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WILKES-BARRE PA - Tyler Buter guided five winners during the Wednesday morning harness racing qualifying session at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, while Mark MacDonald, just a week into his comeback since his injuries last summer, showed he is back in form with three victories. MacDonald handled the fastest winner of the session, the Mach Three gelding Highrthananeagle A. The six-year-old had not raced since November and was making his U.S. debut, but the Rob Harmon trainee made two moves, including going first-over, to win in 1:55.1 for the ownership of Harmon Racing Stable LLC, Lightning 5 Racing Stable, and Joel Kahan. The Cantab Hall gelding Macmorris Hanover, an earner of $120,000 at three last year in his first season at the races, showed he may be a trotter to reckon with in the higher classes as Buter put him on the lead and won by over five lengths in 1:56.1 in his 2020 bow. Bob Baggitt Jr. conditions the promising horse for the ownership of Ben Mudry, Douglas Millard, Timothy Murray, and Howard Taylor.   PHHA / Pocono

WILKES-BARRE, PA - Harness racing driver Anthony Napolitano, who won one of the two divisions of the first prelim of the Game Of Claim Series for pacing mares on Sunday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, went himself one better by sweeping the two $15,000 divisions of the first prelim of the Game Of Claims Series for $15,000-base trotters Monday. Tactically "Anthony Nap" was well-diversified. In the first division, he sent Manwithamission, a gelded son of Manofmanymissions (a 2010 Breeders Crown winner here) to control the pace with two moves, then stepped home in 1:56.3 for trainer Steve Salerno and owner Jack Piatt III - who promptly lost the horse to a claim in the chess game that is the Game Of Claims prelims. For Manwithamission, it was his fifth winning effort in seven 2020 starts. Steve Salerno had even better luck in the second Game Of Claims divisions - the Uncle Peter gelding ELO Hanover, whom he co-owns with trainer Emily Bost, not only won in 1:57.2, but they did not lose him to a claim. Napolitano brought this one from far back off of cover, tipping wide and getting by a contentious bunch late. The most impressive winner on the Pocono card was a maiden pacer making his second career start 236 days after making his first. But the Somebeachsomewhere - Allamerican Memoir sophomore colt Remember The Beach (a full brother to $900G+-winning world champion Beach Memories) certainly had the pedigree to improve from freshman to sophomore status, as indeed he did, winning in 1:52.4 for driver Josert Fonseca, trainer Nancy Takter, and owners 3 Brothers Stables, Christina Takter, Rojan Stables, and Caviart Farms. Fonseca put rivals in behind in a hot :26 opener, yielded to favored Devil Or Angel and sat on his back through middle splits of :54.4 and 1:23.2, then came out nearing headstretch and took right over, suggesting more success may be in his immediate future. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The male harness racing pacers had their Game Of Claims Series opportunities early in the meet at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono; starting this week, pacing mares and trotters will start their series, with the sidewheeling distaffs kicking off on Sunday. The Napolitano brothers drove the winners of the two $10,000 divisions of the first prelim, for $10,000 base-price horses, with Anthony guiding the Hypnotic Blue Chip mare Melanie's Filly right to the top en route to a 1:54 victory. But if trainer Daniel Maier and owner Antonia Storer want to see this mare racing for them in the $20,000 Championship event in three weeks, they'll have to pony up some money - as the winner was haltered for the $12,000 price, mares getting their standard 20% price allowance. (And the base price goes up a bit each week in the Game Of Claims prelims.) Brother George's 1:54.3 winner in the other first round prelim, the Rockin Image mare Summer Rock, also will not be returning to the connections of trainer Robert Lounsbury and owner Robert Main - such is the competitive nature of Pocono horsemen, especially with the prospect of a shot at big money just down the line. In all, four of the mares in the series were claimed, with six claims total on the night, for $70,500. High-level trotters rounded out the Sunday Pocono action in a $17,500 contest, with a four-across-the-wire finish going to Presidente Zette, a son of Muscle Hill, who was just up in 1:54.3 for driver Jim Marohn Jr. and trainer/owner Cozette McAvoy. Presidente Zette won by a head, while a long photo separated the closely-placed noses of Two AM, Volare, and Broadway Mojo in that order. A pair of victorious mares worth noting are the McArdle veteran Lispatty, who won her 2020 debut in 1:52.4 to boost her lifetime bankroll to $918,485, and the Kikikolt distaff Blackwell Ruby IR, who started her career on the eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean but has kept her winning ways, as she is now 5-for-6 this year and 11-for-15 lifetime after also winning in 1:52.4. