Who says Saturday's best horse race is in Kentucky? Based on overall career accomplishment, on quantity of sheer speed and quality of competitive racing, the toughest field of horses gathered anywhere this weekend will be at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs on Saturday night, contesting the $50,000 Van Rose Memorial, named after the late colorful/controversial local racing writer.
Here's the stellar cast of nine in post position order:
GOLDEN RECEIVER (post one, river George Napolitano Jr., 3-1) – The defending Rose champion after a 1:50 score last year, the 9YO has the highest career bankroll ($2.14M) and will be gunning for his 61st career victory, likely using early speed that no other harness horse can show consistently.
DANCIN YANKEE (post two, Brett Miller, 4-1) – Has already banked over $155,000 this year, showing consistently strong form at Yonkers Raceway. Has the "slowest” lifetime mark of 1:49.4, one of four entrants to earn his speed badge at Pocono (the average career record the field is 1:48.1!).
DOVUTO HANOVER (post three, Ron Pierce, 5-2 favorite) – Hinted at greatness at two (national season's champion for 2PGs on both mile and 5/8-mile tracks), he fizzled at three, but has sizzled this year. Won at Pocono three starts back. In each of his last two races, he shows a personal final quarter of 25.2!
DYNAMIC YOUTH (post four, Andrew McCarthy, 15-1) – Equaled the 4PG world mark of 1:48.1f here last year, a time he exceeded only by a tick in winning two starts back. Second to Bandolito here last Saturday after showing great resiliency.
ABELARD HANOVER (post five, Jonathan Roberts, 6-1) – Equaled the OPG world mark of 1:48f here last year in a driving rainstorm. Won his last two starts in a photo racing at Pocono, but the big question mark is being scratched—sick last week.
BANDOLITO (post six, Daryl Bier, 12-1) – The shortest horse in stature and experience (only 17 lifetime starts), but not the shortest in speed. Equaled Dover's all-time record with a 1:48f win, then the next week he triumphed at DD in 1:48.2-52.1-25.4. Overcame a hard trip to win here last Saturday.
EMERITUS MAXIMUS (post seven, Jim Morrill Jr., 20-1) – A recent winner of three straight at Dover, he finished second to Dovuto Hanover in the feature at The Meadowlands this past week, personally posting a 25.4 final quarter clocking.
SWEET LOU (post eight, Matt Kakaley, 10-1) – The fastest-ever 2YO after winning that year's Breeders Crown event in 1:49, he's just a shade below Golden Receiver in lifetime earnings with a bankroll of $2.13M. Trainer Ron Burke and driver Kakaley currently lead the Pocono standings.
WARRAWEE NEEDY (post nine, Mark MacDonald, 5-1) – Unofficially the world's "Worst-Drawing Post Position Horse,” and his "luck” held out for his seasonal debut. But his 1:46.4 win last year at The Meadowlands stands tied as the fastest mile ever in a harness race. Debuts off three qualifiers.
DOWNS DOINGS – The Van Rose will be the tenth event on Pocono's 14-race card Saturday night, which will begin shortly after they hang the "OFFICIAL” sign on the Kentucky Derby...Pocono is also offering a special "morning card” beginning at 11 a.m., with 10 races for early Derby Day fans and simulcast wagerers, and the plant will then transmit all of the color and majesty of the Triple Crown event between cards through its closed-circuit system….The record for the Van Rose is the 1:48.2 posted in the inaugural event by Special T Rocks, driven by Daryl Bier, who handles Bandolito tonight. At the time the 1:48.2 earned a line in the world record books. (Pocono/PHHA)