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The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono announced major changes to their takeout rates, all of which are firmly in favor of the bettor. Pocono's Director of Racing & Sportsbook Operations Mike Zullinger confirmed the changes, which will go into effect on April 1. The track's next live racing card comes up on Saturday, April 3. Here are the affected wagers and the takeout reductions: Win, place and show: Down from 19% to 17% Trifecta, superfecta: Down from 30% to 26% Pick 3, Pick 4: Down from 25% to 20% Only the Rainbow Pick 5 (15% takeout) and the Exacta and Daily Double wagers (both 20% takeout) remain unaffected by the changes. The announcement comes at the same time that Pocono is moving to its four-day-a-week schedule for the first time this season. Pocono will now be racing on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, a schedule that will remain in effect until October. The changes also come right before a racing week that should be particularly exciting at the track. The Bobby Weiss series, which is run in honor of Pocono's longtime track superintendent and features an impressive group of three-year-olds classified by gender and gait, will begin on Saturday. by Jim Beviglia, for The Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The perennial leading harness racing driver at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, George Napolitano Jr., won his third of the early-season Game Of Claims' five Championships, and owner William Emmons Jr. his second, when they combined behind the Explosive Matter gelding Explosive Magic for a 1:56.2 victory in Monday $30,000 Game Of Claims Trotting Series Championship for $15,000-base-price horses. Emmons and trainer Eric Ell claimed the winner of three out of his last four out of the series' second preliminary, and then had him sit out the final prelim, hoping his first and second in the initial two legs would get him into the final without risking him being claimed. The 1-2 finishes did advance him sufficiently - he was eighth in points of the top nine entrants - and Monday Explosive Magic showed no ill effects from the week off, sitting behind favored Golden Son through fractions of :27.4, :57.1, and 1:27, then charging home in the lane for a 1½ length victory over the chalk. He paid $11.80 to win. EXPLOSIVE MAGIC REPLAY   Emmons is also the owner of Glengarry Knight N, winner of his $50,000 Game Of Claims Championship, and currently third among all North American pacers in 2021 earnings. Two horses eligible to April's $700,000 Bobby Weiss Series, which features developing sophomores in four divisions divided by sex and gait, scored impressive wins on the undercard. The Always B Miki pacing colt Stellar Yankee won in his first start for trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera and owner Gilbert Garcia-Owen, taking a new mark of 1:55.2 with "George Nap" driving. Stellar Yankee was entered right back to be in his group's first preliminary this Saturday; the Art Major pacing colt Major Bean, coming off a 25-day layoff while debuting for trainer Scott Di Domenico, did not enter Saturday, but his 1:54.2 win here for driver Matt Kakaley and the ownership of Triple D Stables Inc. and Richard and Farrell Carey hints he may be a factor later in the series. For full race results, click here. From the PHHA/The Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - Harness racing driver Jason Bartlett guided the two male winners of the $12,000 pacing tri-features at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono during the Sunday twilight card, with both Nome Hanover and Gonnahaveonemore both stopping the timer in 1:54.3 over a "sloppy" oval. Bartlett used pace-controlling moves during the second quarter in winning both races by wide margins. The Mach Three gelding Gonnahaveonemore established a new lifetime mark in winning by 6¼ lengths for owner/trainer Pasquale Picca; the Well Said gelding Nome Hanover was clear by 2½ lengths on the money for trainer Mark Ford and owners George and Rose Bonomo. NOME HANOVER REPLAY   In the distaff division, the Quality Western mare Peggy J won her second straight start, also hustling to the lead in front of the stands for driver Simon Allard and winning by 1½ lengths in 1:58 for trainer Jeff Sorenson and owner Paula Sarcone. It was a big evening for driver Tyler Buter, trainer Todd Buter, and the partnership of Buter Farm Inc., Lynette Buter, and William and Carol Fuhs, as their veteran trotters Rich And Miserable and Two AM both won $10,000 contests and pushed the two horses' collective earnings over the $1,000,000 mark lifetime. The Explosive Matter gelding Rich And Miserable (now with $489,036) won in 1:56.1, while Muscle Massive gelding Two AM ($518,034) was home first in 1:57. RICH AND MISERABLE REPLAY   Trotters will be in the spotlight on the Monday afternoon card at The Downs, with a very competitive group set to go behind the gate in the $30,000 Game Of Claims Trotting Series Championship. First post Monday is 12:30 p.m.; program pages are available at https://www.phha.org/downsmsppps.html. For full race results, click here. From the PHHA/The Downs