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - Harness racing driver Jim Morrill Jr., a three-time North American UDR champion, continued his red-hot sulky ways during the early portion of the 2020 meeting at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, picking up five victories on the twelve-race Saturday night card. One of the wins came in the richest race of the night, a $20,000 claiming handicap pace, and the horse he guided, the Captaintreacherous ridgling Trente Don, has been as hot as the driver - a winner of his last four and five of his last six after a 1:52.2 victory on a night where the mercury hovered near the freezing mark. Taken by trainer Walter Adamczyk and owner William Emmons for $34,375 out of his second straight prelim win in the Game Of Claims, the pair have won $35,000 in purse money with the horse since then, taking his $50,000 Game Of Claims Championship last week and now this event. The Shadyshark Hanover gelding Horsing Around has now won three of his last four starts after a thumping 1:51.3 engine victory in an $18,000 claiming handicap pace, motoring home in :27.4. Matt Kakaley was in the sulky for trainer Ed Gannon Jr., who is also co-owner of the winner with Frank Canzone. Jim Morrill Jr. also had success in the featured conditioned event of the evening, a $17,000 trot, guiding the Jailhouse Jesse gelding Bully Boy to a lifetime best of 1:54.1 despite the chilly conditions. Trainer Jenny Melander had her new acquisition ready from the word "go," with Morrill moving with Bully Boy from fifth, five lengths off at the quarter, to the lead before the second turn, trotting his own individual second split in 27.1. He opened a big lead on favored Muscle Star, who had made two speed moves despite broken equipment, and never surrendered the advantage to the wire for owner Risto Vidgren. Morrill ended up with a 12-5-2-0 tally for the night, giving him a 24-21 win advantage over perennial Pocono driving king George Napolitano Jr., and Jim's UDR for the meet is a lofty .411. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - Some high-powered free-for-all and invitational harness racing pacers were very impressive winning Wednesday morning qualifiers at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Fastest of all was the veteran Riverboat King gelding Theartofconfusion A, who paced a 1:49.3 all-age track record mile at Yonkers last year. On Wednesday Theartofconfusion A motored home in :56 flat despite being first-up to complete a 1:55.1 victory for driver Eric Carlson and trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera, auguring well as he sets out to post a third consecutive $200G+-winning season for co-owners Garcia-Herrera and Barbara and Donald Arnstine. The Real Desire eight-year-old mare Eclipse Me N, who set a 1:48.2 divisional world record at The Downs last year, flew home in :55.2 to stop the timer in 1:55.4 in her event. Simon Allard was in the sulky for trainer/brother Rene and the ownership of Allard Racing Inc., Yves Sarrazin, and Donald Mac Rae. Trainer Rene Allard has been le Boss of the local conditioners with six titles in the last seven years, and his 2018 Hempt Championship winner Springsteen sounded a strong winning note with a 1:56.1 victory, his own last half :56.1 with Simon Allard sulkysitting. Allard Racing Inc. co-owns the son of Rock N Roll Heaven with Bruce Soulsby, Alan Weisenberg, and Kapildeo Singh. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - A pair of three-year-olds making successful career harness racing debuts were the highlight performers of the first Monday twilight card of 2020 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. In a 1-2 finish for six-figure yearlings, Rouser Hanover, a Captaintreacherous colt out of the million dollar-winning mare Romantic Moment, overcame broken equipment to tally by three lengths in 1:54.4, last half :56 for driver Andrew McCarthy, trainer Tony Alagna, and the partnership of Brittany Farms LLC, Big Als Stables, Brad Grant, and Riverview Leblanc Vj Stable. Finishing second was Lyons Friends, a Western Ideal gelding out of the Hall of Famer Artistic Vision, the dam of Clear Vision and Rock N Roll Hanover. Another successful "firster" was Somebeachsomefra, a daughter of Sombeachsomewhere out of the 1:49 mare Ms Caila J Fra. Driver Simon Allard took command with the filly on the far turn and finished 3½ lengths clear in 1:55.4 for brother/trainer Rene Allard, also co-owner with Stephen Klunowski and Gil Short. This was the first Monday card of the year at Pocono. This coming week will set three-quarters of the standard pattern schedule in motion, with racing on Saturday and Sunday at 7 p.m. and Monday at 4 p.m.; in April, Tuesdays at 4 p.m. will be added, and will remain the basic schedule until September at Pocono. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

