Stakes Action Takes Center Stage on Saturday Night

Profile Picture: Ted Black

Ted Black

June 29th, 2017

While many harness racing enthusiasts will focus their attention on the Meadowlands on Friday night when Hall of Fame driver John Campbell climbs into the bike for the final time at the New Jersey one-mile oval, serious and novice standardbred fans alike will quickly turn their attention to the stellar card at Pocono Downs on Saturday night.

This Saturday's Pocono Downs card will feature well over $2 million in purses, bolstered by lucrative finals for the Ben Franklin, Earl Beal, Jr., James Lynch and Max C. Hempt Memorials for their respective age and gait. There will also be a consolation race for each of those events and the overnight pacers will have the chance to shine in a race fittingly dubbed the Herve Filion Memorial, named in honor of the late, great harness racing driver who passed away last week at the age of 77.

Saturday's second race is the $75,000 James M. Lynch Memorial consolation for three-year-old pacing fillies and it features two ladies that perhaps should have made the final. Roaring To Go (Brett Miller), a daughter of Art Major out of a Western Ideal mare trained by Kevin Lare for owner Frank Chick of Harrington, Delaware, finished fourth as the 2-1 second choice in her elim last weekend, while Hail Damage Blues (Tim Tetrick), a Maryland-bred daughter of Western Ideal trained by Tom Fanning for owner William Augustine, finished fourth as the 9-2 third choice in an elim won by Agent Q.

Three races later on the card a full field of nine sophomore trotting colts will go postward in the $75,000 Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial consolation where much of the attention will go toward Giveitgasandgo (Corey Callahan) who finished fourth as the 7-2 third choice in an elim won by likely final favorite Long Tom. A sophomore son of Yankee Glide trained by John Butenschoen, Giveitgasandgo showed speed early but offered little late in his elim, but he did win a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes event over the strip the previous week and gets the nod over Muscles Jared, fourth in his elim behind Ariana G.

One race later a solid field of older pacers will clash in a "Winners Over" event dubbed the Herve Filion Memorial in honor of the late, great driver who passed away last week with nearly 16,000 wins to his credit. Bushwacker (David Miller), Dancin Yankee (Tim Tetrick), Mister Daytona N (Andrew McCarthy), Major Uptrend (Tony Morgan) and Scott Rocks (George Napolitano. Jr.) will all be major players in a race that will require the winner to travel the mile in 1:49 or faster.

Then one race later the sophomore pacing colts will go postward in the $75,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial consolation. Heaven's Gait (David Miller) gets the rail following a fourth-place finish as the 5-2 second choice in an elim won by Downbytheseaside, while Every Way Out (Brian Sears) will look to rebound following an early miscue as the 6-5 favorite in his elim that cost him any chance of making the lucrative final for trainer Dylan Davis. Both Summer Side (Tim Tetrick) and Highalator (George Napolitano, Jr.) were competitive in the elims won by Miso Fast and Downbytheseaside, respectively.

Then one race later in the last of the four consolations, a solid field of nine older pacers will clash in the $75,000 Ben Franklin consol where the attention will again get shifted to the horses that were well-backed in their respective elims but not quite up to the task of earning a berth in the final.

Luck Be Withyou (George Napolitano, Jr.) finished fourth as the 5-2 second choice in the elim won by Mel Mara in 1:48.4, Check Six (Yannick Gingras) was fourth in the elim won by Dealt A Winner and Freaky Feet Pete (Trace Tetrick), runner-up in the Ben Franklin final one year ago, faded to fifth after carving out the early fractions in his seasonal debut last week in the elim won by George Morton Levy series hero Keystone Velocity.

Luck Be Withyou, Check Six and Freaky Feet Pete also happened to be unlucky in the post position draw, getting burdened with slots seven, eight and nine, respectively. Luck Be Withyou and Freaky Feet Pete both have the gate speed to overcome the outside draw, but railbound Rockeyed Optimist (Andy Miller), seventh in his elim from post seven last week in the elim won by Keystone Velocity, could be primed for a big performance two starts after attempting to corral Mel Mara first over at the Meadowlands.