WILKES BARRE PA - In a classic stretch slugfest, the Sweet Lou gelding Tito Rocks nosed out Whos Better in 1:50.4 to win the $14,000 fast-class harness racing pace at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Saturday afternoon. Tito Rocks got away fourth for driver Tyler Buter, while Whos Better and George Napolitano Jr. took the early lead and set fractions of :27.1 and :55.2. Buter had Tito Rocks quickly in high gear moving raw nearing the five-eighths, with the 9-5 favorite pacing his individual third quarter in :26 to engage 2-1 pacesetter Whos Better past the three-quarters in 1:22.2. Their battle continued all the way to the wire, where Tito Rocks proved slightly more photogenic for trainer Bob Cleary and Royal Wire Products Inc.   TITO ROCKS REPLAY     Another highlight of the Saturday card was the return to the races of the Somebeachsomewhere gelding Nicholas Beach, who made short work of a group of developing pacers with a 1:51.1 tally for driver Joe Bongiorno, trainer Jennifer Bongiorno, and his new connections of the Jennifer Bongiorno Stable LLC, John Lengacher, and Michael Cote Gagnon.   NICHOLAS BEACH REPLAY     Various misfortunes had limited the now-five-year-old to 13 starts in his first three years of racing, but he won 11 of them and took a mark of 1:49 at Philly last year - maybe this is the year he can deliver an extended streak, building on the large potential he has already shown. Before Nicholas Beach's win Saturday, his lifetime earnings were $70,450 - less than the $71,680 seasonal total of the Changeover gelding Glengarry Knight N, who jumped to the #2 spot in earnings among North American pacers at press time with a 1:52 win in the fastest of three divisions of the high-end claiming pacers. Now 3-for-4 since joining the William Adamczyk barn after a claim by William Emmons, Glengarry Knight N, the winner of the richest Game Of Claims Championship earlier this year, overcame the outside post nine for driver Simon Allard, who led the driving colony here Saturday with three wins.   GLENGARRY KNIGHT N REPLAY     Heading the Saturday trainers was Darren Taneyhill, who visited victory lane after three different drivers guided his horses to victory (and would have been there a fourth time if one of his horses hadn't had headstretch steering problems and was set back, with $174.00 bomber Rockin Inthe Hills the main beneficiary). Taneyhill, who is now tied with Jennifer Bongiorno for the meet lead with 12 wins, also sent out the fastest winner of the day, the Rocknroll Hanover gelding Rock The Town, who toured the Pocono oval in 1:50.3 for driver Anthony Napolitano and owner Mark Jakubik. The next two cards at Pocono, Sunday at 5 p.m EDT. and Monday at 12:30 p.m., feature many three-year-olds tuning up for the $700,000 Bobby Weiss Series for up-and-coming three-year-olds of both sexes and gaits; Monday's card also features the $30,000 Game Of Claims Trotting Series Championship. Program pages are available at https://www.phha.org/downsmsppps.html. For full race results, click here. From PHHA/Pocono  

Over 65 years ago, a Standardbred trainer at the Gratz Fairgrounds approached an impressionable young 14-year old that he had seen hanging around, and offered him a job helping with his stable. Today at the age of 90, that hard-working man is still dedicated to harness racing. With a constant smile and friendly personality, trainer Don Wiest is still doing what he loves, and he’s not slowing down! Looking back, Don remembers it as if it were yesterday. “This older gentleman at the fairgrounds had 5 horses, and his boy was drafted into the army. This was during World War II. I used to run around and play on the fairground, so he offered me a job pumping water for his horses twice a day. He gave me a dollar a week! That was great! My family didn’t have a lot of money, and that money went a long way in the 1940’s. That’s how I got started in the horse business.”   In 1946, right after World War II, Roosevelt Raceway opened, and the trainer was getting ready to move his horses there, and he invited Don to come along and work for him. “I was still in school,” he said, “but I didn’t like school anymore, so I quit and headed to Roosevelt!” He was thrilled to get a raise, now making $50 a week taking care of the 5 horses.   In 1947, he drove his first race at Roosevelt Raceway, along with Stanley Dancer and Eddie Wheeler. “We were three young kids getting in the racehorse business. In those years, it was an old man’s game, and they were thrilled to see us young guys. I finished last,” he laughed. Through his Alabama friends that he knew while working there, he met Sanders Russell, one of the leading drivers in the country, who was looking for a second trainer, and he was offered a job with him. Soon after, he headed down south to begin working with the new stable.   