We have slowly worked our way into the 2020 season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, racing just two nights a week throughout the month of February, a much earlier start to the season than normal. But the action hit the ground running, in large part due to the Game of Claims series, a fun late closer affair making its debut at Pocono this year. Each weekend in February at Pocono, four different groups of claimers met in preliminary legs with the intent of making the high-stakes finals. They were eligible to be claimed in those preliminaries, with the claiming price rising each week to make it more expensive for owners who wanted to jump in late on a hot horse. The finals took place this past Saturday and Sunday. Let's see who came out on top. CLAIMING PRICE $15,000 to $20,000 (Final Purse $30,000) Royal Heart went off as the 9-5 betting favorite after winning his previous leg. He grabbed a pocket seat early behind second choice Horsing Around, who came in with wins in both of his previous Game of Claims races with front-end speed. But Horsing Around couldn't get away with an easy lead in the Saturday night final, as he was hounded by a first-over effort from Pop's Romeo. Even though Horsing Around fended off that effort, it left him vulnerable in the stretch drive. That's when driver Simon Allard tipped Royal Heart to the outside and he came up strong to win it by a half-length in 1:53:3 over Horsing Around. American Music finished third. Royal Heart moved to two-for-two since joining the Rene Allard barn. CLAIMING PRICE $25,000 to $30,000 (Final Purse $50,000) After winning the first two legs of the series, Trente Deo took last week off after being claimed and joining the barn of trainer William Adamczyk. He went off as the 2-1 second choice in Saturday night's final, with Polak A getting the favorite's attention at 9-5. Driver Jim Morrill Jr. had Trente Deo in motion first-over pretty early in the mile, but that proved to be the right move when he picked up cover from Classy Hill on the back stretch. When the rounded the final turn, Trente Deo shrugged off the cover and came charging up at Polak A, who was setting the pace. Trente Deo blew right past Polak A and then held off late kick from What's Goin On to finish second, with Beach Pro nabbing the show. Trente Deo won by 1 ½ lengths in 1:52:3 to finish a perfect three-for-three in the series. CLAIMING PRICE $7,500 to $11,000 (Purse: $15,000) In his back-to-back wins in preliminary legs, Always B Magic benefitted from inside post positions and pocket trips. For the final on Sunday night, he had to leave from post position #5 in a field of nine, still a good spot but a decidedly different look. Tough Mudder set the pace, while driver George Napolitano Jr. decided on a first-over path for Always B Magic, the even-money favorite, when he couldn't get the pocket. It was by no means an easy journey for Always B Magic, considering he was parked out for two of the three turns. He eventually wore down Tough Mudder, but Naked City came up strong late after the favorite provided his cover. Always B Magic managed to gut it out to win it by a nose for new trainer Susan Marshall, staying perfect in the series with a winning time of 1:55. Naked City just missed in second while Mystery Island picked up the show. CLAIMING PRICE $10,000 to $15,000 (Purse: $20,000) In the preliminary legs of this group, Charger Blue Chip was arguably the top performer, going win, show, win in the three races. Yet he found himself at 9-1 on the odds board in Sunday's final, primarily because he was saddled with the outside #9 post. Driver Jim Marohn Jr. drove him aggressively, sending him early and retaking the lead from Carmens Best on the front stretch. A lot of times a speed duel like that would leave a horse vulnerable to closers. And, indeed, Grandpa Don, the 7-5 favorite, came up with a first-over threat. But Marohn kept summoning up reserves of energy from Charger Blue Chip, leaving Grandpa Don and the rest of the field struggling in his wake. Charger Blue Chip, trained by Marc Mosher, came home a 2 ¼-length winner in 1:54:1, with Grandpa Don second and Carmens Best third. 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 Beviglia, for Pocono Downs          

