Serious and novice harness racing fans might have just been able to take a deep breath following the action at Mohawk Raceway in Canada on Saturday night, but now they will have to dive deep into this Saturday’s competitive, stakes-filled card at Pocono Downs Raceway in Pennsylvania.
Only one week after many of the best pacers and trotters of both genders and varying age groups competed at Mohawk in a bevy of lucrative stakes finals, Pocono Downs will host eliminations for the Ben Franklin for older pacers, the Max Hempt Memorial for three-year-old colt pacers, the James Lynch for three-year-old filly pacers and the Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial for sophomore trotters which includes one filly taking on the boys.
Races one, four and 13 are the three eliminations for the James Lynch for three-year-old filly pacers, with nine of them returning for next week’s $300,000 final. Among those expected to return in each division are Tequila Monday, Idyllic Beach and Pittstop Danika from the first split, the second split came up light but the third division includes Agent Q, Bettor’s Up and Concerto. Bettor’s Up narrowly prevailed in last week’s Fan Hanover final at Mohawk.
Races three, 10 and 12 are the three eliminations for the Max Hempt Memorial final, again with nine returning for next week’s $500,000 final. The first elim came up light, but Every Way Out was a sharp 1:51.1 winner of a qualifier at the Meadowlands on Saturday morning. The second split features North America Cup hero, Fear The Dragon, with Summer Side and Miso Fast logical contenders for a spot in the final. Downbytheseaside, who carved out wicked fractions of 52.1 and 1:19.3 in the North America Cup final before fading to third, is the solid choice in the third split against Donttellmeagain and Highalator, two Delaware-based colts looking to enhance their reputations in open company.
Saturday’s second, ninth and 14th races are the three eliminations for the Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial with the top three from each split returning for next week’s $500,000 final. The first split includes lightly raced colts Rubio, Giveitgasandgo, Lucky Matter, Long Tom and Sortie. The second split is highlighted by Devious Man, recent hero of the Empire Breeders Classic Final at Vernon Downs, as well as Andy M and King On The Hill, while the third split features filly phenom Ariana G, along with What The Hill, Bill’s Man and Moonshiner Hanover.
Last and certainly not least among the combatants on Saturday night are the older pacers competing for a spot in the $500,000 Ben Franklin final in eliminations carded as races five, seven and 11.
The first division came up soft but includes local speedster Split The House, Dealt A Winner, Check Six, Soto and Shamballa. Split The House carved out the fractions last fall in the inaugural $100,000 Potomac Pace, only to be overtaken late by the pocket-sitting All Bets Off in 1:48.2.
Two races later the second split includes All Bets Off, along with seasoned foes McWicked, Mach It So, Keystone Velocity, Rockeyed Optimist and features the seasonal debut of Freaky Feet Pete, runner-up in the Ben Franklin final one year ago. McWicked won the $100,000 Mohawk Gold Cup last weekend in 1:48.2, while Keystone Velocity, hero of the $530,000 George Morton Levy Series Memorial final at Yonkers Raceway, won the Open Handicap at that track. Mach It So was not competitive in the Levy this year, but he has won the Open Hcp twice since.
Then several races later in the third Ben Franklin elim, railbound Mel Mara, fresh off a 1:48 score against Preferred foes at The Meadowlands last weekend that included a 53-second back half and 26 flat kicker, will face Wakizashi Hanover, Rockin Ron, Rock N Roll World, Sunfire Blue Chip and Luck Be Withyou, another perennial speedball trained by Chris Oakes. All three elims should set the stage for a final that could require the winner to eclipse the 1:48 flat barrier over the five-eighths mile oval.
Once again Maryland-bred horses will be in line to earn a berth in their respective finals. Tequila Monday should return next week for the James Lynch Memorial final and Devious Man should qualify for the Earl Beal final. Ei Ei O is also in the Beal elims but he has had trouble staying flat this spring. Maryland racing fans will also quickly recall that All Bets Off, Split The House, Wakizashi Hanover, Keystone Velocity, Shamballa and Mach It So all competed in the inaugural $100,000 Potomac Pace last fall and could be among the invitees again this November.