This season in Pennsylvania stakes racing has been an exciting one, with the harness and thoroughbred tracks delivering thrills from the East side of the state to the West.
The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono opened in February, and kicked off their stakes season with the Game of Claims, and then the Bobby Weiss Late Closing Series for three-year-olds. The finals of the Weiss series were held in April. That Ole Bar Stool, the heavy favorite, defeated El Toro Loco by a neck in the final for Trotting Colts and Geldings. A week later, Lanjo Lee clocked a career best of 1:50.3 to win the final for Pacing Colts and Geldings; that win extended his streak of six for six. In the distaff championships, Silent Crossing completed a sweep of the series on the pacing side in a new mark of 1:53.2; and trotting filly Mimi Ocean Hanover made it four wins in five seasonal starts with her win in the final by 4 1/4 lengths.
Parx Racing started off their stakes racing on April 25th with two seven-furlong races for older horses; the Unique Bella Stakes for fillies and mares, and an open contest, the Page McKenney Handicap. The Page McKenney proved to be a thriller with Beren and Fortheluvofbourbon in a fierce battle to the wire, with Fortheluvofbourbon by a neck. Cinabunny, the 2-1 favorite, who had not raced since September, proved much the best to win the Unique Bella, catching Hey Mamaluke in the stretch.
On May 29th, the spotlight was on Harrah’s Philadelphia for their super Super Stakes Sunday, with three Invitationals and two Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. In the $100,000 Betsy Ross Distaff Invitational Pace, it was all Majorca N, the 7 year old daughter of Art Major, in 1:49.3, her fastest mile. It was Workin Ona Mystery in a pocket trip behind favorite Nicolas Beach in the $100,000 Commodore Barry Pace for older pacers, and in the 100,000 Maxie Lee Invitational Trot, Lovedbythemasses broke free at the half after being parked for a win by 1 1/4 lengths over Hillexotic, the favorite.
Hollywood at Penn National delivered a phenomenal night of racing with their Penn Mile card on June 3rd. Owner/breeder Jeremy Brooks and trainer Jeremy Lawrence sent Wow Whata Summer to Penn National, and the result was a commanding 1 1/4 length upset at 83-1 over favorite Annapolis. In the $150,000 Penn Oaks, the favorite Haughty scored an easy win for trainer Chad Brown. Other notable and impressive winners in the four additional stakes for Pennsylvania-bred horses included two turf races: Buy Land And Seain the With Anticipation and Maldives Model in the Lyphard Stakes; and on the dirt, Nimitz Class in the Danzig Stakes; and Bazinga C in the New Start Stakes.
Summer racing proved to be even hotter, and the Meadows Racetrack delivered a massive race day featuring the main event, the Adios Pace for the Orchids. Bythemissal, the Downbytheseaside gelding, sprung an upset to win the $350,000 final over heavily favored Pebble Beach and Beach Glass. In the Adioo Volo, Sweet Kisses pulled off a 34-1 upset over 1-5 favorite Captain Cowgirl to win in a career best of 1:50, giving trainer Ron Burke an Adios-Adioo Volo sweep on the day.
Sun Stakes Saturday at the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on August 20th featured four main events and two Invitationals, with perhaps the biggest spotlight on the Max C. Hempt Memorial Pace. Bythemissal, who was the winner over Beach Glass in the Adios, saw the tables turned as the Somebeachsomewhere colt got his revenge and the win in 1:50. In the Earl Beal Memorial Trot, it was Temporal Hanover, 3rd in the Hambletonian, by a length in 1:53. Sweet Kisses earned another sweet win in the $250,000 James M. Lynch Memorial, scoring her second Grand Circuit stakes upset. In the Delmonica Hanover, Joviality S drew off to an impressive 4 1/2 win over Jiggy Jog S.
Throughout the season at Pocono, the Meadows, and at Harrah’s Philadelphia, horses competed in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, and the finals, each at $253,000, were held at the Meadows Racetrack on September 2. Captain Cowgirl celebrated with her second PASS championship final after a disappointing effort in the James M. Lynch Memorial at Pocono on August 20th; her win was by 5 1/4 lengths in 1:50.1. In the Colt and Gelding Pace, Fourever Boy, after competing with the biggest pacers in all the big dances, earned a nice win in the final, and did so in 1:49.1. Pour Mea Double triumphed in the Colt and Gelding Trot in a career best of 1:53. In the Filly Trot, Manon held off Luisella by a neck in 1:53.1.
The Presque Isle Masters at Presque Isle Downs returned after a two-year absence on September 20th, and a crowd of enthusiastic racing fans witnessed a new track record established by the Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained Artie’s Princess in the $400,000 stakes. Favorite Caravel faded late to finish fourth. In the $200,000 Presque Isle Mile, Surly Furious made a furious rally to win for trainer Glenn Wismer.
The biggest stakes-rich day at Parx once again was on Pennsylvania Derby Day, September 24th, which delivered excitement from start to finish. The $1 million PA Derby feature race saw the Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Taiba drawing away in the stretch to win by 3 lengths over the late-running Zandon, and Cyberknife 3 3/4 lengths back to finish third. Prior to that race, the Cotillion Stakes (G1)
Earlier in that stellar card, Scaramouche won the $300,000 Gallant Bob Stakes (G2), which featured a field of 13 three-year-olds, for owner Nicholas Cammarano Jr., and trainer Guadelupe Preciado. In the Turf Monster Stakes (G3), a 5-furlong sprint on the turf, 5-2 second choice That’s Right won by 1 1/2 lengths to give Parx-based trainer Michael Moore his first graded stakes win. The eye-catching grey Buy Land And Sea won the $200,000 Alphabet Soup Handicap for older Pennsylvania-breds to close out the excellent day of racing with a 3 1/4 length win over Midnight Hauler.
Racing on the Pennsylvania Fair Circuit took place throughout the summer, with the action kicking off at the Butler Fair in June and wrapping up in September at the Bloomsburg Fair. The finals were held at the Meadows Racetrack on October 7th. The 3-year-old pacing filly Bettor Strait N Up, in a powerful stretch drive and a win in 1:54.2, became the first horse in the history of fair racing to win the points title and the championship final at both age 2 and 3. Other winners in the finals included Cherokee Joy (2-Year-Old Filly Trot); Stay Happy (2-Year-Old Filly Pace); Buchannon Hanover (3-Year-Old Colt & Gelding Pace); HS Winchester (2-Year-Old Colt & Gelding Trot); Heytherville (3-Year-Old Colt & Gelding Trot); Lou On The Beach (2-Year-Old Colt & Gelding Pace; and Heart Matters (3-Year-Old Filly Trot).
It truly was an exciting season of stakes racing at all six Pennsylvania tracks, and 2023 will be just as thrilling!
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