WILKES-BARRE, PA - Two harness racing horses who had been in very sharp form during the preliminaries in their respective Game Of Claims series - Charger Blue Chip and Always B Magic - continued their winning ways right to the throne as the winner of their Championships, with the former taking his $20,000 event for $10,000 base-priced horses and the latter victorious for the $15,000 bounty offered for $7,500-based priced pacers at Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs. Considering he had two wins and a third in his only three seasonal starts, all in the GOC Series, the Rocknroll Hanover gelding Charger Blue Chip was overlooked by the bettors at 9-1, probably because of his difficult outside post nine. But driver Jim Marohn Jr. hustled the quick veteran to command, yielded but was on the retake before the second turn, and from there kept favored Grandpa Don at bay by an easy 2¼ lengths in 1:54.1. Claimed for $10,000 in the first leg of the series, Charger Blue Chip has already earned $16,200 in just three starts for trainer Marc Mosher and owners Edward and James Hall Jr. Trainer Susan and co-owner John Marshall may have been denied a Game Of Claims sweep on Sunday with Grandpa Don's second, but earlier they had kept driver Marohn from that same double victory, as their Always A Virgin gelding Always B Magic was always off the pylons throughout the GOC finale, but still dug in to hold off Naked City (Marohn) by a nose in 1:55 for driver George Napolitano Jr. The timing was good for the connections and the horse. The Marshalls claimed Always B Magic for $9000 out of the second leg, and with two wins and a finals place assured, they kept him out of the third prelim so he wouldn't get claimed - and the week off did nothing to take off his edge. As for Always B Magic, before the Game Of Claims he had amassed a 60-race losing streak, back to June 18, 2018; he then went three-for-three in the series, all the series wins for Napolitano. (Who drove him on June 18, 2018? George Nap, of course!) Driver Matt Kakaley visited Victory Lane five times on Sunday, three times with a Ron Burke trainee, including the Yankee Glide gelding Max in a $17,500 fast-class trot. Leaving from post six, Max got the entire field in behind him before the quarter, then put in twin :28.2 back splits to win handily in 1:54.3 for Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, and Frank Baldachino. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE PA - The harness racing team behind the Captaintreacherous ridgling Trente Deo - trainer Bill Adamczyk, owner William Emmons, and driver Jim Morrill Jr. - showed just the right amount of patience with the four-year-old pacer, and they were rewarded by earning the throne after winning the $50,000 Championship of their Game Of Claims Series on Saturday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Owner Emmons saw the pacer won his first start in the series, then took him out of his second Game Of Claims start, paying $33,000 (with the 4YO allowance, the base price slightly elevated through all the GOC prelims), which he also won. Emmons and Adamczyk, knowing the horse had enough points to make the final already, kept him out of the third leg, avoiding losing him to a claim, and their foresight paid off after Morrill gave the winner a second-over trip in the final, making a strong far turn move with him that carried him to a 1:52.3 victory on a northeast Pennsylvania night where the mercury stayed in the mid- to low-20s. In the $30,000 Game Of Claims Championship for $15,000 base-price horses, Team Allard had just the right amount of skill and luck as the Royal Art gelding Royal Heart pushed his record to 2-for-2 for them with a 1:53.3 triumph. The Allard barn took the winner out of the second leg for $17,500, then raced him last week and had double fortune in that he both produced a rallying victory (ensuring his spot in the finale) and was also passed over in the claiming box. In the final, Simon Allard kept Royal Heart in the two-hole behind Horsing Around, the fastest pacer in the elims whom the Allards had lost via claim last week, then outmuscled that rival home here for brother/trainer/owner Rene Allard. Royal Heart The Allards had the best night at Pocono on Saturday, with Simon winning four races and Rene conditioning three winners. The $17,500 pace for fast-class horses saw the two horses handicapped with the outside posts, Twin B Tuffenuff and Atta Boy Dan, turn in a fierce stretch battle, with the former nosing out the latter in 1:52.3. Twin B Tuffenuff took early command, got a 29.2 breather on the cold night, then sprinted home in :56 - :27.2 to withstand the unrelenting grind of Atta Boy Dan, last year's Pocono Pacer of the Year. The victorious son of Rock N Roll Heaven was driven by Matt Kakaley for Burke Racing Stable LLC / Weaver Bruscemi LLC and trainer Ron Burke - ironically, the same owner/trainer partnership for whom "Dan" had made consecutive starts in all but one in 115 races, with 41 wins and $659,026 in earnings, from 2014 until being claimed at Pocono last May. FINISHING LINES - The Saturday/Sunday action at Pocono goes to its usual 7 p.m. post time starting tomorrow. Monday is added to the 2020 schedule this week, with first post at 4 p.m. PHHA / Pocono