Don got drafted into the Korean War while in Alabama, and his plans were to return to work for Mr. Russell after he served his time. On February 23, 1953, he was discharged, but Roosevelt Raceway didn’t open until May 30th, so he and Mr. Russell decided to meet there in April to get ready for the season. In the meantime, Don met a pretty girl named Beverly, but she didn’t think working back in New York was a good idea. “Well, love won out,” Don said, “and we got married in the fall of 1953. I stayed in Pennsylvania and got a job as a tile setter, but was driving horses at the fairs for people. In 1965, when we got parimutuel in PA, I said I was going back in the horse business and in a week’s time, I had 20 horses and went back to racing horses.”   His wife worked side-by-side with him, caring for the horses, all while raising a family.   Chris Tully Photo He considers Pocono Downs his “home track”, and has always looked forward to racing there. “I was at Pocono Downs when they opened in 1965, and I’ve raced there every year since they opened, and I’ve won a race there every year since they opened!” During the track’s 50th Anniversary celebration of in 2015, Don drove in the Legends Race alongside fellow long-time harness racing greats Bill Mullin; Hall of Famer Bill Popfinger; Joe Antonelli; Eddie Nickle; and Jim Williard; winning the race in front of a cheering crowd of fans and horsemen from the past and present in the Winner’s Circle.   Often asked what the biggest change he’s seen in the last 50 to 60 years, he’s quick to respond that it’s catch drivers. “Years back, there were older men driving horses. Back in the mid-’80s, Billy Haughton, the leading driver in the country, got Bill O’Donnell to drive one of his best horses in the Adios at the Meadows, and that started the catch driving business.   "Before that, trainers drove their own horses and they knew their horse. Today, catch drivers jump right on them and go all they can go because that’s their living. You have to find a catch driver that you know will listen to you, especially with a young horse.” Don also points out that speed has changed dramatically, remembering that when Pocono opened, the races were going in 2:09 or 2:10 with a good one may be going in 2:06; today you have to qualify in 2:00, and trotters are clocking times of 55 or less in races.   Chris Tully Photo On July 18, 2020, Don set a track record of 2:03.01 for two-year-old trotting fillies with the Winbak Farm-bred Andover Hall filly Divainthereddress at Silver Springs Ranch. When the gate opened, she took off and won by 18 lengths – and in her first start! Coming off the track, he was met by the “paparazzi” from Penn Horse Racing Association and the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame who captured the moment and his comments for posterity. “The filly was doing all the work, I was just trying to hold her!” he told Chris Tully from the Museum. He also announced his decision to retire from driving, making that winning one his last official drive.   He’s passed his love and passion for harness racing onto his son David and grandson Justin, who are following in his footsteps and making a name for themselves in the business.   “My clock is ticking,” Don said with a laugh, “I’m turning 91 in October, and David stepped right in.”   His son drove at the fairs from when he was 16 years old and then got a job at a trucking company. Since retiring from his job, he’s back in the biz, with 10 horses in training. The younger Wiest works with several good owners, one who is a doctor from the Shamokin area who recently got into the business.   “They’re getting in the business the right way, buying the horses with the pedigree, and his son Justin helps him.” In 2017, all three drove in the same race at the Gratz Fair, with Don’s daughter Jill and wife Beverly, who has since passed on, right in the front row of the grandstand cheering them on. Jill was never in the business with her dad and brother but has always been his and the family’s biggest fan.   Whether he’s at the county fairs this season, or in the paddock at Pocono, the easy-going “Donnie” is excited to continue training and racing his beloved horses, especially alongside his son and grandson. What keeps him going every day? “He always said it’s not really a job, it’s what he loves,” Jill said. “Caring for the horses keeps him young. It’s all for the love of horses.”   Don Wiest STATS  *477 driving wins since 1977 when records were first recorded *Won at Batavia on 9/1/07 with Icy Cream in a stakes race *Won a race for purse money in each of the last four years (2017-2020) *Trainer of Tui, World Record for four-year-old Trotting Mare on 5/8 mi. Track 1:52.3. (Pocono)   by Jennifer Starr, for the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association  