One race later the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial for three-year-old filly pacers kicks off a quartet of lucrative finals. Railbound, Maryland-bred Tequila Monday (Sears) narrowly won her elim in 1:50.4 as the 3-10 choice over Idyllic Beach (Gingras), who drew the outside post nine slot. Agent Q (David Miller) won her elim handily as the 3-5 choice in 1:51.1, with Bettor's Up (Doug McNair) second in a reversal of finish of their battle in the $320,000 Fan Hanover final at Mohawk Raceway the week before. Brazuca (Callahan) won her elim in 1:52.3, but looms an outsider from post five here.

Then one race later the sophomore colts will have their moment to shine in the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial for the sport's glamour division.

Fear The Dragon (David Miller), second in his elim as the 1-9 favorite last week behind Miso Fast, will leave from the rail two starts after capturing the $730,000 North America Cup final at Mohawk. Miso Fast (Matt Kakaley) will be seeking to prove that his 12-1 upset in his elim last week was no fluke, while Downbytheseaside (Sears) will have to overcome post eight to prevail here after winning his elim as the 3-10 choice one week after he carved out wicked middle fractions before settling for third in the North America Cup final.

Santafe's Coach (Anthony Napolitano) posted a 21-1 upset in a modest 1:51.1 in his elim last week, but he will likely get little respect at the windows again in the final as will the runner-up in that split, Ozone Blue Chip (Brett Miller). But Donttellmeagain (Tim Tetrick) raced much better than his 22-1 price last week indicated and he could get a good portion of the pot if he can work out a trip from post seven. Eddard Hanover (Gingras) finished third behind Downbytheseaside last week from the rail and won the North America Cup conso two starts back, but the Ron Burke trainee gets post nine in this tough spot.

Then one race later the focus will be on the stellar field of nine aged pacers - six of which clashed in the inaugural edition of the $100,000 Potomac Pace at Rosecroft Raceway last fall - in the $500,000 Ben Franklin final.

Elim winners Keystone Velocity (Simon Allard), Mel Mara (Callahan) and Dealt A Winner (David Miller) drew posts one, two and seven, respectively for an event that will likely require the winner to eclipse the 1:48 barrier in order to succeed. Keystone Velocity, hero of the $530,000 George Morton Levy Series final at Yonkers Raceway two months ago, rallied second over to score in 1:48.3 last week, while Mel Mara rolled to to half in 53 flat and by three-quarters in 1:21.1 en route to a four-length score in 1:48.4 in his elim.

Dealt A Winner rallied first over to score in 1:49.1 in the weakest and slowest of the three Ben Franklin elims last week and he will certainly have his work cut out for him from post seven. All Bets Off (Kakaley), hero of the Potomac Pace last fall at Rosecroft in 1:48.2, finished a sharp second behind Keystone Velocity following a gritty, first over try in his elim, with Mach It So (Tim Tetrick) rallying for third in that split. Rockin Ron (Gingras) was a good second in his elim, while Boston Red Rocks (Brett Miller) settled for second as the 4-5 choice in his elim. Boston Red Rocks and Shamballa, both winless thus far on the season, drew posts eight and nine, respectively.

Last, but certainly not least in the fourth and final of the quartet of lucrative finals on Saturday night at Pocono Downs, elim winners Long Tom (Tim Tetrick) and Ariana G (Gingras) will vie for favoritism and the lion's share of the purse in the $500,000 Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial final for three-year-old trotting colts.

Long Tom, a sophomore son of Muscle Hill trained by Marcus Melander, has won all three of his starts this year and gets the rail following an emphatic 1:52.3 score in his Beal elim last weekend. Ariana G, the lone filly in the field, has also won all three of her starts this year for trainer Jimmy Takter and arrives off an effortless 1:53.4 score in her elim in her first outing against the boys. She has won 12 of 14 lifetime starts and looms one of the favorites despite getting post eight and the fact that Long Tom drew the rail for the final.

The other elim winner, Perfect Spirit (David Miller), rallied to edge 2-5 choice Devious Man (Andy Miller) in 1:54.1 in their elim, but Devious Man will likely get considerably more backing again here despite that setback and drawing post seven. The Maryland-bred son of Credit Winner trained by Julie Miller had won the $250,000 Empire Breeders Classic final at Vernon Downs in his previous outing and has every right to atone for his second-place finish one week ago in a field where Long Tom and Ariana G are both going to be considerably shorter prices.