Besides the three races for three-year-olds that should help establish current “pecking rights” within their respective divisions — the $500,000 Battle of the Brandywine for colt pacers, the $500,000 Colonial for colt trotters, $350,000 Valley Forge for three-year-old filly pacers — the card at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Saturday night was overloaded with further speedy contests, including consolation events for the sophomores and Invitationals for the older set.
Here are recaps from live coverage throughout the night:
BATTLE OF THE BRANDYWINE
$500,000 Battle of the Brandywine
Betting Line extended his win streak to nine in a row and set a world record in the $500,000 Battle of the Brandywine.
Control The Moment charged off the gate from post eight and landed in the pocket spot behind early leader Racing Hill through a :26.1 first quarter, but driver David Miller sent 1-2 favourite Betting Line first over from third to take over command. Betting Line then cruised comfortably on the lead past the half in :53.4 and to three-quarters in 1:20.1, and dominated down the stretch to score the victory in 1:47.2 — besting the former Casie Coleman trainee McWicked’s world record for three-year-old male pacers on a five-eighths-mile track from the 2014 Hempt. Racing Hill chased the winner home four lengths behind with Control The Moment following in third.
“I wasn’t real happy at first with getting away third with Racing Hill up front,” said Coleman. “I wasn’t sure what Brett [Miller with Racing Hill] would do because that horse loves the front and wasn’t sure he might take us more than he did when we came. But :53.4 is pretty good to the half. Betting Line is better off a helmet, but it worked out.
“It’s cold, it’s windy; I was not expecting a mile like that tonight, that’s for sure. I knew he was going to be really good, but with the way it’s cooled off, I didn’t think we would go a world record. He was extremely impressive.”
Coleman co-owns the millionaire Bettors Delight-Heathers Western colt as part of the West Wins Stable with Ross Warriner, as well as partners Christine Calhoun and Mac Nichol.
“Honestly, with all the horses I’ve had, and I’ve said this for a while, I think Betting Line is the best one I’ve had,” said Coleman. “McWicked was a really nice horse. [World champions] Sportswriter and Betterthancheddar were better than what ‘Wicked’ was. But this horse is showing he’s even better than them.”
$100,000 Consolation II
Nocturnal Bluechip was hustled out of the gate by driver Tim Tetrick, yielded to favoured Spider Man Hanover to sit the pocket, then stormed up the famed Pocono Pike to be an easy winner in the $100,000 Battle Consolation II in 1:51.2.
After opening in :26, Spider Man Hanover got a relative breather on the lead, posting middle fractions of :55.1 and 1:23, but he came up empty in the lane, and Nocturnal Blue Chip stormed up the inside to win by one and a quarter lengths; 35-1 shot Inspiration View, four-wide headstretch and still sixth 100 feet out, was along for second, a half-length ahead of last year’s PA Sire Stakes Championship Ideal Jimmy, who also shot up the Pike.
A son of Bettors Delight, Nocturnal Bluechip was sent off as the 5-2 second choice and delivered his first victory of the season for trainer Mark Steacy, also co-owner with NLG Racing Stable.
$50,000 Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association Invitational Pace
Mel Mara made two early moves in commanding the front end, then held off the late charge of pocket-sitter and Pocono-lover Luck Be Withyou to take the $50,000 Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association Invitational in 1:47.2, two-fifths of a second off the divisional world record (and all-time five-eighths-mile track best) of 1:47 held by Sweet Lou and Always B Miki.
Corey Callahan left between horses with the seven-year-old son of Lis Mara, with Sunfire Blue Chip to his left and Luck Be Withyou to his right, and initially backed off to third as Luck Be Withyou, winner of the 2013 Breeders Crown Final and 2015 Franklin Final over the local red clay, circled up to the lead. But “Luck” was challenged by Mel Mara, the even-money chalk, past the :25.3 quarter and had the lead well before the :53.3 half, with Dealt A Winner coming first-over, affording Mel Mara no rest to a 1:20 three-quarter clocking.
After the first-over tired, Luck Be Withyou pulled outside for the stretch drive and Sunfire Blue Chip went to the Pocono Pike to challenge the leader. But Mel Mara visibly dug in and summoned more when challenged, holding off Luck Be Withyou by a half-length, with Sunfire Blue Chip another length back in third.
Dylan Davis trains the winner of over $600,000 for Robert Cooper Stables LLC and J&T Silva Stables LLC.