Pocono Downs slated to host four lucrative finals

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Ted Black

June 29th, 2016

While many Americans will look to spend the July 4th Holiday weekend at the beach or in their own backyards hosting cookouts, novice and serious harness racing fans alike will catch a glimpse of an equine fireworks display that should ensue at Pocono Downs on Saturday night when that Pennsylvania five-eighths mile oval hosts four lucrative stakes finals.

This weekend Pocono Downs will present the $500,000 finals of the Earl Beal, Jr. for three-year-old colt trotters, the Ben Franklin for older pacers, the Max Hempt for three-year-old colt pacers and the $300,000 final of the James Lynch Memorial for three-year-old filly pacers. The track will also offer consolation events for all four of those races earlier on the card.

This Saturday's 12th race at Pocono Downs will be the final of the Earl Beal Memorial for sophomore colt trotters, but neither elimination winner, Dayson or Bar Hopping, is going to be the favorite or center of attention. Southwind Frank (Yannick Gingras) suffered his first setback in three starts this year in last week's elim, but had been idle three weeks before that start and raced well in defeat considering. He will start from post seven in Saturday's final and looms the odds-on favorite for trainer Ron Burke in an early summer Hambletonian prep.

But one race earlier on the card, sparks will certainly be flying for the Ben Franklin final for older pacers. Reigning horse of the year, Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague) will start from post three following a 1:48.1 elim score, but will get an acid test from elim winners Freaky Feet Pete (1:47.1) and Always B Miki (1:47) who will leave from posts six and seven, respectively. Both Wiggle It Jiggleit and Freaky Feet Pete won handily last week, while Always B Miki had to do some serious work to surge past Mel Mara in the lane.

Mel Mara, who owns a prior win over Always B Miki at the Meadowlands, drew the rail, while Shambala has post two, while a trio of Burke trainees, Always At My Place, All Bets Off and Rockn'roll World will start from posts eight, nine and 10, respectively. Only nine were expected for the final, but Always At My Place and Shambala dead-heated for third in their elim so both were allowed to enter for the final.

Wiggle It Jiggleit has won eight of 11 starts this year after taking 22 of 26 outings last year during his horse of the year campaign, while Freaky Feet Pete has won five of six starts this year and 29 of 33 lifetime. Always B Miki missed most of last year with a leg injury, but won all four of his outings and has taken four of six starts this year for trainer Jimmy Takter. His 1:47 tally last week already has onlookers expecting this event to go in 1:46 and change!

One race earlier the track will host the Max Hempt final which features all of the top sophomores except for Betting Line, the North America Cup winner who bypassed this event. But the NA Cup had a serious influence on the elims and likely the final as Racing Hill and Control The Moment won their respective elims after finishing second and third in the NA Cup. Boston Red Rocks was second in his elim to Control The Moment after finishing fourth in the NA Cup final. Burke trainees JK Will Power and Big Top Hanover will start from posts four and nine, respectively.

Then one race earlier in the $300,000 James Lynch Memorial final for three-year-old pacing fillies, Pure Country (David Miller) looms as the odds-on choice after her determined, first over elim score. Last year's champion freshman filly pacer when she won all 10 of her starts, Pure Country has won three of six outings and gets the nod here despite post seven against elim winner, Newborn Sassy, and Darlinonthebeach, who has won five of eight starts this year and raced well while third last week.