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The harness racing driving brothers Anthony and George Napolitano Jr. certainly held the hot hands during Wednesday morning's qualifying session at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, and each teamed well with a specific trainer - Anthony guided four Jose Godinez trainees to victory, with four horses conditioned by Gilbert Garcia-Herrera brought home first by George. Two of the "ANap"-Godinez horses took the primary spotlight, as they defeated free-for-all horses Western Fame and Springsteen, both members of Team Allard. Western Fame, the 2019 Levy Final winner and a winner in morning action here last week, had to settle for second, 3¾ lengths behind the two-moving Havefaithinme N, who tripped the timer in a solid 1:52, last half :55, for the ownership of Blindswitch Racing Stable, Gary Axelrod, Good Friends Racing Stable, and Santo Farina. And if the nine-year-old Havefaithinme N's name rings a certain bell, that's because it should - the altered son of Bettor's Delight is a career winner of $1.3 million, and in 2016 he paced what was at the time the fastest mile in Australasian harness history, 1:47 5/10, in winning the Miracle Mile over the Menangle Park 7/8-mile oval. Springsteen, now five and the winner of the 2018 Hempt Memorial right here at Pocono, closed determinedly from far back, but his :55.1-:27.1 bid home came up a head shy of the American Ideal mare Sally Fletcher A, who also made two moves controlling the tempo in a 1:54.4, with Blindswitch Racing Stable doubling up in the Wednesday morning "features." The most impressive of the George Nap - Garcia-Herrera horses was the $900,000+-winning Lispatty, who stepped home in :55.2 - :27.2 as the McArdle mare toured the Pocono oval in 1:53 for owner Gilbert Garcia-Owen. FINISHING LINES - After Saturday's card at 5 p.m., Pocono switches post times in March to its standard 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and 4 p.m. on most other racing days, primarily Monday and Tuesday. There will be racing Sunday, March 1 at 7 p.m., and then the first Monday card of the year on the 2nd at 4 p.m., with three cards a week in vogue throughout the end of March. Racing is going into the second month of the 2020 season at the Down at Mohegan Sun Pocono, and horsemen racing at the track in Northeast PA should be aware of opening times for the Paddock and stable gate area.  Going forward, the stable gate will open one and a half hours prior to first Lasix, and the Paddock one hour prior to first Lasix.  Post Times for March are 7:00PM on Saturday and Sunday, and 4:00PM on Monday, with the addition of Tuesday at 4:00PM in April. Also, the Ship-in barn will open Monday, March 2, and training for the rest of the season will take place out of the ship-in barn. Any questions, please contact Paddock Judge Luann Sensenbach at 570.831.2125. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE PA – The Game Of Claims Series for pacers base-tagged at $10,000 and $7500 conducted their third and final preliminaries during the Sunday twilight card at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, giving indications of form ahead of their $20,000 and $15,000 Championships in seven days’ time. The Rocknroll Hanover gelding Charger Blue Chip established himself as most likely to sit on the Championship throne with a 1:54.4 victory in Sunday’s single $10,000 division for the higher-priced series horses. Eric Goodell quarter-moved with the Marc Mosher trainee, who notched his second GOC victory for owners Edward and James Hall Jr. "Charger" held off the late kick of favored Grandpa Don, the second prelim winner who was reclaimed by the Marshall barn ahead of the Championship event. The unofficial top nine pointwinners going to this $20,000 Championship are Charger Blue Chip, Grandpa Don, (tie) Midnight Dylan N and Sharknado, (tie) Carmens Best and Corner Con Artist, Achilles Blue Chip, Master The View, and Mr Carrotts. There were two $7500 divisions for the other Game Of Claims group battling for Championship spots, both producing mild upsets. The Art Major gelding Autotune Hanover punched his ticket to the finale with a 1:55 triumph for driver Tyler Buter, trainer Robert Lounsbury, and owner Rick Howles, while in