strawb's Chippie once again proved her toughness with the lead and came home a half-length winner, this time in 1:52.4. With her third straight victory, those early Pocono struggles now seem like a distant memory. Other top pacers this week include: Drunken Terror (Anthony Napolitano, Marta Piotrow), who scored his second consecutive claiming handicap win on Saturday night, this one in 1:51.2; We Think Alike (George Napolitano Jr., Brandon Todd), who moved up in class to win a condition pace on Saturday night in 1:52.4, his second straight victory; and Make A Statement A (Anthony Napolitano, Jody Riedel), whose condition win on Tuesday night came in 1:50.4, a new career-mark and tied for fastest pacing time of the week at Pocono. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: GOLDEN SON In Sunday's $17,500 featured condition trot, a showdown was looming between Golden Son and Upfront Billy. The former, a five-year-old gelding from the Jenny Melander barn, was coming off a sharp victory at Harrah's and returning to a class at Pocono where he had a near-miss second on March 24. The latter, a nine-year-old gelding trained by Mark Ford, is the defending Trotter of the Year at Pocono and has already scored two wins in this meet, including a victory in his previous race in 1:52.2, fastest trotting time at Pocono in 2018 so far. Golden Son, the 2-1 second choice, left from the inside post in a field of nine as a 2-1 second choice. Upfront Billy, the 6-5 favorite, left from the #3 post. It was Upfront Billy who grabbed the early lead, a change in tactics from his earlier victory, when he sat the pocket behind a hot pace. With Upfront Billy doing the work, driver Jim Morrill Jr. was all right with letting Golden Son sit the pocket, knowing he'd likely have a shot at the leader late if he could stay close. Of course, that meant he would have to outtrot Upfront Billy, who is known for being extremely game late in the race. But when Morrill tipped Golden Son out of the pocket to take dead aim, the gelding responded with powerful late kick, just enough to corral Upfront Billy at the line by a nose in 1:54.1. That gives him two wins in a row, and anytime you can beat the Trotter of the Year at the top of his game, it's quite an accomplishment. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Such An Angel (George Napolitano Jr., Hunter Oakes), who overwhelmed a condition group on Monday night to win in 1:53.1, the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono; Elysium Lindy (Anthony Napolitano, Ron Burke), who shipped in from The Meadowlands to pick up a condition win on Saturday night in 1:55.1; and Chelsees A Winner (George Napolitano Jr., Christie Collins), a mare who moved up in class on Tuesday night to win her second straight condition since arriving from Ohio, this one coming in a career-best 1:55:4. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: MR HAM SANDWICH Despite having won his last start, this pacer driven by Eric Carlson went off at 43-1 in a condition on Saturday night, a race he promptly won to pay off $88 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: PAT BERRY Berry always seems to give bettors great value for his wins, as he proved Saturday night by posting a double with horses who went off at 7-1 (A Real Miracle) and 9-2 (Jimmy C R). TROTTER OF THE WEEK: BRANDON TODD Todd is making the most of his opportunities at Pocono, as was evidenced on Saturday night when he won with two of the three starters he sent out to race. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. Jim Beviglia

It took about a month's worth of harness racing action, but we finally received an extended stretch of lovely weather over the past week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. I must admit it was nice to be able to throw the window open wide and feel the fresh air while I called the races. I'm guessing that the horses and horsemen felt the same way about the weather, as they responded with some fantastic performances, many of which we will highlight in this week's edition of the Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: CHEVALS CLIVESDALE This 9-year-old gelding trained by Jose Godinez has certainly found a nice home here at Pocono. Chevals Clivesdale started out the year in New York facing tough condition and Open competition, but he came up short of any victories. That quickly changed when he showed up at Pocono on Opening Night and scored a victory in a $14,000 condition pace in 1:52:4. He didn't follow it up very well, however, finishing 8th in the same class two weeks later and then seventh in an Open Handicap at Saratoga on April 7. On April 14, he was dropped down into a $12,500 condition group at Pocono, and, despite a tough #7 post, he worked out a pocket trip and won the race in a career-best 1:51. His next stop on Saturday night was his toughest challenge yet, as he stepped up in class to face the $17,500 featured condition pacers. Leaving from post position #3 in an eight-horse field as a 3-1 second choice, Chevals Clivesdale started fast and then ceded the lead around the first turn to Dancin Yankee, a decorated earner of over $1.6 million in his career and the 8-5 favorite. That's the way it stayed until they reached the stretch. Chevals Clivesdale had been reserving his energy for the final portion of the race, and when driver Anthony Napolitano tipped him to the outside, he began to storm for home. Dancin Yankee couldn't hold him back, as Chevals Clivesdale powered on by to take the lead and, eventually, the win by a neck. He reset his career mark in the process with an impressive mile of 1:50:3, giving him two straight wins and three victories overall in the meet, each at a different level of competition. Other top pacers this week include Art Scene (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who captured Sunday night's featured condition pace in 1:49:3, a new career mark and the fastest pacing time so far in 2018 at Pocono; Strawb's Chippie (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), a mare who picked up her second consecutive claiming handicap victory on Monday night, this one coming in a career-best 1:52:3; and Fox Valley Cadet (George Napolitano Jr., Dennis Walsh), who picked up his third consecutive claiming victory on Tuesday night, this one coming in 1:53:3. