The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono featured the fireworks a day before the Labor Day holiday as more than $1.5 million was up for grabs in the finals and consolation events of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes for 3-year-olds and the Great Northeast Open Series finals (GNOS), the latter conducted at 1-1/4 miles. Homicide Hunter stole the early show with a world record clocking of 2:22.2 in his respective division of the GNOS finals, while Bettorhaveanother and Western Joe were the other GNOS winners.
GREAT NORTHEAST OPEN SERIES CHAMPIONSHIPS ($100,000 purses; all at 1-1/4 miles)
MARE PACE--The first horse to the lead in the GNOS mares pace was also the first horse under the wire, but in between there was a ton of movement before the Bettor’s Delight mare Bettorhaveanother came up the far inside to catch Caviart Ally by a neck, covering the 1-1/4 miles in 2:21.3, just shy of the divisional world record of 2:21 set by Marnie Hall in 2006.
Bettorhaveanother was circled off the first turn by Caviart Ally, who in turn ceded the lead to Tequila Monday. That mare was under attack the last of the two circuits, from in front of the stands to almost the mile marker by L A Delight, with favored Shartin N circling up in her bid and Agent Q on her three-wide bumper.
But the inside turned out to be the place to be, as Caviart Ally collared the pacesetter in midstretch, only to see Bettorhaveanother rally from the third-in position up the deep Pocono Pike for driver Matt Kakaley to get the decision; those in the two- and three-wide paths couldn’t sustain their gain. That set the stage for Bettorhaveanother, a winner of $430,977 who is trained by Ron Burke for the ownership of Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC.
To see a trotter come home in :54.1 with a final quarter of :26.4 under any circumstances is mighty impressive; to see it come in a 1-1/4 mile race, on a five-eighths-mile track, is overwhelming--which is just how the foes chasing Homicide Hunter home must have felt.
The distance of a race must not matter to driver George Napolitano Jr.—he likes to make a move around the quarter and control the pace, and so things proceeded here, with very pedestrian fractions of :28.4, :58, and 1:28.1. Then they reached the backstretch the second time, and Napolitano gave the word to the Chris Oakes trainee. Homicide Hunter took it from there, coming home in supersonic time to complete the distance in a world record 2:22.2, well ahead of the 2:24.1 produced by Magician in 2001, with Tight Lines 8-1/2 lengths back.
The Mr Cantab gelding Homicide Hunter, posting his third world record, has now won seven of 10 seasonal starts and 37 of 72 lifetime trips to the gate, with a career bankroll of $1,355,427. Crawford Farms Racing owns a trotter who looks like right now he can go with any trotter in North America, if not beyond.
Western Joe yielded to the early brushing favorite Donttellmeagain to sit the two-hole, then was sent up the famed Pocono Pike by driver Scott Zeron and caught the pacesetter by a neck in 2:20.2, just shy of the 2:19.4 set by Boulder Creek in 2006.
The son of American Ideal was out around the first turn to gain command, then yielded to Donttellmeagain after the 27.4 quarter and was content behind the next two splits of :56.1 and 1:52.4. When the pace quickened to get to the mile point in 1:52.4 and the outer tiers stalled on the far turn, it looked like a stretch battle between the 1-2 finishers, and indeed Western Joe rallied to the lead in deep stretch over the game pacesetter.
Western Joe had already shown a liking for added distance by taking the McKee Memorial on Hambletonian Day, and here he again showed the endurance to get the big money for trainer Chris Choate and owners Anthony Ruggeri and Richard Tosies. An extra tip of the cap to Choate, who entered the winner of $503,551 despite being 26th in the standings – no one below number 10, ironically, Donttellmeagain, put in the box, so Western Joe drew in, and made the most of the opportunity.
PENNSYLVANIA SIRE STAKES CONSOLATIONS FOR THREE-YEAR-OLDS
($252,000 for finals -- $50,000 for consolations [3PC consolation did not fill])
Consolation -- Trainer/driver Åke Svanstedt wasted no time hustling the Cantab Hall filly S M S Princess to the lead, and that filly had a clear margin almost all the way through fractions of :27.2, :56.4 and 1:25 en route to a new mark of 1:52.3. No one could make up ground in the back numbers of :55.4 – :27.3 thrown by the $162,453 winner S M S Princess, 5-1/2 lengths clear for owners by Åke Svanstedt Inc. and Stall Musse Inc.
Consolation – The Well Said filly Strong Opinion got a big breather while setting the pace in her event, getting to the half in :57.2, then sprinted home in :55.1, and needed all of it to hold off what looked like the charge of the light brigade behind her late, winning by a half- length in 1:52.3 in a race where the top five were within a length of each other under the wire. Yannick Gingras guided the victorious Ron Burke pupil, who raised her earnings to $244,448 for the ownership of Burke Racing Stable LLC; Jack Piatt II; Silva, Purnel & Libby; and Weaver Bruscemi LLC.
Consolation – All three consolations wound up going in 1:52.3, two of the quick clockings by trotters, and both handled by trainer/driver Åke Svanstedt while winging on the front end. The male was the Cantab Hall gelding Gemologist, who never looked back from the rail in posting fractions of :27, :56, and 1:24, then finishing out to take a new mark while four lengths clear at the finish. The winner is owned by the S R F Stable. Second was the 2-year-old Stallion Series and Fair Sire Stakes champion Hockey Hanover; last year’s Sire Stake champion Fashionwoodchopper had to settle for fourth in this consolation.
As noted earlier, a consolation event for this division did not fill. (PHHA/Pocono)