Pocono Downs Offers Stakes-filled Card on Saturday Night

Profile Picture: Ted Black

Ted Black

July 2nd, 2017

One night after harness racing fans everywhere bid a fond farewell to Hall of Fame driver John Campbell following his final night of competition on Friday evening at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, many serious standardbred fans focused their attention on the lucrative, stakes-filled card at Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania.

One week after the entire Saturday night card was comprised of elimination races for the $500,000 Ben Franklin for older pacers, $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial for three-year-old colt pacers, $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial for three-year-old filly pacers and $500,000 Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial for three-year-old trotters, much of the latter portion of Saturday night's program was dedicated to the finals of those events.

In the last of the quartet, the $500,000 Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial final for three-year-old trotters, much of the attention was focused on elim winners Long Tom (Tim Tetrick), who drew the rail following his 1:52.3 elim score, and the talented filly, Ariana G (Yannick Gingras) who drew post eight after beating the boys one week earlier in 1:53.4 in her elim in her first try against the boys.

But circumstances were not favorable for Ariana G on Saturday night. Devious Man (Andy Miller) left to gain command in a rapid opener, yielded to Long Tom before the half, sat a tight pocket as Ariana G grinded toward the leaders first over, angled to the passing lane and rallied inside for a length score at 15-1 in 1:52.4. A Maryland-bred son of Credit Winner trained by Julie Miller, Devious Man notched his fourth win from five starts this year and pushed his seasonal earnings past $700,000 and again looms as one of the early favorites for the $1 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands in August.

One race earlier in the $500,000 Ben Franklin final for older pacers, Keystone Velocity (Simon Allard) maintained his sharp form when he left alertly to secure good position, quarter moved to command, yielded to 3-5 favorite Mel Mara (Corey Callahan), sat a tight pocket down the backside and through the far turn, then angled up the passing lane to nail the favorite in the final strides for a nose victory in 1:49.1.

A nine-year-old Western Hanover stallion trained by Rene Allard for owner George Hempt, Keystone Velocity now sports six wins and banked $620,000 from 11 starts this year. Keystone Velocity vaulted to the head of the class among older pacers and now boasts triumphs in the Ben Franklin and George Morton Levy Series finals. Last fall Keystone Velocity, Mel Mara, All Bets Off, Mach It So and Dealt A Winner all clashed in the inaugural $100,000 Potomac Pace at Rosecroft Raceway.

In the final that preceded that one, Fear The Dragon (David Miller) benefited from a second over journey behind Miso Fast (Matt Kakaley), surged to command at the top of the lane and then outlasted the late bids of longshots Funknwffles (Corey Callahan) to prevail by a length in the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial final for three-year-old pacing colts. A sophomore son of Dragon Again trained by Brian Brown, Fear The Dragon secured his place at the head of the class by scoring in 1:49.3 for his seventh win in eight starts this year and pushed his seasonal earnings past $700,000 three weeks after capturing the $730,000 North America Cup final at Mohawk Raceway.

Then one race earlier on the card, Agent Q (David Miller) posted a mild 8-5 upset when she overcame a long, first over bid to capture the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial final by two lengths in 1:51. A sophomore daughter of Western Terror trained by Aaron Lambert and bred by Kenny Wood, William Dittmar and Steve Iaquinta of J L Cruze fame, Agent Q recorded her fourth win in seven starts this year and doubled her seasonal earnings to nearly $300,000 and she now owns a 7-9-0 slate and $735,000 banked from 17 career outings.

One race earlier in the $75,000 Ben Franklin consolation for older pacers, Lyons Snyder (Scott Zeron) benefited from a pocket trip behind Luck Be Withyou and posted a 30-1 shocker when he overhauled that one in the lane and prevailed by a length in 1:49.2. A four-year-old Well Said stallion trained by Jimmy Takter for owner Jeff Snyder of Cams Card Shark fame, Lyons Snyder notched his second win in seven starts this year and pushed his career earnings past $360,000.