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The three $15,000 harness racing divisions of the third and final preliminary of the Game Of Claims Trotting Series for $15,000 base-priced horses held Monday afternoon at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, did absolutely nothing to clarify the picture before next Monday's $30,000 series Championship. Two of the three winners, both missing the first prelim, did not qualify for the final - they will be the two AEs based on the points. The third winner was ninth in the standings going into Monday, but he secured third place in the points - yet he was not claimed (in fact, none of Monday's winners were), while the horses winding up 1-2-4 in the final pointstandings did change hands. Assuring himself a chance at the big money was the 13-year-old Kool De Caux gelding Ursis Des Caillons, fifth and claimed in the first leg, then with a second and here a 1:55.1 win for driver Mark MacDonald, trainer Carmen Auciello, and the ownership of Fox Racing Inc. URISIS DES CAILLONS REPLAY   Golden Son is in AE1 position after going the fastest of the three Game Of Claims contests, rallying along the inside for a 1:55 win for driver Jason Bartlett, trainer Kevin Lare, and the Lexington Harness Group LLC. The other winner, Triumphant's Chip, was giving chasing to frontstepping favorite Namje in the stretch when that one went offstride, and he picked up the pieces in 1:55.3 for driver Matt Kakaley, trainer Travis Alexander, and owner Adam Friedland. GOLDEN SON REPLAY   TRIUMPHANT'S CHIP REPLAY   The unofficial leading pointwinners for the Championship are Credit Fraud, Willie B Worthy, Ursis Des Caillons, Adagio De La Tour, Broadway Bruiser, Tyson, Meetmeinthemiddle, Explosive Magic and Campbellini. Broadway Bruiser (a double prelim winner, as was Credit Fraud) and Explosive Magic both chose to bypass the third prelim rather than risk a claim, and they had enough points for the strategy to work. Amidst all the series action on the Monday card, a standout was the Bar Hopping sophomore trotting ridgling Top Me Off, who won his seasonal debut by 9¼ lengths in 1:54.2 - a clocking which was not only a lifetime best but also equaled the fastest mile by a three-year-old trotter anywhere in North America this year (also in 1:54.2 so far was the colt Really Fast at The Meadowlands). The winner of his Pennsylvania Fair Sire Stakes Championship at two (though this race was technically a "nw 1 p/m race"/maiden), Top Me Off could mature into a national-caliber stakes colt for trainer/driver Todd Schadel, who is also co-owner with his wife Christine along with Rick and Regina Beinhauer. For full race results, click here. From the PHHA/The Downs

WILKES-BARRE PA - The Captaintreacherous gelding Rogerthat Bluechip made an early move to control the pace, rested to the half, then sped home in :55.2 to win the $12,000 pacing feature for males in a lifetime best 1:52.3 during the Sunday twilight card at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Jason Bartlett drove the winner, who has now taken two straight since coming to Pocono for trainer Andrew Harris and the ownership of Martin Budkey and Michael Goldberg Racingllc, and may be headed for better things. ROGERTHAT BLUECHIP REPLAY   In the co-feature for distaffs, the Quality Western mare Peggy J spent a long time in the two-wide path to get to the lead in front of the stands, but once there she could not be dislodged and won in 1:54.3. Simon Allard handled the sulky duties for trainer Jeff Sorenson and owner Paula Sarcone. PEGGY J REPLAY   Fastest mile on the card was the 1:51.1 turned in in the nightcap by the So Surreal mare Surreal Feeling, lowering her mark by 2/5 of a second after setting virtually all of the pace and finishing in :27.2. Trainer Dale Lawton co-owns the impressive mare with Chris Lawton, and Jason Bartlett guided her to the quick clocking. In all, eight horses set new lifetime marks during the program, with temperatures hovering around 60 degrees. SURREAL FEELING REPLAY   Matt Kakaley led all drivers with three sulky successes Sunday, including the night's fastest trotter, Great Unknown, who reduced his mark to 1:54.2. The Monday afternoon card at Pocono will feature the third and final preliminary of the Game Of Claims Trotting Series action for $15,000 base-price horses, three $15,000 divisions which will decide who will qualify for the $30,000 Championship on March 29 - and out of whose barn the finalists will be racing, what with 24 claims in the first two prelims. Monday's first post is 12:30 p.m. EST; program pages are available at https://www.phha.org/downsmsppps.html. For full race results, click here. From the PHHA/Pocono