the second cut the Bettor’s Delight gelding Mystery Island won in identical time for driver Matt Kakaley, trainer Darren Taneyhill, and owner Chelsey Wibert. Always B Magic and Speedling, both double winners before not competing in the last prelim, tied as the unofficial points leaders for this group, with the next seven lined up behind them in the pursuit of the throne in the $15,000 final are Mystery Island, Some Gold, (tie) Dafinity and Naked City, Smart Talker, Autotune Hanover, and Tough Mudder. Claiming activity, largely generated by the series: Sunday, six for $77,250; for the week, fifteen for $287,250; and for the six-day meet, sixty-two for $1,100,150. Jim Morrill Jr. had four wins Sunday to lead the drivers colony for the night.   PHHA / Pocono

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The Game Of Claims Series for the highest two levels of harness racing pacers raced their third and final preliminary round on Saturday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, and the top contenders for the thrones to be won in the rich Game Of Claims Championships next week were not exactly clarified by the twilight card's action. The highest-level horses, going here for a base claiming tag of $30,000 in the weekly-progressive pricing rules of the series, raced two $25,000 preliminaries, with neither winner being claimed. Those winners were Classy Hill, an Art Colony gelding who took the field coast-to-coast in 1:53 for driver George Napolitano Jr. (a five-time winner on the card) in his first start for trainer Dan Maier and owner Ameer Najor, and the longest shot on the board, the Quality Western gelding Mister Indiana, who decisioned the second-longest shot, Half A Billion, in 1:52.3, for driver Matt Kakaley, trainer Michael Posner, and owner Austin Siegelman. An unofficial totaling of the points for this group yields the following as the top nine, in points order and in position for next week's $50,000 final: This Is My Song, Polak A, Trente Deo (a winner in the first two prelims who took this week off), Mister Indiana, Classy Hill, Whats Goin On, Beach Pro, Half A Billion, and Western Hill. The three $15,000 prelims for horses base-valued at $20,000 Saturday saw a division yield the fastest mile of the year at Pocono, 1:51.1, by the Shadyshark Hanover gelding Horsing Around, who won his second straight for driver Simon Allard, trainer Rene Allard, and the partnership of Allard Racing Inc. and Neal Moase. But here's the big unknown factor relating to next week - Horsing Around will be departing the Allard barn after being the only Game Of Claims winner on the night to be purchased via the box! Driver Simon Allard and trainer/owner/brother Rene do get to keep the Royal Art B gelding Royal Heart, who won at first asking for his new connections in 1:54. The third winner in this price group produced the biggest mutuel shock of the night, as Matt Kakaley put the Jereme's Jet gelding J M Jet Set on the lead and withstood the late chargers in 1:54.3 for trainer Steven Brabrook and owners Rod Lorenzo and Brian Running while paying $53.80. The listing of the unofficial top nine pointwinners heading into next Saturday's $30,000 Championship needs though a clarification. Even with losing this week's fastest winner, Team Allard still has three of the nine highest pointgetters, and series conditions allow for an owner or trainer to have only two entries in the final. So while this is the list of the top nine - Ancle and Horsing Around (tied), Royal Heart*, Cheyenne Reijane, Stirling Escort*, Machine Team, Concur, American Music, and Pop's Romeo* -- one of the three asterisked competitors, all Allard horses, will if this list is verified not be going. Thus the two tied for tenth now, Drunk On Your Love and Always A Diamond, will certainly have an interest in Monday's draw for next Saturday's card of two GOC Championships. In anticipation of those Championships, nine horses were claimed Saturday for $210,000, bringing the totals for the five-card-long meet to 52 claims aggregating $1,022,800. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs  

