Pocono Hosts Season's Fastest Mile

Published: May 28, 2016 11:33 pm EDT

The 2014 Little Brown Jug winner Limelight Beach gained from the pocket into a :27 last quarter to out-blast pacesetting Cooperstown home by a head in taking the $20,000 featured pace Saturday at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in 1:49.4 (which after its 10th race slotting was only the co-fourth-fastest mile of the night at The Downs, but more on that in a minute.)

Matt Kakaley settled the Somebeachsomewhere gelding in the pocket early as Cooperstown insured the early leader with a :26.1 first quarter; then, after favoured Bigtown Hero made an uncharacteristic break in front of the stands, Cooperstown was rated by Anthony Napolitano to a “walking-horse” half of :55.3.

The tempo increased down the backstretch to 1:22.4 to the three-quarters, with Limelight Beach “helmet-bumping” Napolitano, as Anthony and Cooperstown used the first-over Romeo Rodeo as a “blocker,” the scene looking like old-time pre-passing lane half-mile track racing as Cooperstown was under a stranglehold around the turn, keeping the raging Limelight Beach locked in as long as he could. “A-Nap” turned Cooperstown loose at the head of the stretch, hoping he had gotten enough of a jump on his rival, but Limelight Beach had a final 1/8th of not much more than 13 in him and caught the pacesetter by a head.

The victory was the first of the year for Limelight Beach, but the year had not been unproductive for the five-year-old before this race, as he had eight board finishes to his credit. Ron Burke trains the Alberta-bred millionaire for Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, M1 Stable LLC, and Wingfield Brothers LLC. A final note to the race is that Limelight Beach paid $6.80 to win and was the third choice – Bigtown Hero was 1.60-1 and Cooperstown 2.20-1.

As mentioned earlier, 1:50 was being beaten with regularity during the warm night at The Downs, including the posting of (at press time) the fastest clocking in North American harness racing so far in 2016, a 1:48 wire-to-wire victory by the veteran Rocknroll Hanover gelding Scott Rocks in an $18,000 supporting event. George Napolitano had the pedal to the metal with the winner of nearly $400,000, posting splits of :26, :53.4, and 1:20.3 en route to the season’s record mile for trainer Chris Oakes and owners Susan Oakes and Chuck Pompey.

Not that any sub-1:50 mile on a five-eighth-mile track isn’t worth a paragraph, but the 1:48.2 victory of Keystone Velocity, a son of Western Hanover piloted by Simon Allard for owner Lauretta Galm, in the night’s first race has three compelling angles to it: 1) this was only the eight-year-old horse’s third start since July of 2014, as the star-crossed participant in such races as The Adios and the Confederation Cup (where he won an elim; he was third in a Metro elim at two) has always had a ton of speed; 2) this was the first training victory for trainer Austin Brubacker, a 25-year-old who had sent his first horse to the track only two weeks ago; and 3) Keystone Velocity got to the three-quarter pole in 1:20 flat – the first sighting of that rarity we know of in 2016, and only the 47th such clocking in the history of harness racing, according to PHHA unofficial records that were verified with the USTA last year.

(With files from PHHA / Pocono)

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