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: PERFECT STICK A change of scenery has also seemed to ignite our Trotter of the Week. Perfect Stick, a four-year-old mare trained by Anette Lorentzon, hadn't done much in her time spent in New York to start 2018, hitting the board just once in five races. But upon arriving at Pocono for a non-winner of six trot on April 8, she immediately found her stride. Using a first-over brush on a chilly night, she blew by the pack and picked up a romping victory in 1:54:4, which was a new career-best time. The mare was at it again in the same class this past Sunday night, leaving from post position #7 in a field of nine as a 6-5 betting favorite. Driver George Napolitano Jr. wisely kept Perfect Stick far away from a speed duel that percolated between Arch Credit and Whats The Word. That also meant a long journey to the front of the pack for the mare, which included a pair of times in which she was forced to move three-wide to advance. Nonetheless, at the top of the stretch Napolitano had earned her a clear look at the tiring leaders. From there, Perfect Stick did the rest, rallying right by with the best stride in the stretch. She trotted away to win it in 1:54:2, thereby besting the career mark she had posted in her last race. Two in a row with two straight lifetime bests means that Perfect Stick is looking like one of the top trotters going forward in the 2018 meet. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Upfront Billy (George Napolitano Jr., Mark Ford), who picked up a condition win on Saturday night in 1:52:2, the fastest trotting time posted so far at Pocono in 2018; Sir John F (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who arrived from Yonkers and picked up a win in a condition trot on Saturday night in a career-best 1:53:1; and Myrna Myrna (George Napolitano Jr., Scott Betts), who picked up her second win in the Bobby Weiss series for distaff trotters on Tuesday night, doing so in a career-best time of 1:56:3. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: JOHNNY Q Despite coming into the race on a three-month layoff, this condition pacer with Austin Siegelman in the bike came up with a victory on Saturday night at 26-1, paying off $54.20 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR. The 10-time driving champ at Pocono is starting to really heat up, as evidenced by his six wins on the card on Saturday night, more than any driver has picked up in a single evening so far this year. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: GILBERTO GARCIA-HERRERA Garcia-Herrera has been a Top Five trainer for the past several seasons at Pocono, and he's once again planted near the top of the standings in this meet, with a triple on Saturday night helping his cause. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. Jim Beviglia

Well, the good news is we had our first really beautiful night weather-wise for harness racing on the 2018 season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono this past Saturday. The bad news is that it was followed by three more nights of winter-like conditions. Nonetheless, the stubbornly-clinging cold did not dampen the enthusiasm at the track, not when there were so many outstanding performances that we witnessed, the best of which we now honor with the Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: HIGHALATOR A year ago as a sophomore pacer, Highalator did much of the damage during an 11-win season at Pocono, including dominance of the Bobby Weiss late closer series for male pacers. His 4-year-old season began with him racing in Delaware, and he did well in his first taste of veteran competition, hitting the board in four of seven races with one victory. But his season immediately jumped a notch when he came to Pocono, as he picked up a victory in a $14,000 condition pace on April 7 in 1:51:3. On Saturday night, the 4-year-old stallion trained by Jenny Bier decided to step up in class to face the featured $17,500 condition pacers. Leaving from position #3 in a field of eight, he was a 7-2 fourth choice, while Bettor's Edge, earner of over $2 million in his career, went off as the 8-5 favorite in a rugged field. Highalator sat 4th early as Americanprimetime cut out the mile from an inside post. Driver Tyler Buter decided to take a first-over shot with Highalator just prior to the clubhouse turn. Highalator immediately pulled up alongside Americanprimetime but couldn't slip past right away. Instead the two stayed locked up around the second turn as well. But instead of fading, Highalator kept after it and eventually wheeled on by to beat the game American Primetime by a head. Not only did he set a career-best with a winning time of 1:49:4, the stallion also became the first to horse to snap the 1:50 barrier at Pocono in 2018. Other top pacers this week include: Catherinesdiamond (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who overcame a #9 post on Saturday night to win his second straight $10,000 claimer in 1:53:3; Drinkin Again (Jim Morrill Jr, Philip Jasper), who moved up in class to win Sunday night's featured condition pace in 1:53:2, giving him two straight victories and three in his last four; and Fox Valley Cadet (George Napolitano Jr., Rob Harmon), who picked up his second straight claiming victory on Tuesday night, this one coming in 1:56:1. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: ARCHBALD This four-year-old gelding from the Fern Paquet Jr. barn had wins early in the year at both Saratoga and Pompano before stopping into Pocono for the Bobby Weiss late closer series for male trotters. In his first try in that group, he made a costly break of stride and finished fourth. On April 8, however, Archbald steered clear of any breaks and overpowered the field to win a spilt in 1:55:3, which was a career-best and the fastest time in that grouping of the Weiss up to that point. Archbald was back at it on Sunday night in the third leg of the Weiss as a 7-5 favorite leaving from post position #4 in a field of seven. The field included Chas Hanover, who had won the first two legs of the Weiss, but he wasn't a factor in the race, eventually finishing fourth. Instead the race became a duel between Law Of Attraction, who set the pace, and Archbald, who, with Paquet doing the driving as well, made a first-over move from third on the back stretch. The two leaders were practically inseparable throughout the back stretch and the final turn. But in the final strides, Archbald finally wore down Law Of Attraction to take over late. He ended up winning by a length in 1:55:1. That winning time reset his career mark and also reset the standard for the male trotters in the Weiss. It's looking like Archbald might just be the one to beat in that Weiss classification as we get closer to the Finals. Honorable mention on the trotting side this week goes to: Lightningpedia (Chuck Connor Jr., Janice Connor), who won his second straight condition trot at Pocono to start his career, this one coming on Monday night in 1:59:2 in the slop; Body Slam (Anthony Napolitano, Tom Wine II), who compiled a two-race winning streak over five months at Pocono, with his maiden win last November, and then a condition win on Tuesday night in his first start of 2018 in 1:59:4; and Karets (Marcus Miller, James Cosenza), who moved up in class to capture his second straight condition victory on Tuesday night, this one in 1:56:1. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: CITY HALL This veteran pacer worked out a pocket trip in a condition pace on Sunday night with Andrew McCarthy in the bike and rallied for a win at 38-1, paying off $79.80 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ERIC CARLSON Carlson has been a steady performer at Pocono for several seasons now, so it was fitting that he picked up his 3,000th career victory on Monday night at the track with Call Me Richard. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JOSE GODINEZ Godinez hasn't sent out a ton of starters at Pocono but is hitting a high average with the ones who have raced, including a training double on Saturday night. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. Jim Beviglia

Since we're up to three nights per racing week (soon to be four) at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, we have enough material for our first harness racing weekly awards of the season. For those who might not have followed us in the past, every week I'll parse through all of the excellent performances by the horses and horsemen and women competing at Pocono and write up the best of those in this little column. Always tough choices, but we're certainly off to a great start with this week's honorees. PACER OF THE WEEK: GOOD LIVING This 5-year-old stallion from the Tom Cancelliere barn started his racing year off on March 3 at The Meadowlands. It was only a fifth-place finish, but, considering Good Living went off from a #10 post and was more than 100-1 at the windows, it was certainly encouraging. When he came to Pocono on Opening Night, he was made the 3-5 favorite in a non-winners of six pacing group, and he delivered on that promise by scoring gate-to-wire in a career-best 1:50:3. On Saturday night, Good Living faced a group of more experienced pacers in the $17,000 condition feature. Coming off the outstanding performance the week before, he was made the 6-5 favorite leaving from post position #3. Once again, he went after the early lead, but he faced a fight for it from Somewhere Fancy. Unwilling to settle for a covered-up trip, driver Anthony Napolitano asked Good Living for a burst of speed to retake the lead on the front stretch. Such a move often leaves a horse vulnerable later in the race to tiring. And Good Living also had to deal with first-over pressure from Ideal Cowboy, meaning that it was no easy lead. Yet he still looked sharp in the stretch, holding of Somewhere Fancy's second move to win it by three parts of a length. It was another solid winning time of 1:50:4, proving that this stallion could be ready for the finest season of his career in 2018. Other top pacers this week include: Feeling Cam Lucky (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who tore it up in a condition pace on Saturday night for a victory in 1:50:2, a new career-best and the fastest time of the young season to date at Pocono; Dancingwithdelight (Anthony Napolitano, Ron Burke), who went to two-for-two on the meet by moving up in class to beat the $10,000 claimers on Saturday in 1:54:2; and Walks Of Life (Pat Berry, Vincent Fusco Jr.), whose victory in a claiming handicap on Saturday in 1:53:3 gave him two straight at Pocono and seven wins in ten races so far this year. