Four lucrative finals set for Saturday at Pocono Downs

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Ted Black

July 1st, 2015

While many Americans will find an ideal spot to watch fireworks this weekend, standardbred fans are going to pay close attention to the races at Pocono Downs on Saturday night when the Pennsylvania five-eighths mile oval presents four lucrative stakes finals on a card that could produce several track and world records.

Just past the midway point of Saturday's 16-race card, Pocono Downs will offer the $350,000 James Lynch Memorial final for three-year-old pacing fillies, the $500,000 Max Hempt Memorial final for three-year-old pacing colts, the $500,000 Ben Franklin final for aged pacers and the $500,000 Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial for three-year-old trotting colts. There are also consolation races for each of the four events and a pair of Open races for pacers and an Invitational for trotters that will easily help jump start the card.

Saturday's ninth race at Pocono Downs in the $350,000 James Lynch Memorial final for three-year-old filly pacers and the event attracted a number of proven ladies while leaving behind one many expected to see. Stacia Hanover (Scott Zeron), Momas Got A Gun (Jim Morrill, Jr.) and The Show Returns (Tim Tetrick) all won their respective eliminations last week in the identical clocking of 1:51.3. But of the three, Stacia Hanover was the most impressive and she looms as the solid favorite this weekend despite the presence of the second-best member of her generation.

Sassa Hanover won 9 of 13 starts and earned nearly $500,000 last year as a freshman, but she was overshadowed by the unbeaten JK She'salady, who won all 12 of her starts en route to being divisional champion and horse of the year. But while Sassa Hanover has returned in good form, JK She'salady has done an immediate reversal and failed to make the final for this event while suffering her third straight defeat. Sassa Hanover still appears to be the second-best member of the sophomore group, but now Stacia Hanover looks like the new queen of this division.

One race later on the card a stellar field of three-year-old pacing colts will go postward in the $500,000 Max Hempt Memorial final and this group includes at least a handful of potential division champs.

Last year's champion two-year-old pacing colt, Artspeak (Zeron) won his Hempt elim in 1:50 and now sports three wins in five starts this year and 11 wins from 15 lifetime tries. But he may invariably yield the favorite's role and divisional honors to Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague) who won his elim last week by four lengths in 1:50.1 and looked superb in victory. He has won 11 of 12 starts this year and 12 of 13 career outings for trainer George Teague, Jr. of Rainbow Blue fame and rebounded from a second-place finish in the North America Cup final to win his elim handily.

Two spots to his outside is the lone colt to defeat Wiggle It Jiggleit, Wakizashi Hanover (Tetrick), who has won 6 of 7 starts this year and sports an 8-4-0 slate from 13 lifetime tries for trainer Joann Looney-King. Wakizashi Hanover benefited from a perfect trip to win his elim last week in 1:50.4 and two weeks earlier he benefited from a pocket trip and overhauled Wiggle It Jiggleit in the lane to capture the North America Cup. This rivalry only appears to be in its infancy.

But those looking for upset prospects could take a swing at In The Arsenal (Brian Sears), Pierce Hanover (Brett Miller), Betting Exchange (Morrill) and Lost For Words (David Miller), all of which raced well in defeat in their respective elims. In The Arsenal won the Art Rooney final at Yonkers last month and rarely delivers a dull effort. Pierce Hanover was third to Artspeak despite a long, first over journey. Betting Exchange sports an 0-2-3 slate from seven starts this year and could be the best winless pacer of his generation, while Lost For Words has won four of five starts and was second to Wakizashi Hanover in their elim last weekend.

One race later in the $500,000 Ben Franklin final for aged pacers, much of the attention will be focused on the two elim winners, State Treasurer (David Miller) and Luck Be With You (George Napoliano. Jr.). State Treasurer rallied from last and fourth over to score in 1:50.4, notching his fourth win in his last five starts. Luck Be With You rebounded from an eighth-place finish as the even-money choice in the $175,000 Battle Of Lake Erie to capture his elim in 1:50 despite setting unreal fractions of 26, 53.4 and 1:22 for the first three calls.

But two other proven commodities will garner plenty of support. Foiled Again (Yannick Gingras) finished a nondescript fifth in his elim but go the last spot and always merits respect. The 11-year-old Dragon Again gelding boasts 84 wins and earnings in excess of $7 million in his Hall of Fame career and could rebound at a decent price this weekend. Vegas Vacation (Sears) rallied late to finish second last week and has been second four times in five starts this year and could be the best winless horse of his age on the continent. But that could certainly change with an ideal trip this weekend.

Then one race later in the 12th, the top sophomore colt trotters in the land will go postward in the $500,000 Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial, an early stepping stone to the $1 million Hambletonian on August 8 at the Meadowlands.

Trainer Jimmy Takter will again prove formidable in here thanks to the presence of Pinkman (Gingras) and Uncle Lasse (Brett Miller). Uncle Lasse remained perfect in four starts this year with a sharp, second over score last weekend in 1:54, while Pinkman settled for second in his elim while suffering the first setback in four starts this season. Cruzado Dela Noche (David Miller) overcame a long, first over bid to win his elim in 1:53.3, while Wicker Hanover (Andrew McCarthy) posted a 16-1 upset in 1:54 in his elim. Crazy Wow finished second as the 3-5 favorite in his elim, but could bounce back this weekend. Centurion ATM (Ake Svandstedt) finished third in his elim and was among the best members of his gait and gender last season at age two.

Several races earlier on the Pocono Downs card on Saturday cannot be entirely overlooked. Anndrovette (Tetrick), who boasts a 42-20-23 slate and $3.2 million bankroll from 119 starts, draws the rail for a $30,000 Filly-Mare Open that also includes Yagonnakissmeornot (Simon Allard), Radar Contact (John Campbell) and Weeper (Gingras), last year's Maryland-bred horse of the year. Yagonnakissmeornot has earned over $1 million in her career thanks to a 32-25-8 slate from 106 lifetime outings. Radar Contact, who has a 32-19-19 slate and $860,000 bankroll, will make the 100th start of her career on Saturday.

One race later a $30,000 Open for older pacers attracted JK Endofanera (Gingras), who has won 15 of 30 starts and over $1.5 million in his career and will leave from post nine, while the razor sharp, Maryland-bred Caution Signs (Morrill) seeks his third straight score while making a serious climb up the class ladder. Scott Rocks (Napolitano) has delivered some big miles over the last two years and cannot be entirely overlooked.

Then two races later in the fifth, the Sun Invitational for trotters, the race attracted last year's champion older trotter, Sebastian KS (Svandstedt) and potentially this year's champion older trotter, JL Cruze (Campbell). Sebastian KS wowed racegoers last summer upon arrival from Sweden with stellar scores that included a 1:49 triumph one year ago on this night at this oval. But his form tailed off late in the season. JL Cruze, however, has emerged as a genuine star this year, winning 13 of 15 races for trainer Eric Ell and owner Kenny Wood and the "Denton Destroyer" also boasts a pair of victories over last year's champion three-year-old colt trotter, Father Patrick.