Foiled Again versus Captaintreacherous--Round 2--along with the continuing march of Father Patrick towards possible harness racing immortality, are the main storylines on display this Saturday night at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, as the northeast Pennsylvania track presents elimination races for the $500,000 Ben Franklin Free-for-All Pace, the $500,000 Earl Beal 3YO Colt Trot, the $500,000 Max C. Hempt 3YO Colt Pace, and the $300,000 James Lynch 3YO Filly Pace. The rich finals will all be held Saturday, June 28, on the $2.3 million "Sun Stakes Saturday” card.
The Franklin and Beal will each have two elimination races Saturday; the top four finishers plus the faster of the fifth-place finishers will punch their tickets to their rich Championship races. The Hempt and Lynch have three eliminations, meaning that one would have to be among the top three finishers in her or his elim in order to progress to the big money next Saturday. (The track intends to hold consolation races for those not qualifying for the finals next week, if interest permits.)
Here's a look at the eliminations for the four races:
The luck of the draw has put Captaintreacherous, the richest harness horse of 2013 and the Pacer of the Year, just inside Foiled Again, the richest harness horse of all-time with earnings of $6,251,068, in the same Franklin elimination, race 10.
Foiled Again has several advantages he can tick off: he was four for four at Pocono Downs last year, winning the Franklin elimination and final and the Breeders Crown elimination and final; he defeated his younger rival in "The Race of 2013,” the TVG Series final at the Meadowlands; and of course his accumulated bankroll, which at this point shows no signs of stopping its growing for the evergreen 10-year-old gelding. Foiled Again also has many early-season races under his belt, with four wins and over $220,000 in his column already, and he begins from post five Saturday for driver Yannick Gingras, trainer Ron Burke (who has 14 horses in the four sets of eliminations; more on that later), and Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, and JJK Stables.
But Captaintreacherous need not apologize for anything on his racing card. Trained by Tony Alagna for Captaintreacherous Racing, the 4 year old started his 2014 campaign in fine style this past Saturday at the Meadowlands, winning the Meadowlands Maturity despite the outside post 10. He is the defending champ in the sport among both pacers and money winners, and he has a fine record over the Pocono track, having won his Hempt elim and final and his Breeders Crown elim and final over the fast red surface last year. Tim Tetrick has the mount as The Captain begins from post four in the field of seven.
The two Franklin elims contain 14 horses with combined earnings of $20,752,328 (and an average mark of 1:48.2), and just behind the two race 10 favorites in money is the likely choice for race 12 favoritism, Sweet Lou. Another Burke trainee co-owned by Burke Racing and Weaver Bruscemi, here with Lawrence Karr and Phillip Collura, Sweet Lou was his generation's 2-year-old champion, and was among its best at three and four. Now five, Sweet Lou has found crushing form in recent starts, running off three straight against FFA horses, he fastest in 1:48, last quarter :26, from post 10 at the Meadowlands.
Father Patrick, undefeated and untested in three starts at three and a horse who Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Takter says "has the potential to be among the all-time greats of the modern era,” will likely be a heavy favorite in his fifth race Beal elimination. Owned by the Father Patrick Stable and named after a New Jersey Catholic priest, Father Patrick has won three straight Pennsylvania Sires Stakes to start his march towards possibly history, including a 19 3/4-length smashing triumph two weeks ago, and he will start from the rail Saturday for driver Gingras.
Nuncio, the only horse ever to defeat Father Patrick, is likely to be highly-favored in the third race Beal elim. Owned by Stall TZ Inc, Nuncio switched barns over the winter to that of Takter, with fellow Hall of Fame driver John Campbell keeping the drive from last season. Nuncio, who also opened his yearly card with three straight Pennsylvania Sires Stakes wins, will start from post two in his elim for Campbell.
The "unknown factor,” probably rated #4 in the Hambletonian class at this point, is Datsyuk, unraced at two but with a 4-3-1-0 scorecard this year for trainer/driver Charlie Norris, who also co-owns with Leonard Buckner. Datsyuk, named after the NHL player Pavel Datsyuk, missed only a neck to Father Patrick at Pocono last Saturday, and will try to beat his stablemate this week from post three for Norris.
The glamour division, the 3-year-old colt pacers, assemble 22 strong in three eliminations Saturday, searching for leadership in a group where the top horse seems to switch about every week.
In the seventh race first elim, Always B Miki will be looking to rebound from a break in his North America Cup elim two weeks ago, from which he could recover for only fifth and thus did not qualify for the final. When on his best behavior, the Joe Holloway trainee, owned by Bluewood Stable, Val D'Or Farms, and Roll The Dice Stable, has shown terrific speed, including wins in the Somebeachsomewhere and Historic stakes. Corey Callahan has the drive behind Always B Miki as they start from post two.
In the ninth race elimination, the crowd may have a hard time separating Western Vintage (post six, driver Gingras) and Doo Wop Hanover (post seven, Campbell), who have traded New Jersey Sires Stakes victories this year, with Doo Wop taking the NJSS championship on May 31. All Bets Off (post two, driver Matt Kakaley) will try to extend the three-race win streak he has put together in New York State, including in the Rooney final, as he comes back to Pennsylvania.
In the 11th race elim, McWicked may be bad news for his opponents as he starts in the middle of the seven-horse field for driver David Miller, trainer Casie Coleman, and the SSG Stables. McWicked took his mark of 1:48.2 in winning his North America Cup elimination, and then was fourth, beaten only three lengths, in the final – only his second off-the-board finish in 15 career starts.
In the fourth race Lynch elim, several horses have fine credentials. Act Now (post eight, driver Brian Sears) and Sayitall BB (post seven, Gingras) showed their quality by finishing 1-2 in their recent New Jersey Sires Stakes final, but they may have a hard time from their outer draws and with opposition such as Gallie Bythe Beach (post five, Campbell), who in her last local start set a 1:50.3 world record in her Breeders Crown elim, only to disappointingly come out of the race less than perfect and scratched from the final.
In the race six elim, trainer Ron Burke, who we mentioned had 14 entrants in the stakes elims, has five in the Lynch and two in this event, starting from opposite sides of the starting gate. Allstar Rating (post one, Gingras) brings speed and consistency (in the money 10 of 11 times lifetime), while having the opposite luck at the draw was Southwind Silence (driver Matt Kakaley), the 2013 Pennsylvania Sires Stakes champion and third in the Breeders Crown final.
Uffizi Hanover, after a very slow start to her 2014 campaign, has now won two straight, including the Fan Hanover final last week, and is the horse to beat in the eighth race elim, starting from post seven for driver Miller. Trained by Takter (yes, he does pacers, too) for the Ontario triumvirate of Libfeld, Katz, and Goldband, Uffizi Hanover has fond memories of Pocono, as she won the Breeders Crown here last year – only the second victory at that point of her career. (PHHA/Pocono)