First qualifiers of season held at Pocono Monday
February 03, 2020
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The 2020 racing season got off to a quick start at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Monday morning as the Big Jim pacing mare Jossie James A won the first qualifier of the season in 1:54 while making her U.S. debut.
Yonkers driving leader Jason Bartlett sent the oft-winning mare away quickly from post seven and tucked third. They sat in that position as Lyons River Pride, first or second in his last four starts against good foes at Yonkers, set fractions of :27.3, :56.4, and 1:25.1, then moved out on the turn and overhauled the leader by a half-length for trainer Richard Banca and owner Barbara Boese.
Rene Allard, Pocono’s leading trainer last season, teamed with his brother Simon for two qualifying wins, with the fast but fractious trotter Magical Journey in 2:01 and the stakes colt Captain Malicious in 1:57.1 in his 2020 bow. They also had seconds with Lyons River Pride and with newcomer Y S Sunshine, a Quebec stakes winner at two and three.
The track’s leading driver last season, George Napolitano Jr., also posted a first, guiding Nine Ways, a 14-time winner last campaign, to a wire-to-wire win in 1:56.4, one of two on the day for trainer Antonia Storer. Driver Tyler Buter also had a pair of triumphs during the first session.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) will offer another qualifying session along with the draw for this Saturday’s Opening Night of the 139-card 2020 racing season. The inaugural card will feature two events in the highlight races of February’s action, the Game Of Claims Series for various levels of pacers, with elimination rounds determining who will be in the contest to sit on the throne after taking the series’ rich Championship races.
In the month of February, Pocono will race on Saturday and Sunday at 5 p.m., with Mondays being added in March and post times shifting to the standard 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Monday cards will start at 4 p.m., and they will be joined at that start time in April with Tuesday racing as Pocono expands to its full standard schedule.
An introductory press briefing will take place this Thursday to preview the highlights of the 2020 racing season at the northeast Pennsylvania track. (PHHA/Pocono)