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: TRUSTWORTHY KID One of the most difficult things about handicapping is knowing how much to believe in results accomplished at tracks different from the one at which it is currently competing. A horse might perform completely different when dealing with separate surfaces, drivers, track sizes, and levels of competition as opposed to when it ships in. This little preface is my way of making an excuse (probably a poor one) for listing Trustworthy Kid, a nine-year-old gelding trained by Lisa Dunn, at 10-1 morning line odds in a $14,000 condition trot on Saturday night. He was coming off a front-trotting victory in 1:54:1 at Northfield, a half-mile oval in Ohio where the times tend to be significantly slower than at Pocono. Yet I was skeptical about the caliber of horses that he had faced compared to what he would be going against at Pocono on Saturday night. The Pocono faithful were much more assured of his bona fides, however, making him an even-money favorite. Leaving from post position #2, Trustworthy Kid strode confidently to the lead with the confidence of a favorite. Even though he wasn't able to completely separate from his pursuit, Trustworthy Kid, under the guidance of driver Marcus Miller, held strong on the lead and fought off a late charge by Panamanian Hanover to win by a half-length. His winning time of 1:54:1 matched what he did at Northfield and also matched the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono. I, for one, will trust this Trustworthy Kid the next time he lines up at the gate. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Home'N Dry (Jim Morrill Jr., Ron Burke), whose victory in a $17,000 condition trot on Saturday night in 1:54:1 matched the week's fastest trotting time at Pocono; Queen's Lonely Earl (Marcus Miller, Bruce Clarke), a top performer at Pocono a year ago who returned on Sunday night for a claiming handicap win in 1:55:2; and Danish Design (Anthony Napolitano, Tom Shay), who followed a streak of four wins in five races at Northfield with a Pocono condition victory on Tuesday night in 1:57:1 on an off-track. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS Sporting a great name for a long shot, this trotter driver by Jim Taggart Jr. surprised a condition field on Sunday night for his maiden win at 22-1, paying off $47 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANTHONY NAPOLITANO A-Nap has grabbed possession of the driving victories lead early in the season by following up a great first week with more of the same on Saturday night, chalking up five victories. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: RON BURKE The Burke barn figures to be a major player all year long at Pocono, even into the Breeders Crown, and it got off to a stellar start with a hot first week and four wins on Saturday night. That will do it for this week, but I'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. Jim Beviglia

It has been a long, cold, snowy winter in Northeastern Pennsylvania, one that, at press time, hadn't shown many signs of letting up. Yet there is one sure sign that spring is on the way, and that, of course, is the opening of the harness racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. And 2018 should be a special one for our beloved track and all those who inhabit it, fans and competitors, on a nightly basis. Saturday night, March 17, marks the 52nd racing season at Pocono. That is really an incredible number, especially when you consider that countless other harness racing tracks have come and gone in that time span. The longevity of the track is a testament to the love of the sport that has never really waned in this area since Pocono racing debuted. That love has only intensified over the years. It hung around even when the racing product was at its lowest point, in terms of both purses and mainstream attention. Those patrons who followed us faithfully even through those lean years have been rewarded for the past decade or so, ever since Mohegan Sun took over ownership, with some of the most exciting racing in all of North America. It is not bragging to say that Pocono is one of the premiere tracks; it is just a statement of fact backed up by the amount of money on the line during the racing season and the caliber of horses and horsemen and women who frequent the track each year. Part of what makes a special track is the ability to host big racing events. There are, of course, none bigger than the Breeders Crown, and, in October of 2018, those year-end championships will return to Pocono for the third time in the past decade. The first two events were unforgettable, and I was so proud to have been a part of calling the action. I'm probably like the rest of the Pocono faithful in that I simply cannot wait for the Breeders Crown return engagement. After all, it is a night akin to the World Series in baseball or, since we are at that time of year, the NCAA tournament in college basketball. All of the action that takes place during the season leads up to it, and it allows the sport to close out the year in definitive fashion by crowning