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The temperature finally got to 50 degrees on Saturday afternoon, the first day of Spring, at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono - and the Mach Three gelding J M Mandamin was the first horse to post a local 1:50 mile this harness racing season in taking the $14,000 fast-class pacing feature. Driver Joe Bongiorno, teaming yet again with sister/trainer Jennifer Bongiorno, moved the razor-sharp performer from third early, went around early leader Ollie's Z Tam, and set fractions of :27.1, :55, and 1:22.1. Trente Deo came first-over just past the half, but J M Mandamin proved equal to his challenge and to that of newcomer Paternity Suit A, who came roaring from far back late to get second. The winner took a new lifetime mark with his 1:50 victory, and his immediate future appears very bright for owner Robert Weinstein. J M MANDAMIN REPLAY   In a $14,400 contest for developing younger pacers, the American Ideal gelding Levine went right to the lead, yielded to favored Ehrmantraut and stacked that rival, then made good use of the Pocono Pike to overhaul that rival and take a new mark of 1:51.1, gaining into a last half of :54.4. Megan Scran conditions the talented four-year-old for driver/owner Scott Zeron. As is usual on Saturday at Pocono, there were many claiming handicap events for the top-priced horses, with the fastest of these miles seeing Wagon Master equal his mark and Proven Desire take a new record with identical times of 1:50.4. As is also usual on Saturday at Pocono, the claiming box proved a popular place to visit, with 17 horses changing hands for $365,000. In the first fourteen cards of the year, 208 claims have resulted in $3,774,375 of transactions. Jason Bartlett was the winningest horseman on the card, with four driving triumphs. The Bongiornos, Team J&J, posted a triple for the second straight Saturday; joining them were Darren Taneyhill (with three different drivers) in the training column and George Napolitano Jr. among the sulky set. For full race results, click here. From the PHHA/The Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The highly-anticipated return of the Somebeachsomewhere gelding Nicholas Beach to Pennsylvania took place Wednesday morning at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, where he streaked a last quarter of :26.2 to win a qualifier in 1:54. Nicholas Beach, a $110,000 yearling, showed precociousness at two by following up a second in his debut with a 1:53.2 win at Pocono on August 19. But then Nicholas Beach did not get back to the races for 551 days, trying unsuccessfully to qualify once at three, and finally returning to the track and winning twice at Pocono at the end of winter 2020. Another 172-day layoff ensued (remember COVID), and Nicholas Beach came back ready, winning seven of eight starts and finishing second in the other. He took a mark of 1:49 at Philly on August 28, coming his back half in :53.3 from post eight. His last 2020 victory was at Yonkers on November 23, and his new connections, which include trainer Jennifer Bongiorno, brought him back out for a March 6 qualifier at Meadowlands where he won in 1:53.1 from post ten. The next three finishers in that mile - Backstreet Shadow, Patriot Nation, and This Is The Plan - have earned $3.8 million among them (Nicholas Beach has $70,450 on his card), and an average mark of 1:47.3. The sharp victory for driver Matt Kakaley at Pocono Wednesday again points to what seems like a vast potential in the horse if he can realize it. Two other horses broke 1:55 during the "balmy" (high 30s) Wednesday morning session at Pocono. The double stakeswinner Shouldabeenatd, now four, triumphed in 1:54.3 for Kakaley and trainer Ron Burke, and Ghost Dance, a New York Sire Stakes winner in his earlier days, was along in 1:54.2 for driver Tyler Buter and trainer Scott Blackler. From the PHHA/The Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - Broadway Bruiser and Credit Fraud both became two-time harness racing winners in the Game Of Claims Trotting Series for $15,000-level horses on a Monday afternoon at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, where the temperature cracked the freezing mark only near the end of the card. Those two horses shared a couple of other traits, too: they were both driven to victory by a Napolitano, with each horse retaining the brother who won with them last week; they did this despite the fact that both were claimed out of their first prelim round; and both will again be moving to a new barn via claim after their triumphs in $15,000 divisions Monday. Broadway Bruiser, an altered son of Muscle Mass, was slightly the faster of the two, winning in 1:57.1 for George Napolitano Jr., whose three victories gave him fifteen for the Saturday-Sunday-Monday local racing week. Credit Fraud, a Jailhouse Jesse mare, went in 1:57.3 with Anthony Napolitano in the sulky.   Neither was the fastest winner in the series today: that honor went to the Cantab Hall gelding Willie B Worthy ("Anthony Nap"), who turned the tables over her first round conqueror Explosive Magic ("George Nap") with a neck decision in 1:57. Both of those horses will reside in a new barn after a claim. The other series winner Monday was Adagio De La Tour, an altered son of Lillum Madrik who triumphed in 1:57.1 for driver Matt Kakaley after finishing second in the first leg. He is the only one of this week's winners who did not change hands, going back to trainer Ron Burke and the partnership of Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC after they claimed him last week. It will be interesting to see if the French-bred's connections try keeping him out of next Monday's final preliminary round (and the claiming box), hoping his first and second will get him a spot in his Championship. Love The Action was the only horse to try that tactic in the many Game Of Claims Pacing Series earlier, and he squeezed into his final in the ninth and last slot one point ahead of the AE1 horse, and then promptly triumphed in his Championship. In all, nine horses in the Series will live in a new environment after their races Monday, after fifteen were taken out of the first leg. Monday's claiming action brought the week's totals to 38 claims for $637,000, and the meet's to 191 transactions for $3,407,855 in thirteen cards. For complete results, click here. