Pocono Downs offers stellar card this weekend

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Ted Black

June 19th, 2018

While harness racing enthusiasts focused much of their attention last weekend to the stellar card at Mohawk Raceway in Toronto, Canada, many of those same standardbred fans will give a close look to the Saturday program at Pocono Downs as the five-eighths mile track in Pennsylvania offers a bevy of eliminations for lucrative finals slated for the following weekend.

Saturday's opener is one of the few races that is not among the list of eliminations, but it is a solid event. Among the older pacers slated to clash in the $30,000 Great Northeast Open series are durable aged sorts Bettor's Edge and Rockeyed Optimist and they will be joined by the talented mare Pure Country. The Jimmy Takter trainee already boasts a trio of Dan Patch Awards - one each at two, three and four - and this weekend she will not be the only female member of her barn to tackle the boys.

Headlining the card are the trio of Max Hempt eliminations for three-year-old colt pacers, with the top three finishers from each group returning next weekend for the Grade I, $500,000 final. The Hempt elims are slated as races six, nine and 12 on the card and the hour in between each event will keep owners and trainers on edge.

In the first Max Hempt elim, This Is The Plan, Daddyofemall, Cinnamack, Keystone Tenacious, Dorsoduro Hanover, Sprpingsteen and Decoy will all look to emerge with a spot in the final. Of course, only three of them will get through and it would be difficult to nail that trifecta in this elim.

Three races later in the second Max Hempt elim, Sometimesawinner, Hitman Hill, Grand Teton and Stay Hungry are clearly the most likely to reach the final although one of them will not. Hitman Hill and Stay Hungry both exit the Grade I, $1 million North America Cup final at Mohawk on Saturday night.

Then three races later in the third Max Hempt split, North America Cup hero Lather Up, unbeaten in six starts this year for "Team Teague" and the early division leader, will face a deep group that includes NA Cup finalists Wes Delight and Done Well, as well as NA Cup consolation winner, Courtly Choice. Babes Dig Me raced well last weekend as did Heavenly Sound, hero of an overnight event at the Meadowlands against older rivals.

While the three-year-old colt pacers will be on display in the Max Hempt elims, the sophomore trotting colts - and one very talented filly - will take center stage in the trio of Earl Beal, Jr. eliminations slated as races three, five and eleven.

In the first Beal elim, Patent Leather, Mission Accepted, Winning Showdown and Whats The Word will look to reach the final, while two races later Moosonee, Evaluate, Rich And Miserable and Six Pack, unbeaten in three starts this year, are the most likely to advance. In the third Beal elim on the latter portion of the card, Gemologist, Crystal Fashion, Mississippi Storm, and Fiftydollarbill will meet the talented filly, Manchego, for the right to reach the Grade I final the following weekend.

Also among the anticipated events on Saturday night are the trio of Ben Franklin eliminations for older pacers. Those races are slated as two, four and ten and they are likely to produce three of the fastest miles of the season to date.

In the first Ben Franklin elim, Easy Lover Hanover, Missile J, Western Fame, Split The House and Don'ttellmeagain seem the most likely to advance, then two races later Rockin Ron, McWicked and Mach It So get the nod to reach the final. Then on the back end of the card, Sintra, Christen Me N and All Bets Off will look to topple Filibuster Hanover, currently the sport's top aged pacer with five wins in as many starts and a stellar 1:48.3 mark to his credit. Sintra won the Mohawk Gold Cup last week in 1:48, but he has typically thrived on the bigger ovals and had difficulty transitioning his form to the smaller ones.

Then right at the midway point of the card, Pocono Downs will offer two James Lynch Memorial elims for three-year-old filly pacers. In the first split, Youaremycandygirl, Alexa's Power, Hypnotic Tune and Pass Line Blue Chip should advance, then one race later look for I'm Trigger Happy, Kissin In The Sand, Serene Stride and Sidewalk Dancer to advance. Kissin In The Sand has ample back class, while Serene Stride has won six of seven starts this year.

Last night at Harrington Raceway in Delaware the spotlight at that half-mile oval was also on the three-year-old colt pacers in a pair of DSBF elims. Slick Tony (Russell Foster) continued his dominance over the local group when he scored by three lengths as the 1-20 favorite in 1:53.1 for owner-breeder-trainer George "Ronnie" Leager. In the second split, Evolution Tour edged Transitioning Joy in 1:53.3. That trio is clearly the best of the bunch and look for them to meet again in the $100,000 DSBF final on Governor's Day, July 26.

One night earlier at Ocean Downs, a half-mile oval five miles west of Ocean City, Maryland, several aged pacers garnered their fair share of the spotlight in overnight events.

Just prior to the midway point of the card, P L Hoofhearted recorded his second win in three starts over the oval this summer when he captured the $6500 Silver Class in 1:54.4. Two races later on the card, Hickory Aloha (Timmy Offutt) also notched his second win in three starts over the seaside oval when he posted a 17-1 upset in 1:54 in the $10,000 Open Handicap for owner-trainer Joe Offutt. Hickory Aloha is the reigning Ocean Downs overnight horse of the meet.

Then one race later on the card, Smart Rokker posted a 9-1 upset when he notched his first win in six starts this year in 1:55.2 in a $7500 Gold Class, then one race later Capital Builder recorded his second straight win over the half-mile oval when he scored in 1:54.3 for "Team Roberts" in the $8500 Platinum Class. Capital Builder was recently tabbed as the Rosecroft Raceway spring meet's top pacer, winning five times over the five-eighths mile oval.