champions in the various classes. To put it simply, no horse's legacy is complete without competing in the Breeders Crown as the ultimate test against the best of the best. Of course, there will be plenty of thrilling action leading up to that point. And that's not just in terms of the stakes races that will be held throughout the year, although there are plenty of those that will whet the faithful's appetite for the high stakes of the Breeders Crown races. What has distinguished Pocono's rise to among the elite tracks has been the quality of our overnight racing, both in terms of the horses who compete and the drivers and trainers who battle night in and night out for supremacy during the season. Attracted by the top-of-the-line racing surface, the excellent purses, and a colony of regular drivers that can stand with any those at any track in the world, the finest owners and trainers bring in their claimers and condition horses to how well they'll fare against the rugged racing competition at Pocono. Judging by just what I saw on the Opening Night program, and how difficult it was for me as an oddsmaker to find definitive favorites when there were so many worthy possibilities in each race, 2018 could be the most competitive ever at the track. That's why I, for one, can't wait to get this thing underway. For those who might be unaware, our racing schedule, once it is fully up and running after three partially full weeks to start the season, consists of action on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights each week. The one big change this year comes in terms of our post times, which will be at a steady time of 7:00 PM Eastern time for Race 1 each evening. With all of that said, there's really nothing more to do than get those horses out on the track and get this season rolling. We have a lot to look forward to in 2018, and every step of the way should be thrilling. So welcome to the 2018 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. It should be a blast. That will do it for me for this week, but I'll be speaking to you each week in this column and, of course, we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. Jim Beviglia      

For the past seven months plus in this column, we've been chronicling the exploits of some of the finest harness racing horses each week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Now it's time to go a little further and highlight the 2017 Horses of the Year. This is never an easy task, simply because there are so many excellent horses who pass through Pocono, many of whom put up outstanding records along the way. Narrowing down all of those choices from an eight-month season into just four winners means leaving out a lot of worthy competitors. But these choices are what I consider to be the best of the best this season. Let's take a look. PACER OF THE YEAR: MAXDADDY BLUE CHIP After dominating racing at Pompano Park early in the season, this five-year-old gelding made his first appearance at Pocono in August not long after joining the Rene Allard barn. He immediately made his presence felt by ripping off back-to-back wins in tough condition races. And that pretty much set the tone for what we could expect from him in 2017. He raced at Pocono nine times, often in Saturday night features, and won five of those races. He only missed the board in two of those races, and many of his wins broke the 1:50 barrier. If that kind of performance sounds familiar, you might remember that Keystone Velocity, another Rene Allard trainee, put up similar stats in winning Pacer of the Year at Pocono, and now he is one of the top aged pacers in the country. Who knows? Maybe Maxdaddy Blue Chip will follow in his footsteps. TROTTER OF THE YEAR: UP FRONT BILLY This seven-year-old gelding trained by Mark Ford has bounced around this year, but whenever he journeys to Pocono, good things to happen. He started out the meet inauspiciously, finishing no better than fourth in his first three races, before picking up a $14,000 condition win on May 6. After about a month in New York, he returned to Pocono and really got cooking, picking up wins in four out of nine races, including a couple for $16,500 purses. Then it was off again, this time to Harrah's for a couple months. But when he returned for a condition start on October 14, he picked up right where he left off with another solid condition victory. When you combine the amount of time that he has performed here this season, his excellent overall performance with six victories in the meet, and the caliber of the competition he faced, Up Front Billy makes sense as our Trotter of the Year. CLAIMER OF THE YEAR: POUNCE HANOVER Sometimes a horse can make such an impact with just one hot streak that it overpowers the deeds of those horses who have been around much longer and put up consistent performances throughout the season. That's the case with this six-year-old gelding, who made his mark this season at Pocono with a six-race winning streak. That stretch ran from June 5 to July 31, during which time Pounce Hanover had three different trainers and three different drivers. He also raised his claiming price during that time from $10,000 to $20,000. Many of his wins came from far outside posts, which raised the degree of difficulty level considerably. Overall this gelding won seven of his twelve races this season at Pocono, but that unforgettable two-month streak is the reason he stands as the 2017 Pocono Claimer of the Year. CELEBRITY EVENTSY Making the transition from three-year-old to four-year-old