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The perennial "king" of the driving colony at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, George Napolitano Jr., is serving early notice that he will be tough to dethrone in 2021, posting his second straight card of six winning races on Sunday. The double sextet now gives George a 38-31 advantage over his brother Anthony, and quick math shows the pair has won 41% of all races held at the mountain track during the first twelve days of the meet. Two of George's six-bagger came for trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera, who now has nine visits to the Pocono winners circle this year, one more than Jennifer Bongiorno and Dan Maier. The pair's most impressive hookup of the night was with the Art Major mare Crazy Cute, who had had 80 days since her last race, but still was able to set the pace and come home in :55.2 to win in 1:53.4. The triumph for the partnership of Garcia-Herrera and Barbara Arnstine was the fastest clocking of the twilight card.   Perhaps the most impressive mile in the flirting-with-freezing conditions was turned in by the Caviar Crown gelding Wilberforce, who made every pole a winning one for driver Jim Morrill Jr. in trotting to a 1:55.3 triumph. Trainer Kris Rickert co-owns the winner of $347,554 with Dale Wareham. Fourteen of the fifteen horses claimed out of the first round of the Game Of Claims Trotting Series for $15,000-base-priced horses, including three of the four winners, are scheduled to go to the gate Monday afternoon for their new connections in four $15,000 second round prelims. Monday's first post is 12:30 p.m.; program pages are available at https://www.phha.org/downsmsppps.html. From the PHHA/The Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The sister-brother team of trainer Jennifer Bongiorno and driver Joe Bongiorno took the Saturday afternoon spotlight at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, combining for three victories, although the Downs's all-time leading driver, George Napolitano Jr., earned some glory as well with six winning drives. The Bongiornos combined with the Mach Three gelding J M Mandamin, unraced since December 26 and yet still ready in his 2021 debut to put on a powerful performance, winning in 1:50.3, the fastest mile of the year locally and just a tick off his mark taken here last season. Robert Weinstein saw his gelding bring his lifetime earnings to six figures with the triumph.       Jennifer and Joe also teamed up to take two of the three tri-featured $16,000 claiming handicap paces, with Weinstein also the owner of A Real Miracle, a son of Real Desire who like his stablemate "J M" used a big backstretch move en route to victory in 1:51.4. The Bongiornos' other winner, the American Ideal gelding American Rebel, also had the bad luck of a first-up trip, but American Rebel was strong and took a new mark of 1:52 while raising his bankroll over $200,000 for owners Evan Katz and Frank Canzone.   The other high-level claiming pace went to George Napolitano Jr., sulkysitting for trainer David Russo and owner Marissa Russo, behind the Mach Three gelding Tullow N, rallying him off cover to take a 1:53.2 decision and paying a very un-"George Nap"-like $41.60 to win - although in his other victory of the year, Tullow N paid $69.80.       Though none of the feature winners were claimed Saturday, eighteen more horses headed back to a new barn after their race, with $372,000 spent in search of sharp stock. After eleven days, Pocono has seen 171 claims amalgamating to a figure of $3,142,875. With her trio of winners Jennifer Bongiorno joined Dan Maier at the head of the local conditioners' list with eight successes. George Napolitano Jr. reclaimed his usual spot atop the Downs's driving colony, though brother Anthony is very close at 32-30. Sunday's racing card begins at 5 p.m.; Monday's 12:30 program will feature the second Game Of Claims Trotting Series prelim for $15,000 base-price horses. Program pages are available at https://www.phha.org/downsmsppps.html. For full race results, click here.   From PHHA/Pocono Downs  