WILKES-BARRE, PA - Even as a certain well-regarded harness racing mare qualified at Dover in what was likely preparation for early season work, two horses who were very prominent in last year's Levy Series action turned in top qualifiers at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Wednesday morning. Western Fame, the 2019 Levy Series winner who would go on to take a Franklin elim and finish third in the Franklin Championship here at Pocono, went straight to the lead for driver Simon Allard and trainer/brother Rene Allard, winning in 1:57.1. A last quarter of :28.4 made the winner of $1,745,185 clear at the wire for Go Fast Stable, Stephen Klunowski, B & I Stables LLC, and Gilbert Short. Later, former Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Champion Ideal Jimmy, a three-time Levy prelim winner last year, put in a sharp 1:53.4 mile on the engine, with a :27.3 last quarter leaving him 8¼ lengths in front of his field for driver Matt Kakaley, trainer Erv Miller, and the Van Witzenburg stable. Also deserving mention are the team of driver Eric Carlson and trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera, who combined on the first three qualifiying winners. Garcia-Herrera sent out a total of eleven horses in the prep races, a few times with two in the same race, and in addition to the three wins he had four second-place finishers and two third-place finishers. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The second preliminary rounds of two of the levels in the Game Of Claims Series took place on Sunday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, and sharp horsemen looking for potential thronetakers in the Game Of Claims Championships two weeks hence claimed all three of the night's series winners. The Game Of Claims pacing horses who went for a basic price of $12,500 drew one division of ten horses (scratched down to nine), making for a rare trailing starter at Pocono. At the wire, the field was trailing the Rocknroll Hanover gelding Grandpa Don, who after being last at the half made a huge looping move on the far turn and paced past everybody in 1:56.2 for driver Tyler Buter and trainer Susan Marshall, the latter co-owner with John Marshall - and was then claimed out of the race. Both horses who won last week in the Game Of Claims group that started for a basic price of $9000 on Sunday were again victorious, but as opposed to last week both horses headed to new barns after Sunday's successes. First to Victory Lane was the Rambaran gelding Speedling, now 2-for-2 in 2020 after a 1:56 win for driver Jim Morrill Jr. and trainer Lou Pena and his Lou Pena Racing Stables Inc. Then it was the Always A Virgin gelding Always B Magic who was again to parlay a pocket journey into a victory, here in 1:55.1 for driver George Napolitano Jr., trainer Daniel Renaud, and owner Alexa Renaud. With two claims from each of the $9,000 fields, four $12,500 purchases from that event, and three horses haltered out of a claiming handicap trot (perhaps looking towards the trotting Game Of Claims Series in March), 11 horses went through the box for a total of $124,125, running the totals over the four days of 2020 Pocono racing to 47 claims and $812,900 - keeping horsemen and handicappers on their toes to be in the right place at the right time. One place you didn't want to be at Pocono on Sunday was on the front end, as the speed held up only once in thirteen races. The lone horse making every pole a winning one was the very impressive four-year-old Sweet Lou mare Darn Tootn Hanover, who was sent to the top in a $15,000 distaff pace by Tyler Buter in :27.3, got a rest to a :57.1 half, then motored home in :55.3-:27.2, needing all that speed to hold off the invading Tango Dancer N by a neck in 1:52.4. Darn Tootn Hanover entered the year with only one victory to show in 17 starts as a freshman and sophomore, but this year she's turned things around and is now 3-for-3 for trainer Nik Drennan and Yankeeland Partners LLP. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The Game Of Claims Series continued on Saturday at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with the temperature dropping through the 20s throughout the twilight harness racing card but the contested action featuring hot contests and hot horses. Both winners were claimed out of the $25,000 second preliminary leg for horses this week valued at a base price of $27,500, as horsemen want the right horse ready to take the throne in this group's $50,000 Game of Claims Championship on Saturday the 29th. The only double winner in this Game Of Claims section is the four-year-old Captaintreacherous ridgling Trente Deo, but if he sweeps his prelims, he'll be doing for somebody other than trainer Rene Allard and owners Allard Racing Inc. and Earl Hill Jr. Trente Deo, an engine winner last week for those connections, here rallied from the pocket to post a 1:52.4 victory for driver Simon Allard. Also winning in this company, and also moving to a new stable, is the veteran Pacific Fella gelding Polak A, who came from off the pace to win in 1:52.1 while exceeding $800,000 in earnings for driver Jim Morrill Jr., trainer Darren Taneyhill and owner Eric Prevost (these two having the horse only this one week). Polak A had a second last week and a win here, so like two-time winner Trente Deo he is likely to make their Championship and may be eyed by several stables, even though the base