can be tough for a distaff trotter, because you often go from facing just your own age and gender to battling older, male horses. This four-year-old mare trained by Staffan Lind made that transition this season with aplomb, especially when he was at Pocono. In seven races this year at Pocono, all condition trots and none with a purse lower than $14,000, she put up three wins and three places. In most of those miles, she faced off against more experienced trotters with gaudier career records. Much of her damage was done in May and June, but Celebrity Eventsy returned for one command performance in September, beating the $25,000 winners over trotters. Along the way she also posted a career-best of 1:52:2 on the Pocono oval. Her performance was such that you could also make a case for her as Trotter of the Year, but Mare of the Year will do just fine. Congratulations to these well-deserving winners. Next week we will wrap up the 2017 season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun in this column. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. Jim Beviglia

As we closed in on the month of November, Northeastern Pennsylvania finally settled into autumn-like weather after an extended benign stretch. It presented interesting challenges to the harness racing competitors at The Downs at Mohegan Sun this past racing week, including a steady downpour throughout Sunday night and biting winds on Monday afternoon and evening. Yet even with the adverse conditions, our horses and horsemen and women shined, as evidenced by these outstanding performers who earned Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: ANDREIOS KARDIA Saturday night's $20,000 featured condition pace attracted a lot of excellent competitors, as that featured pace usually does. Andreios Kardia was one of the big names, a six-year-old gelding from the Tony Dinges barn who made his bones with excellent work throughout the summer with the toughest pacers at Tioga Downs. He wasted no time at Pocono, winning his first start after the ship on September 30 in 1:50:4. The gelding was sixth in his next race against a brutally rugged field on October 21. On Saturday night he left from post position #7 in a field of eight at odds of 5-1. Andreios Kardia is not a pacer who likes to fire early, preferring instead to stay back and let others set the pace. This was a race that was made for him, as Parnu Hanover set the pace and was determined to hold it to such an extent that it creating grueling fractions. Andreois Kardia sat well off the pace, and even when he started moving third-over on the back stretch, he seemed like a non-factor, five lengths back at the three-quarter pole. But Andreios Kardia was hitting his best stride just when everybody else was beginning to falter. Even with driver Jim Marohn Jr. forced to guide him five-wide so he could have racing room in the stretch, the gelding overpowered the pacers in front of him, finally picking off a game Parnu Hanover by a neck in 1:50:1. That makes two wins out of three against competition that would make lesser horses wilt. Other top pacers this week include: Sneaky Girl (Matt Kakaley, Agostino Abatiello), a three-year-old filly who has now won two straight at Pocono after shipping in from the Midwest, scoring on Monday night in 1:55:4; Pramatic Life (Jim Taggart Jr., Robin DiBenedetto), who picked up his second straight claiming win on Monday with a victory in 1:54:2; and Stirling Escort (Matt Kakaley, Douglas Hamilton), who captured the annual Grey Ghost & Poltergeist Pace for Halloween on Tuesday night in 1:52:3. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: PANANA REPUBLIC It's easy at times in the harness racing world to get caught up in the exploits of younger horses and overlook the performances of veterans. That could be why this six-year-old mare was let go as a 2-1 third choice on Sunday night despite coming off a standout win in 1:53:4 and having the post position edge on his top two competitors. Panana Republic, trained by Jennifer Sabot, possessed the #2 post in a non-winners of seven trot with a purse of $18,000. Her toughest foes figured to be Evelyn, a three-year-old filly from the Ake Svanstedt barn with buckets of class and the fastest win in the field this season, and Catch A Mission, a four-year-old mare trained by Erv Miller without a loss in three tries in 2017. Those two horses were on the far outside to start and watched as Panana Republic muscled her way to the front early. When Catch A Misssion tried to get past on the second turn, Panana Republic, with Simon Allard in the bike, held her position and forced the other mare to go on a speed break. Evelyn, on the other hand, made a furious charge at the leader late in the mile. But, again, Panana Republic was up to the challenge. She held together and held off Evelyn by a half-length, making it two in a row. Her win came in 1:55:2 in the sloppy, cold conditions that prevailed on Sunday night. This is a mare who is deserving of respect no matter the age or caliber of her foes. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Smalltownthrowdown (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who moved up in class and rallied for a condition victory on Saturday night, his third straight, in a career-best 1:53:4; Weslynn Dancer (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), a three-year-old filly who picked up her second straight condition victory and fourth in her last five when she won on Sunday night in the slop in 1:55:2; and Crosbys Clam Bake (Pat Berry, Randy Bendis), whose condition victory on Saturday night came in 1:53:3, the week's fastest trotting time at Pocono. