Pocono Readies For Racing To Return

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The 1 p.m. racing card at this northeast Pennsylvania harness oval will bring both a new track name, Pocono Downs at Mohegan Sun Pennsylvania, and the first pari-mutuel action in the eastern part of the state this year.

The opening card’s $17,000 featured class will be the “nw 8 races” for the up-and-coming set, with the trotters having their division in race seven and race eleven reserved for pacers. In the trot, the four-year-old Crescent Fashion mare Crescent Beauty finished the year with three victories to bring her yearly total to sixteen, the joint leader in victories among North American sophomore diamond gaiters.

If she is to extend her win streak, Crescent Beauty will have to do it against tougher foes and from post seven in an eight-horse field for driver Anthony Napolitano, trainer Lance Hudson, and owner William Hartt.

In the pace, the main battle may be between the Sweet Lou gelding Phoenix Of Fluzzy (post four of eight, driver Simon Allard, and trainer Ron Burke, last year’s winningest local conditioner), who has three wins in his last four starts at The Meadowlands, and the Captaintreacherous gelding Mind Hunter (post six, driver George Napolitano, Jr.), who is perfect in four starts since hooking up with trainer Per Engblom, including a 1:49.3 victory last time out.

There is also a $16,500 starter allowance pace for horses who will likely be racing in the top level of the Game Of Claims Series when it begins in early March. Half the eight-horse field show victories for a tag of $30,000 or more on their past performance lines – while there is no claiming in this allowance event, fans may get a good “read” on the top horses in the upcoming series.

Pocono also held eleven qualifying races to limber up early-season aspirants; another set of morning races will be held Tuesday, which will also see the draw for this Sunday’s 1:00 p.m. card.

Fastest in the first qualifiers was the So Surreal pacing gelding Splash Brother, who held off a spirited late charge by Caviart Max to tally by three-quarters of a length in 1:53.1. A winner of $658,116, Splash Brother was handled by Tyler Buter, who had three winners in the a.m. session, for trainer Ray Schnittker, also co-owner with Nolamaura Racing LLC, Steven Arnold and Tammy Flannery.

Quickest winner on the trot was the Class Included gelding Breckenridge, who rallied from the pocket to overhaul pacesetting Knights Guard by 1-3/4 lengths in 1:55.1 for driver Anthony Napolitano, trainer Lance Hudson, and owner William Hartt – the same connections as opening day featured trotter Crescent Beauty,

Though neither of the fastest horses at their gait is entered back for Saturday’s opening card, five qualifying winners will be competing during the opening day Pocono session.

Fans looking for sharp stables in the early season noted that trainers Deborah Daguet and Darren Taneyhill each sent out a pair of winners; also doubling on the sulky side were Braxten Boyd, defending driver champion Matt Kakaley, and Marcus Miller.

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