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Pocono gearing up for Feb. 8 opening

February 01, 2020
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The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono is preparing for the earliest-ever opening in its 55th season, with qualifying races scheduled for Monday and Tuesday ahead of the first card of this year taking place Saturday, Feb. 8.
 
Trainer-driver Ray Schnittker has several interesting prospects in the Monday qualifiers, which start at 10 a.m., including Wild Bill, a full brother to Huntsville who has shown periodic flashes of his brother’s ability; the trotter Alternative Fact, a 1:53.3 winner as a sophomore in a Simpson Stake division at Harrah’s Philly; and the well-pedigreed Nightcap, a $125,000 yearling who makes her career debut at three.
 
Others to keep an eye on will be the million dollar-winning Zooming; the hard-hitting Nine Ways, a 14-time winner in high-class company in 2019; and a pair of Down Under invaders, Jossie James A and Raptors Flight N, who make their North American debuts for trainer Richard Banca.
 
Pocono’s all-time leading driver George Napolitano Jr. is listed in many of the qualifiers as he lays the foundation towards taking a ninth consecutive Pocono sulky win title. Napolitano, who had 6,522 victories in the just-ended decade, did not start 2020 with his usual extended stay in Florida; in fact, he made a couple of rare “road trips” to Dover the last two weeks to keep himself sulky-sharp.
 
Besides hosting more qualifiers, Tuesday will also bring the first draw of the year for the Saturday, Feb. 8 card. The opening 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 Thursday, Feb. 6, to preview the highlights of the 2020 racing season at the northeast Pennsylvania track. (Pocono/PHHA)
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