The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono opened on Saturday night (Feb. 8), the earliest seasonal start in the 55 years of racing at the track. But while the temperature hung around the freezing mark, the competition on the oval was hot, mainly in the first preliminary leg of two sections of the track’s Game Of Claims Pacing Series.
Action for horses entered at various claiming prices, with three preliminaries determining those who will race for the throne as their Game Of Claims divisional champion, provided two divisions of $25,000 base-priced horses going for $25,000 each and three cuts of $15,000 base-priced horses going for $15,000 (the base price in each grouping goes up slightly with each preliminary).
With $50,000 and $30,000 Championship purses set respectively, it’s no surprise that a total of eighteen horses were claimed in Saturday’s first round action, including four of the five divisional winners, for a total of $350,000.
The only Game Of Claims winner on Saturday not changing barns was the Rock N Roll Heaven gelding This Is My Song, who moved after a blistering half, made the lead easily to three-quarters and defeated his field of $25,000 claiming horses handily in 1:51.2. The fastest winner of the evening had George Napolitano Jr. driving for trainer Dan Maier and owner Racing To Win Stable.
The other winner at the $25,000 level was the Captaintreacherous ridgling Trente Deo, who never looked back for the brother team of trainer Rene and driver Simon Allard in 1:53.4 for Allard Racing Inc. and Earl Hill Jr.
Team Allard also won the first division of the $15,000 level with the Delmarvalous gelding Machine Team benefiting from a fast pace and firing from off the speed to win in 1:55.4 for A 1 Racing as the only favourite to win in late-closing competition.
The other two sectors for $15,000 horses were taken by Darren Taneyhill-trained horses coming off two-month layoffs and they won by a combined 14-and-a-quarter lengths for driver Jim Morrill Jr. and owner Eric Prevost. The Cheyenne Rei gelding Cheyenne Reijane came out of the pocket for a seven-and-a-half length win in 1:53.3 while the Make My Day gelding Ancle on the engine to finish six-and-three-quarter lengths to the good in 1:54.1.
The 11-year-old Western Terror gelding Atta Boy Dan—last season's Pocono Pacer of the Year who topped Standardbreds in wins with 19 victories in 2019—readjusted quickly to northeast Pennsylvania, capturing a $14,000 conditioned pace in 1:51.4 for driver Tyler Buter, trainer Peter Pellegrino, and owner Stephen Larkin. Rock Diamonds N did not want to surrender the early lead, so Buter put Atta Boy Dan in the pocket, then came again after the leader in the stretch and went by for a half-length victory, the 73rd win of the pacer’s distinguished career while moving his lifetime bankroll to $974,002.