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Van Rose Invite Set For Saturday

Published: May 5, 2017 7:10 pm ET

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A doubleheader of racing action this Saturday, Kentucky Derby Day for the galloping horses, will be held at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, raising the week’s total of competition to five cards at the mountain oval.

There will be a host of activities for racing fans of all intensities and varieties on Derby Day at Pocono; on the racing side, there will be a 10-race card beginning at 11 a.m., and then after a break for the buildup to and conducting of the Derby (usually in the 6:40 p.m. post time range), the nighttime program of 13 races will start at some point after 7 p.m.

The feature of Saturday’s racing will be the $50,000 Van Rose Invitational Pace, race 10 on the evening card and honouring the memory of the writer who covered the Pocono racing scene for decades. Though the field shrunk from nine to eight with the scratch of Luck Be Withyou, the field carries quality across the gate: the assembled octet has a combined lifetime bankroll of over $8 million (U.S.), and an average mark of 1:48.4 -- with seven of the eight entrants setting their career-best over the red clay track at Pocono!

The 5-2 morning line favourite for the race is Sunfire Blue Chip, who will be starting from the track’s most favourable slot, post five, for Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Takter and another “Jimmy,” driver Jim Marohn Jr. The son of American Ideal, who took his lifetime mark of 1:48.3 in a Hempt Pace elimination way back in 2013, has come back strongly after a six-month layoff going into his 2017 campaign, with two wins in three starts in "Winners Over" company at Yonkers -- the last a 1:51.2 mile over a “good +1” track.

McWicked, the McArdle stallion who has both the field’s top career earnings with $1.8 million and fastest mark of 1:47.3, certainly knows his way around the Pocono oval, winning the 2014 Hempt and Breeders Crown here en route to being named top sophomore of the year. Tony Morgan will handle sulky duties for trainer Steve Elliott from post two.

Also sure to earn respect is Somewhere In L A, just a head from taking the big money in the recent $529,000 Levy Series final at Yonkers, but having to overcome the outside post eight for trainer Richard Banca and driver Simon Allard.

An interesting horse on the Sunday card at Pocono is the European invader Tuonoblu Rex, who starts from the outside post six in the $20,000 featured 10th race trot. The five-year-old came to the care of trainer Julie Miller and husband/driver Andy, and on April 21, in his first U.S. start and first start since October 2016, he came home in :55.1 – :27 to post a 1:52.1 victory at The Meadowlands. “Rex” would cross the $200,000 earnings plateau with a high finish here.

The final Championship race in the 2017 Bobby Weiss Series, a $30,000 contest for male trotters, will be the highlight of the Tuesday card. The two three-time winners in the series preliminaries, Ooh Rah and Hilarious Hero, will be lining up next to each other behind the starting gate. Ooh Rah (post three, driver George Napolitano Jr.) will be just to the left of Hilarious Hero (post four, Matt Kakaley) in the talented gathering of nine.

(With files from PHHA/Pocono)

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