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Several Stars Shine Bright At Pocono

Published: October 1, 2016 10:43 pm ET

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The spotlight was put to overtime service on a rainy Saturday night (October 1) at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, as star performances were turned in by feature race winner Keystone Velocity, harness racing’s all-time money champ Foiled Again, driver George Napolitano Jr., and trainer Chris Oakes.

Keystone Velocity, an eight-year-old stallion who has always been one of history’s footnotes as the least-expensive yearling from the last crop of great stallion Western Hanover ($3,000, a year before his dam Venus Killean produced millionaire champion mare Venus Delight), again showed that he is much, much more than a footnote in taking the $25,000 Winners Over Handicap Pace in stunning fashion, equalling his lifetime mark of 1:48.2 over sloppy going in a field that included Rockin Ron (conqueror of Wiggle It Jiggleit) and Mel Mara (conqueror of Always B Miki).

Simon Allard sent the Barry Probber trainee, whose owner Lauretta Galm was his $3,000 purchaser and who has made some profit on the horse (career earnings $499,221 US), up after the streaking gate-leaver Bushwacker, who carried the winner past a searing :25.3 quarter (in off going) before yielding. Keystone Velocity got the half in :53.3, saw Mel Mara charging uncovered down the back and upped the tempo to 1:20.4 at the three-quarters, and then maintained a safe margin to the wire, with Bushwacker in the Pocono Pike second and Mel Mara third, ahead of Rockin Ron.

Napolitano and Oakes, the leaders in their respective categories at Pocono in 2016, combined to win half of the first eight races on Saturday. After their victory with Ideal Candidate in race five, George Napolitano Jr. was feted by Pocono management for becoming only the 32nd driver in harness racing history to achieve 8,000 driving victories, which he accomplished in the first race at Harrah’s Philadelphia yesterday (then started on his way to 9,000 by taking the back half of Friday’s Philly Early Double, and continued on Saturday).

Napolitano added a fifth victory in a $15,500 conditioned trot with Wilberforce, making a sweeping move in the latter stages with the altered son of Caviar Crown and coming home on an uncontested lead, tallying in 1:54.2 to take his ninth victory of the season for trainer Kris Rickert, co-owner with Dale Wareham.

In a companion-class $15,500 event for pacers, Theartofconfusion A handled a slight step-up in class with relative ease upon coming in from Yonkers. The Riverboat King gelding stopping the clock in 1:50.3 for driver Pat Berry, trainer Jeffrey Smith, and the Saddle Rock Stables.

And then there was the gallant Foiled Again, raising his career win percentage to exactly one-third (89 wins in 267 starts for the 12-year-old pacer) and his history-altering bankroll to $7,416,508 US with a seasonal-best 1:51.1 for trainer Ron Burke and driver Dave Palone, the winningest driver in harness history, whose own career tally behind Foiled Again is now 8-5-2-1-$243,750.

Foiled Again, owned by the partnership of Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, and JJK Stables LLC, also has a fine history at Pocono, with six wins and 11 board finishes in 15 local starts worth $782,661 (dating back to July 3, 2007, when he was third in a three-year-old Sire Stake). The bulk of the Dragon Again gelding’s local haul came, of course, in 2013 sloppy track wins here in the Franklin Final and Breeders Crown Final -- he’s four-for-five lifetime in the Pocono slop.

(A final note: Foiled Again has had 23 drivers in his pari-mutuel career – how many can you name? If you came up with Jack Baggitt Jr., George Brennan, Marc Campbell, Dan Dube, Yannick Gingras, Eric Goodell, Greg Grismore, Tony Hall, Jody Jamieson, Matt Kakaley, Mike Lachance, Eric Ledford, Jim Marshall III, Andy Miller, Brett Miller, David Miller, Jim Morrill Jr., Dave Palone, Ron Pierce, Jon Roberts, Steve Smith, Mike Wilder, and Scott Zeron, go to the head of the class – and join Foiled Again.)


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