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: EL PESCADORO In the sloppy mess on Sunday night, this gelding glided between the raindrops for a condition trotting victory with Austin Siegelman in the bike at 65-1, paying off $132.20 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: JIM MAROHN JR. Marohn's consistency in such a tough driving colony continues to be impressive, and he displayed it again this past week with four straight racing nights of multiple driving wins. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JENNY MELANDER In a week with a lot of balance among the training community, Melander gets the nod for the convincing victory by her trotter Golden Son in Sunday night's feature. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. Jim Beviglia

We are only about a month away from concluding the 2017 harness racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. As a result, there will only be a few more editions of the Weekly Awards before we use the space in this column to wrap up the meet. The racing was quite spicy the past week, as the action shows no sign of letting up as we get nearer to Closing Night. Let's see who takes the honors for the week that was at Pocono. PACER OF THE WEEK: JJ FLYNN Moving up the condition ladder is never an easy task. In the case of this four-year-old gelding trained by Josh Green, it seemed like it would be a monumental undertaking on Saturday night. Not only was JJ Flynn stepping up to face a $16,500 condition group after winning a notch below that in his previous race on October 14 in a career-best 1:50:1, he was also entering a field especially full of classy pacers, with Luck Be Withyou and his over $1.4 million in career earnings looming particularly large. JJ Flynn left from post position #6 in a field of nine as the 9-2 second choice on the board. He sat mid-pack early on, while Luck Be Withyou, the 1-2 favorite, unsurprisingly set the pace. Had the favorite been able to get away with an uncontested journey, JJ Flynn might have been doomed. But a first-over challenge by Nimble And Quick kept Luck Be Withyou honest. JJ Flynn followed the cover of Nimble And Quick to get into striking position. On the home stretch, JJ Flynn stepped wide of Nimble And Quick and zipped past him, but still had to get past Luck Be Withyou. Just a few yards before the finish line, it still seemed like the favorite would get home. But that's when JJ Flynn, with Anthony Napolitano in the bike, surged and sped past to win it by a neck. His second straight victory was made even more memorable by the fact that he did it in 1:50, resetting his career mark. Other top pacers this week include: Motor City Marco (John Kakaley, Travis Alexander) who once again won in the condition claiming ranks on Sunday, this time in 1:54:4 to give him four in a row; Montana Pablo A (George Napolitano Jr., Mark Kesmodel), who picked up his second straight claiming handicap win on Saturday night in 1:51:2; and Big N Bad (Jim Marohn Jr., Rob Harmon), whose victory on Monday night in a condition came in 1:49:2, the fastest time of both his career and the week at Pocono. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: CLASSICALITY In order to beat the enemy, you have to properly identify it first. Classicality, a seven-year-old gelding trained by Lisa Dunn, has been making a lot of enemies himself lately. His last three starts: a win at The Meadows in 1:53:4 on September 7; a win at Pocono on September 24 in 1:53:2; and another win at The Meadows in 1:53:1 on October 11. And he wasn't facing chopped liver either, going for $20,000 purses in each race, which is also the purse for which he competed on Sunday. Classicality was the 5-2 second choice, however, as Centurion ATM, a stallion who had faced stakes competition for his past several starts, was made the favorite at even money. Centurion ATM also benefitted from a much better post position in the #3 hole, while Classicality was on the outside in the field of eight. Simeon set the pace, but Centurion ATM came stalking on the outside on the back stretch. Classicality, with Marcus Miller in the bike, knew whom he had to follow and quickly latched on to the favorite second-over. Having identified his main enemy, Classicality was set to take him on. Centurion ATM took over the lead from Simeon, but it was short-lived. Classicality possessed more trot in the stretch and came up a winner by a neck in 1:53:2. That makes it four in a row for the gelding, which, considering the caliber of the competition he's been facing, is quite an impressive streak. Honorable mention on the trotting side this week goes to: Catch A Mission (Marcus Miller, Erv Miller), a mare who stayed perfect on the year with her third straight win, the last two of which have come at Pocono after a condition victory on Sunday night in 1:54:4; Silvermass Volo (Simon Allard, Michael Holcman), who churned his way to his second straight condition win on Sunday night and did so in a new career-best time of 1:54; and CR Blazin Beauty (Anthony Napolitano, Al Annunziata), a filly who has followed up an extended winning streak at smaller tracks in the Midwest with back-to-back victories at Pocono, the latest coming on Monday night in a condition trot in a career-best 1:55. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: WILD BILL M In Saturday night's final race, this condition pacer with Simon Allard in the bike overcame an outside post to pull off an upset at 60-1, paying off $131.40 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: TOM JACKSON The steady veteran driver had an effective week at Pocono, putting up a driving double on Sunday and then scoring on Monday with 55-1 shot Sinspirational. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: DOUG HAMILTON Hamilton enjoyed a race in honor of his retirement on Tuesday night, but first he made sure he put up one more win in the ledger when Pilgrims Tide scored a win on Sunday. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. Jim Beviglia