price of claiming for this group goes up to $30,000 in next week's last preliminary. There were three divisions of the second preliminary round for the Game Of Claims group valued at a $17,500 base price Saturday, and the rail proved the common launching pad for the three victors of the $15,000 races. Simon and Rene Allard combined to take two of the cuts: with Horsing Around, who had been claimed in the first prelim, the Shadyshark Hanover gelding winning for Allard Racing Inc and Neal Moase in 1:53.2; and with the Roll With Joe gelding Stirling Escort, picture-perfect in tallying for A-1 Racing in 1:54.3. Neither Allard winner was claimed this time, but the winner of the other cut, the Make My Day gelding Ancle, is changing hands for the second straight week after becoming the only two-time Game Of Claims winner in this price class. Jim Morrill Jr. guided Ancle to victory in 1:53.3 for trainer James Guagliardo and owner Steven Celinsky. In all, six horses were claimed for $105,000 at this level with an eye towards the group's February 29 $30,000 Championship, bringing the night's total barnchangers to a dozen, with $278,775 changing hands. In the $17,500 top conditioned pace, last year's Pocono Pacer of the Year and the winningest harness horse in the United States with nineteen, the eleven-year-old Western Terror gelding Atta Boy Dan, joined the repeat series victors as the only two-time winners at the meet with a 1:51.3 victory. Tyler Buter kept the greybeard just off a wicked :25.4 opening duel, brushed to the lead, and then the pair won as they pleased for trainer Peter Pellegrino and owner Stephen Larkin. The victory was the 74th in Atta Boy Dan's career, and he now sports a bankroll of $982,752. Driver Jim Morrill Jr. visited Victory Lane four times Saturday, giving him ten triumphs after three days in the young Pocono season. The PHHA and the Pocono community extends its sympathies to trainer Andrew Harris, to his two daughters, and to the extended family upon hearing that Andrew's wife Amanda passed away at age 34 after a long and courageous battle with breast cancer. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The Game Of Claims Pacing Series, which will offer rich paydays to those who can claim the harness racing throne as best in the respective price divisions, continued on Sunday evening at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with two sections each of first round preliminaries, offering $7,500 for $7,500 claimers and $10,000 for $10,000-tagged horses. Remarkably, six of the eleven horses in the $10,000 action will be racing for new barns next week after being claimed, including divisional winner Charger Blue Chip, who won his debut as a 10-year-old in 1:58 over a tiring track rated "good." The Rocknroll Hanover gelding rallied from the pocket to overhaul pacesetting favorite Midnight Dylan N for driver Tom Jackson and owner/trainer Emily Bost. No claim was entered on the Mach Three gelding Mr Carrotts despite his being the second choice, and trainer Dan Morrissey and owner Leona Morrissey got to "walk him home" after he one-geared up raw and held off Master The View in 1:57.4. No one was haltered out of either division of the $7500s first prelim - so the claiming count stopped at 24 horses changing hands for $410,000 during the opening weekend. Emerging first at this level were the Always A Virgin gelding Always B Magic, a pocket rocket in 1:56.3 for driver George Napolitano Jr., trainer Daniel Renaud and owner Alexa Renaud while emerging victorious for the first time in 613 days, and the Rambaran gelding Speedling, who was quarter-moved by driver Jim Morrill Jr. and held on in 1:58 for trainer Lou Pena and Lou Pena Racing Stables Inc. The top purse events were a pair of $15,000 paces. The first, for females, went to perhaps the most impressive winner of the night, the Sweet Lou four-year-old mare Darn Tootn Hanover, who followed up on a 1:51.2 Meadowlands victory with a 1:54 victory here, coming her last quarter in 28.1 on a night when only one other race beat 29.2 home to be 6¾ lengths to the good for driver Tyler Buter, trainer Nik Drennan, and Yankeeland Partners LLP. Darn Tootn Hanover paid $2.20 to win; in the male sector of this class, Ben Rockin, an altered son of A Rocknroll Dance, motored home from last to win in 1:55.4 for driver Eric Goodell and return $171.40 to the scattered backers of the Robert John Becker-owned horse. The key to this one may have been the history of trainer Bill "Moon" Mullin - his Trixar paid $166.80, which stood as the 2019 local high payoff, in the second week of last year, and now Ben Rockin is another early-season toteboard demolisher for Mullin! From the PHHA/Pocono Downs      

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