The racing conditions were not pleasant--cool and rainy, the latter making the track "sloppy”--but the horses seeking places in four Championship races on next Saturday's (July 4) $1.8 million Sun Stakes Saturday overcame the challenging conditions to earn their spots for the big showdowns seven days hence at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.
The top three finishers in the three $25,000 eliminations for the Max C. Hempt Memorial for 3-year-old colt pacers return for the $500,000 championship.
Artspeak set an evenly-rated pace, looked to be threatened at head-stretch, but responded gamely late to withstand Pocono Pike challenger In The Arsenal for a 1:50 triumph. The son of Western Ideal, 2-year-old champion and now 11-for-15 lifetime, made the lead just before the :27 first quarter, and got the middle splits in :55.1 and 1:22.3. But around the final turn first-over Pierce Hanover made a menacing move, and the 8-5 In The Arsenal had been literally breathing down the neck of 3-5 Artspeak's driver Scott Zeron (winner of half of the first four elim winners).
In The Arsenal took a pair of awkward steps entering the Pike, but then found high gear, and Pierce Hanover just wouldn't go away, but Artspeak showed his class to dig down and preserve a head margin at the wire, with Pierce Hanover only another three-quarters of a length behind and also advancing.
Artspeak is trained by Tony Alagna for owners Brittany Farms (also co-breeder), Marvin Katz, Joe Sbrocco and the In The Gym Partners.
Wiggle It Jiggleit bounced back nicely after his first career loss, making a move in front of the stands to the front nearing the five-eighths and going on to an in-hand, four-length victory for driver Montrell Teague in 1:50.1. National Seelster, 67-1, had the good fortune of the Wiggle It Jiggleit cover for a quarter-mile, then the bad luck to be left raw, but he fought home gamely to beat early pacesetter Betting Exchange by a neck for place.
The winning altered son of Mr. Wiggles is now 12-for-13; Clyde Francis handles the training for George Teague Jr. Inc.
Wakizashi Hanover completed a Hempt elim sweep for favorites, rallying in the Pocono Pike to catch Lost For Words by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:50.4.
The victorious Dragon Again gelding was three wide much of a :26.4 opener before making the top, but Lost For Words came from seventh at the quarter with a bold move that carried him to the top past the :55.1 half. Past the 1:22.4 three-quarters, the main question seemed to be if there would be a pocket rocket or a sustaining pacesetter, and "Wakizashi” answered the question with his crisp rally, while in his defense Lost For Words, well-clear of third-place A Bettor Hat, had not raced in three weeks, and figures to be tighter next week.
But this, like in the North America Cup final, was the night for Wakizashi Hanover, who was guided by Tim Tetrick for trainer Joanne Looney-King and the Tri-County Stable (the second straight winner, after State Treasurer, with Maritime connections), and giving Hanover a fourth breeding credit. (Pocono/PHHA)