WILKES-BARRE PA - The Game Of Claims Series lived on during the Monday afternoon card at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono - it just shifted gaits to the trot, where four fields of $15,000-base-priced harness racing horses raced $15,000 divisions in their first preliminary leg. While the gait shifted, other recent aspects of the Game Of Claims series remained firmly in place. The Napolitano brothers, Anthony and George Jr., each drove two of the four series winners, and each handled a horse who divided honors for fastest split at 1:55.4. And there were plenty of claims out of the initial trot gathering as well - fifteen of the twenty-nine entrants left the Pocono paddock to head back to new barns, including all four winners. The quickest first prelim winners were the Lucky Chucky gelding Namje, who was powerful from a pocket trip, by George, to win by 5¾ lengths after coming in from Saratoga, and the Explosive Matter gelding Explosive Magic, who made an early pace-controlling move for Anthony en route to a five-length decision. The other Game Of Claims winners were Credit Fraud, a Jailhouse Jesse mare who grinded to a 1:56.4 victory for Anthony, and the Muscle Mass gelding Broadway Bruiser, hone in 1:57.4 with George doing the sulkysitting. For the day, "Anthony Nap" crossed the wire first six times, George four, putting Anthony ahead of his brother 29-26 after ten cards of racing at The Downs in 2021. The frenzied claiming box activity for the Game Of Claims trotters raised the total of horses haltered during the week to 27, with $437,500 paid out; for the meet, there have already been 153 claims put through, with $2,770,875 changing hands. There is likely to be much more claiming activity the next two weeks, especially among the series trotters, as everyone tries to have a sharp horse to enter in the $30,000 Championship on Monday the 29th. For full race results, click here. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs  

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The Bettor's Delight gelding Love The Action, who sat out last week's Game Of Claims Pacing Series final preliminary for $10,000-based harness racing pacers after posting a second and a first, got into the final as the last of nine qualifying horses, one point ahead of the AE1, and then he made the wait worthwhile by winning the $20,000 Series Championship in 1:53.4 on Sunday at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Claimed by trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera and owner Gilbert-Garcia Owen from his series triumph, Love The Action was sent off the 6-5 favorite, and driver George Napolitano Jr. was very aggressive with him, hanging Bamski to a :26.4 opening number, then reclaiming command by the :55.4 half. Second choice Sweet Talkin Satin, the only horse at any level of the series to win all three of his prelims, came the rough first-over trip to the 1:24.1 three-quarters and pressured the leader into the stretch. Love The Action, though, would find his biggest challenge in the lane to his inside in pocketsitter Bamski, driven by George's brother Anthony - indeed, it looked like Bamski had gotten the slightest of advantages past midstretch. But the gritty winner would not be denied, fighting back to beat his left-hand rival by a neck, with Sweet Talkin Satin hanging on admirably for third.   In the $15,000 Game Of Claims Championship for $7500-tagged horses, driver Marcus Miller "broke up the Napolitanos," who had won the initial three finals, sending the Art Major gelding Stick With Cramer up the Pocono Pike to get a 1:55 triumph. Claimed after the first leg by owner/trainer Shea Lare, the winner now has turned in two wins and a second for his conditioner - whose UTR lifetime is .852, as this is the first horse the 19-year-old has trained and owned! Miller put Stick With Cramer in perfect pocket position early, as Needless To Say shot to the top and forced foes to either tuck, as did top two choices R Gauwitz Hanover (George Napolitano Jr.) and Don'tcallmefrancis (Anthony Napolitano), or be hung out, as was Onlythetuffsurvive through early fractions of :27.2 and :57. The two favorites, both double prelim winners, swept around the tiring parked horse down the back, with "Francis" first-over at the 1:26 three-quarters and "R Gawuitz" right behind him. In the stretch, R Gauwitz Hanover tipped right for a path - and Stick With Cramer tipped left, with the latter outpacing the former by a nose, with Dontcallmefrancis very good to hold on for third.   This brought to an end the Game Of Claims events for pacers - but the claiming series action is right back in gear on Monday, with four $15,000 divisions of the first preliminary for $15,000 base-priced trotters. Post time for the Monday card is 12:30 p.m.; program pages are available at https://www.phha.org/downsmsppps.html. For full results, click here. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - Glengarry Knight N, a double harness racing winner in the preliminaries of the Game Of Claims Pacing Series for $25,000 base-claiming-price level, came off of cover and just caught American Rebel to take the richest purse of the year to date at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, $50,000, in winning his series Championship in 1:52.3. A Real Miracle streaked to the early lead in the contest, rejecting the bid of favored Melanie's Tedy for the front spot and forcing that one to tuck in, then letting stablemate American Rebel go to the top past a :27.1 quarter. The last-named pacer hit the half in :56, with Melanie's Tedy forced to accept first-over duties and Glengarry Knight N following his cover under the guidance of Anthony Napolitano. Near the 1:23.4 three-quarters the chalk stopped gaining and A Real Miracle backed off, letting American Rebel get a clear lead, but Glengarry Night N swung off his dull cover and tried determinedly to the wire, just catching the game pacesetter in the final steps, with the official margin a head.   The victorious altered son of Changeover made quite a debut for trainer William Adamczyk and owner William Emmons, as they claimed Glengarry Knight N for $30,000 last week (progressive prices in series). They are now the braintrust behind the second-richest North American harness horse of 2021 at press time, as the winner pushed his seasonal bankroll to $53,760. "A Napolitano-driven winner coming off two preliminary wins and joining a new barn" also summarized the story in the $30,000 Game Of Claims Championship for $15,000 base-priced horses, as George Napolitano Jr. kept Sunset Braydon clear in the lane for trainer/owner Jordan Derue (who claimed him for $20,000 last week) in 1:52.4. Cash Is King emerged with the early lead with Shoreview on the outside, but a major wrinkle came at the quarter when Royal Heart, the winner of this level's Championship last year, made a break at the :26.3 quarter trying to keep the pocket closed. Shoreview thus got in the two-hole, and the coast was clear for George Nap to come brushing with the favored Sunset Braydon, that horse making the lead well before the :55 half. A long uncovered move by Fernado stalled at the 1:23.2 three-quarters, and that fact coincided with Cash Is King not keeping the pocket filled, allowing the winning Always A Virgin gelding to open a clear margin on the far turn. No one could get near him in the lane, with Just Plain Loco swinging wide to get second behind the winner of half his eight seasonal starts.   The Sunday 5 p.m. card at The Downs will feature the $20,000 Game Of Claims Championship for $10,000-tagged horses and the $15,000 finale for $7500 claiming stock. On Monday, trotters will take up the Game Of Claims mantle, as $15,000-priced horses will go in four $15,000 divisions of their first preliminary. Program pages are available at https://www.phha.org/downsmsppps.html. Though there was no claiming from the series Championships; nonetheless eight horses did change hands during the card for $165,000. And the Napolitano brothers dominated the driving ranks for the card as they did in the series Championships, with Anthony winning five races and George four. For full results, click here. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The Banker Volo gelding Itsonlymoneyhoney swung wide from second-over and was up late to catch the pylonskimming Remarkable De Vie and win the $10,000 trotting harness racing feature during the first Monday card of the season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. SVF Blusingbride took over from fast starter Remarkable De Vie past a 28.3 opener over a "good" surface, then backed off the half to :59. Heavy favorite Hashtagmadeyalook came up first-over down the backstretch and to the 1:27.3 three-quarters, with Itsonlymoneyhoney tailing the chalk's cover. In the stretch, 27-1 Remarkable De Vie went to the Pocono Pike and looked like he might pull off a big upset, but driver Tyler Buter got Itsonlymoneyhomey in high gear late and took a head decision in 1:57.1. Rob Harmon conditions the winner for Harmon Racing Stable LLC, Lawrence Kittenplan, and Winners Circle Racing LLC. Itsonlymoneyhoney went off at odds of 7.90 to 1 and paid $17.80 to win.   The draws for Saturday's Championships in the higher-level Game Of Claims Pacing Series were held Monday, and even though all of the horses have to have shown good recent form just to qualify for the finals, handicapping still may be a bit difficult. In the $25,000 base-priced group, going for $50,000, eight of the nine entrants were claimed last time, while the $30,000 being chased by $15,000-level entrants will find seven of the nine starters having changed hands in the final prelim. In the $50,000 Championship, points leader Melanie's Tedy drew post five, by far the best starting slot early in the meet at Pocono with nearly 30% winners, and he will go for the barn of Dan Maier, tied with Steve Brabrook at the top of the trainers' win list. In the $30,000 contest, top two point earners Sunset Braydon and Royal Heart will get their starts from the innermost spots on the gate; those looking for an "extra factor" can find two with Royal Heart: he won his Game Of Claims Championship last year while competing at this level, and he stays in the barn of trainer Travis Alexander off of a win last time. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs  

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