Sparks should be flying at Pocono Downs on Saturday night

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Ted Black

July 2nd, 2016

Tomorrow night Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania will present four lucrative finals for trotters and pacers and there is plenty of speculation that onlookers could be in store for the fastest mile in harness racing history in an early precursor to the upcoming fireworks display many are expecting to witness this July 4 weekend.

Saturday's 11th race at Pocono Downs is the $500,000 Ben Franklin final for older pacers and the race features 10 of the sport's best horses, including the reigning horse of the year and several others looking to get an early advantage over the defending champion.

Last week Wiggle It Jiggleit
[Montrell Teague], the 2015 harness horse of the year won his Ben Franklin elim in 1:48.1, but tht was eventually bettered by both Always B Miki (David Miller), who scored in 1:47 for trainer Jimmy Takter and Freaky Feet Pete (Trace Tetrick) who won his elim handily in 1:47.1. All three are accustomed to being sent postward as the odds-on choice, but only one of them could play that role this weekend and it is likely none of them will be below even-money at post time.

Wiggle It Jiggleit will leave from post three boasting four straight wins and eight tallies in 11 starts overall this year. He rebounded from a second-place finish in the Confederation Cup to capture the Battle Of Lake Erie at Northfield Park, the Dorothy Mullin at Harrah's Philadelphia, a Graduate leg at Tioga Downs and then last week's Franklin elim. He has won 31 of 38 starts overall, but it is quite possible the reigning horse of the year may not be the post-time choice in this spot.

Always B Miki overcame a brutal, parked out journey to score in 1:47 last week for Takter and has won four of six starts this year, eight of his last 10 and 22 of 41 in his career. Always B Miki has always been blessed with tremendous talent, but he has also had to overcome several injuries along the way and the Franklin final will mark the first time in several years in which he has competed in three straight weeks.

Just to his inside is Freaky Feet Pete, a talented homebred who has been able to take his show on the road from Hoosier Park to various ovals and still perform well. He strolled through fractions of 26.1, 53 and 1:20 last week en route to drawing clear in hand in 1:47.1 and he owns several prior victories over Wiggle It Jiggleit. This will be only their second encounter this year, with 'Wiggle' have captured the Battle Of Lake Erie while 'Pete' settled for third after a parked, first over journey.

The other Franklin finalists from the rail out include Mel Mara (Corey Callahan), Shamballa (Scott Zeron), State Treasurer (Tim Tetrick), Sunfire Blue Chip (Brett Miller), All Bets Off (Matt Kakaley), Rock N' Roll World (Jim Morrill, Jr.) and Always At My Place (Yannick Gingras), who will start from post 10 in the second tier.

While the 'big three' will garner much of the attention, remember that Mel Mara owns a prior win over Always B Miki, State Treasurer was last year's champion older pacer and All Bets Off, who made two moves last week and still finished second to 'Miki' was second in the Battle Of Lake Erie and was second in the George Morton Levy Memorial series final at Yonkers, although post eight will be a likely hinder his chances here.

When the stonedust settles after tomorrow night's Ben Franklin final, don't be surprised if the winner stops the timer in 1:46.3, which would establish an all-age world record for pacers in a race. Currently four different horses share the mark of 1:46.4 - all of which were on larger ovals - but the combination of speed and talent in this affair could enable the winner to stamp himself as the fastest pacer of all-time.

One race later in the $500,000 Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial for three-year-old colt trotters, much of the focus will be on Southwind Frank (Gingras), the defending two-year-old trotting colt champion and future book favorite for the Hambletonian who suffered his first setback in three starts this year when second in his elim. But Southwind Frank clearly needed that race having been idle for three weeks prior and looms as the odds-on favorite from post seven for trainer Ron Burke.

But those who would like to play against Southwind Frank again will have several legitimate options. Dayson (Morrill) rallied from well off the pace and overhauled a tiring Brooklyn Hill (David Miller) in the lane to score in 1:52.3. Bar Hopping (Tim Tetrick) made two moves last week and still upended Southwind Frank, but this Takter trainee drew post nine on the far outside and will need considerable luck to topple the division champion again.

One race before the Ben Franklin a field of nine sophomore pacers will go postward in the $500,000 Max Hempt Memorial final and the race attracted the best three-year-old pacers in the land except for North America Cup hero Betting Line.

Elim winners Racing Hill (Brett Miller) and Control The Moment (Randall Waples) both won handily last week, but they will start from opposing posts two and eight, respectively, in the final. Racing Hill, second in the NA Cup, ended his bridesmaid status with his elim victory, while Control The Moment notched his first win in four starts this year and taking eight of nine tries for trainer Brad Maxwell last year when he was among the sport's top freshmen pacers.

But the elim winners are hardly a cinch to secure the exacta. JK Will Power (Gingras) has raced well over this oval for Burke and gets post four. Boston Red Rocks owns a solid 6-6-2 slate and $700,000 bankroll from 15 career tries for trainer Steve Elliott and was a good second to Control The Moment last week. Katies Rocker (David Miller) finished a good second to Racing Hill last week after being idle three weeks and certainly has a right to move forward off that effort despite drawing post seven.

Then one race earlier in the $300,000 James Lynch Memorial final for three-year-old filly pacers, much of the attention will be on Pure Country (David Miller), last year's champion two-year-old filly pacer who has already won three of six starts and banked over $350,000 this year, including last week's gritty first over score in 1:50.1 as the 3-10 choice and the $340,000 Fan Hanover final for Takter.

Newborn Sassy (Tim Tetrick) displayed plenty of early speed and ample late kick last week to capture her elim in 1:51.3 over favored I Said Diamonds (Matt Kakaley). Darlinonthebeach (David Miller) rallied from well off the pace to finish third behind Pure Country and Blue Moon Stride in her elim and she already owns a win over Pure Country this year. Both I Said Diamonds and Blue Moon Stride cut out honest fractions last week while settling for second, but both could be factors throughout here.