One race earlier in the $75,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial for three-year-old colt pacers, Heaven's Gait (David Miller) lived up to his role as the 6-5 choice when he brushed to command down the backside and by three-quarters in 1:22.2 then held safe the late bid of Every Way Out (Brian Sears) for a neck victory in 1:50.4. A sophomore son of Rock N Roll Heaven trained by Nicholas Devita, Heaven's Gait recorded his fourth win from nine starts this year and six victories from 14 career outings to push his lifetime earnings toward $100,000.

Two races earlier in the $75,000 Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial for three-year-old colt trotters, Backstage Pass (Tim Tetrick) rallied from well off the pace to post a 45-1 shocker to nail 8-5 favorite Muscles Jared (Brian Sears) at the wire for a head victory in 1:55. A sophomore son of Donato Hanover trained by Mike Simons, Backstage Pass emerged late on the scene to notch his third win from 10 starts this year and now owns 10 wins from 20 career tries with lifetime earnings of nearly $120,000.

Several races earlier in the $75,000 James M. Lynch Memorial consolation for three-year-old filly pacers, YS Tallia (Simon Allard) shook loose late on the far turn and rallied rapidly to overhaul 5-2 favorite Roaring To Go (Brett Miller) to prevail by nearly a length in 1:51.4. A sophomore daughter of Western Ideal out of an Art's Conquest mare, YS Tallia closed willingly late to notch her second win from seven starts this year and pushed her career earnings past $42,000 after being unraced at age two.

While the quartet of stakes finals and matching number of consolations comprised the focal point of the program, overnight events completed the last two races on the card and also kicked off the program.

Midway through the card Pocono Downs honored the late, great Herve Filion by offering a "Winners Over" event for older pacers. Despite having post nine on the far outside and being forced to make two moves and race first over, Scott Rocks (George Napolitano, Jr.) surged to command at the top of the lane and then outlasted the late bid of Mister Daytona N (Andrew McCarthy) for a length score in 1:50.1. A seven-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding trained by Chris Oakes, Scott Rocks now owns a 5-1-2 slate and $65,000 bankroll from 11 starts this year.

In the opening race on the card, Fort Knox (George Napolitano, Jr.) lived up to his role as the 2-1 favorite in a non-winners of $13,000 last five starts class for pacers when he quarter moved to command, led the field by the half in 55 and three-quarters in 1:22.1 then drew clear as much the best to a five-length score in 1:50 flat over a track labeled "good" for that race and that race only. A six-year-old American Ideal stallion trained by Matias Ruiz, Fort Knox recorded his second win in his last three starts and now owns a 5-4-4 slate and $55,500 banked from 22 starts this year.

While Pocono Downs took center stage on Saturday night, a solid field of older trotters convened at Northfield Park for the $185,000 Cleveland Classic and much of the attention was focused on the well-traveled Resolve (Ake Svandstedt) who prepped for this event by winning the Open Handicap at Yonkers Raceway after spending the latter portion of the spring in Europe competing in the prestigious Elitlopp in Sweden.

Resolve was made the 1-5 favorite from the rail but bided his time early and then launched a first over bid past the half, but had to work hard to overtake Obrigado (Andy Miller) and then was nailed late by Crazy Wow (Chris Page) in 1:52.3. A five-year-old Crazed stallion trained by Ron Burke, Crazy Wow now owns three wins from six starts this year while Resolve suffered his third setback in five seasonal outings.

Speaking of Yonkers, Saturday's feature was the $55,000 Open Handicap for older pacers and fittingly the oldest horse in the race prevailed. Clear Vision (George Brennan) left to gain command in a modest opener, got a breather to the half and edged clear in the lane to a two-length score in 1:52. An 11-year-old Western Hanover gelding trained by John Kokinos, Clear Vision notched his sixth win from 17 starts this year and now owns a stellar 39-47-35 slate and $2.7 million bankroll from 216 career outings.