The evergreen pacer Keystone Velocity, recently the recipient of the Older Pacing Horse of the Year award at the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Dan Patch banquet, gave no indication of slowing down Tuesday morning (March 6) as his age moves into double digits. The 10-year-old son of Western Hanover was the fastest winner in a dozen qualifying races during the season’s first a.m. session at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, posting a snappy 1:52.1 victory
Driver Simon Allard, sulky-sitting for brother/trainer Rene, was out past the :28.1 quarter to get the lead, then went on to the half in :57.1. A :27 sprint down the back saw Allard and Keystone Velocity open up an eight-length lead, and the pair were unchallenged to the wire.
The 2017 champion in Yonkers’ Levy Pacing Series, Keystone Velocity looks ready to mount a vigorous defense of the title when the Levy action starts on Saturday (March 17), ironically, the same night as Pocono starts its 2018 pari-mutuel campaign.
Les frères Allard combined for three victories over the dozen qualifiers, topped only in the horsemen’s ranks by driver Matt Kakaley, who crossed the wire first four times. Kalaley handled the day’s other sub-1:55 winner in the day’s first race, with I Said Diamonds showing no apparent rust after a layoff of nearly seven months with a 1:54.4 triumph (in 32 degree temperatures; the mercury had warmed to 40 when Keystone Velocity won) and he also guided the fastest trotting winner, Ontheroad De Vie, who posted his fastest winning time ever of 1:56.3.
There will be another session of qualifying at Pocono on Thursday, and then the track will revert to its usual schedule of weekly Wednesday qualifying sessions.
As noted, Opening Night for the 2018 pari-mutuel season at the mountain oval is Saturday (March 17), with the first draw to be held on Monday (March 12). The Downs will gradually add cards per week as the horse population increases, and plans to have its first regular racing week of Saturday-Sunday-Monday-Tuesday in early April. Post time for all non-special event cards at Pocono this year will be at 7 p.m. (Pocono)