The weather finally got a little bit chilly in the middle of this past harness racing week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, but not so much that it had a profound effect on the racing conditions. It was still a fast and frenzied four nights of racing at Pocono. As is so often the case, there were many excellent candidates for the Weekly Awards, so read on and see who gets the honors. PACER OF THE WEEK: DOREL When a horse steps up its game and pulls off a performance that is much better than any other that it had previously managed, it's easy to assume that said performance was a fluke. Dorel probably had some people thinking that about him as he prepared to take on a non-winners of five pacing group on Sunday night. In his previous race, the three-year-old gelding trained by Chris Ryder tore up a condition claiming group from a #8 post at 10-1, going gate-to-wire for a career-best win in 1:50:4. The field was tougher on Sunday night, including an impressive sophomore shipper named Daiymir. That colt was the even-money favorite and assumed control of the early lead, but needed a blistering 25:4 opening quarter to get there. Dorel, who went off as a 9-2 third choice from post position #4 in a field of eight, settled for the pocket spot, which turned out to be the right place to be. On the back stretch, Daiymir started to labor and driver Anthony Napolitano quickly guided Dorel around him and into the lead. For the last quarter mile, the gelding dug deep and had to endure a late-closing threat from Crossfirehurricane. He held tight to win by three parts of a length in 1:52:4. One great win could be a fluke, but two excellent performances in a row is starting to look like a trend for this rising star. Other top pacers this week include: Regalanthropist (Matt Kakaley, Bruce Clarke), who switched barns and moved up in class but still managed a victory in a claiming handicap on Saturday night in 1:51:4; About The Benjamins (Matt Kakaley, Daniel Renaud), who captured his third consecutive win against the $7,500 claimers on Monday night, with this one coming in 1:55; and When Sharks Fly (Jim Marshall III, Donna Marshall), a mare who moved up the condition ladder on Tuesday night and scored her second straight win, this time in the distaff feature in 1:51:4. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SOUTHWIND WARSAW Anytime a horse reaches double figures in the win totals in a calendar year, it's an impressive accomplishment. Southwind Warsaw, an eight-year-old gelding trained by Lou Pena, stood on the precipice of that achievement when he faced off against a $10,000 to $12,500 claiming handicap field to start off the racing action on Monday afternoon. In an eight-horse field, Southwind Warsaw left from post position #6 as a 1-9 favorite. The heavy betting attention was understandable, as the gelding was coming off a 3½ length win the previous week in the same class in front-trotting fashion. Once again driver Anthony Napolitano was aggressive with the favorite, sending him to the front end early in the mile. From that point it was just a matter of keeping the fractions under control while not allowing any pressure to rankle his horse. Napolitano handled that task expertly, and Southwind Warsaw did the rest, lengthening the lead steadily until no one else was in the picture. He coasted home effortlessly 6½ lengths in front in 1:54:1. Not only was that his second straight victory, but it was put him at the ten-win marker for the season with a couple months to spare. Who knows? If he stays in this kind of groove and keeps after it into the winter months, he might threaten 15 wins for the year. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Skates N Plates (Anthony Napolitano, Andrew Harris), whose condition victory on Saturday night came in 1:53, the fastest trotting time posted this past week at Pocono; Checkmate Time (Donald Dupont, Marie Dupont), who followed up a win at Harrah's win with a victory on Sunday night at Pocono in 1:56; and Up Front Billy (George Napolitano Jr., Mark Ford), who returned from Harrah's for a condition victory on Saturday night in 1:54:2. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: DECISION DAY This 2-year-old pacer's maiden win on Sunday night is not one either he or his backers will forget, as he rallied with Eric Carlson in the bike to win at 60-1, paying off $124.40 to win on a $2 ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MATT KAKALEY Kakaley amassed double figures in the win column this past week and, on both Monday and Tuesday, ripped off three wins in a row at one point on the program. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: ROB HARMON Harmon wasted no time making an impact at Pocono on Sunday night, as he scored training victories in two of the evening's first three races. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. Jim Beviglia

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