Who says Saturday’s best horse race is in Kentucky?
Based on overall career accomplishment, on quantity of sheer speed and quality of competitive racing, the toughest field of horses gathered anywhere this weekend will be at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs on Saturday night, contesting the $50,000 Van Rose Memorial, named after the late, colorful and controversial local racing writer.
Rose wrote for The Times Leader for three decades, working until his death in 2011. The third annual Van Rose Memorial pays tribute to the Kentucky native, who made the Wilkes-Barre area his home and Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs his venue of choice.
Here’s the stellar cast of nine in post position order for the third Van Rose Memorial:
GOLDEN RECEIVER (post one, driver George Napolitano Jr., 3-1) – The defending Rose champion after a 1:50 score last year, the 9-year-old has the highest career bankroll ($2.14M) and will be gunning for his 61st career victory, likely using early speed that no other harness horse can show consistently.
DANCIN YANKEE (post two, Brett Miller, 4-1) – Has already banked more than $155,000 this year, showing consistently strong form at Yonkers Raceway. Has the “slowest” lifetime mark of 1:49.4, one of four entrants to earn his speed badge at Pocono (the average career record the field is 1:48.1!).
DOVUTO HANOVER (post three, Ron Pierce, 5-2 favorite) – Hinted at greatness at two (national season’s champion for 2PGs on both mile and 5/8-mile tracks), he fizzled at three, but has sizzled this year. Won at Pocono three starts back. In each of his last two races, he shows a personal final quarter of 25.2!
DYNAMIC YOUTH (post four, Andrew McCarthy, 15-1) – Equaled the 4PG world mark of 1:48.1f here last year, a time he exceeded only by a tick in winning two starts back. Second to Bandolito here last Saturday after showing great resiliency.
ABELARD HANOVER (post five, Jonathan Roberts, 6-1) – Equaled the OPG world mark of 1:48f here last year in a driving rainstorm. Won his last two starts in a photo racing at Pocono, but the big question mark is being scratched—sick last week.
BANDOLITO (post six, Daryl Bier, 12-1) – The shortest horse in stature and experience (only 17 lifetime starts), but not the shortest in speed. Equaled Dover’s all-time record with a 1:48f win, then the next week he triumphed at Dover Downs in 1:48.2-52.1-25.4. Overcame a hard trip to win here last Saturday.
EMERITUS MAXIMUS (post seven, Jim Morrill Jr., 20-1) – A recent winner of three straight at Dover, he finished second to Dovuto Hanover in the feature at The Meadowlands this past week, posting a 25.4 final-quarter clocking.
SWEET LOU (post eight, Matt Kakaley, 10-1) – The fastest-ever 2-year-old after winning that year’s Breeders Crown event in 1:49, he’s just a shade below Golden Receiver in lifetime earnings with a bankroll of $2.13M. Trainer Ron Burke and driver Kakaley currently lead the Pocono standings.
WARRAWEE NEEDY (post nine, Mark MacDonald, 5-1) – Unofficially the world’s “Worst-Drawing Post Position Horse,” and his “luck” held out for his seasonal debut. But his 1:46.4 win last year at The Meadowlands stands tied as the fastest mile ever in a harness race. Debuts off three qualifiers.
The Van Rose will be the 10th event on Pocono’s 14-race card Saturday night, which will begin shortly after they hang the “OFFICIAL” sign on those offstride 3-year-olds in the Bluegrass State. … Pocono is also offering a special morning card beginning at 11 a.m., with 10 races for early Derby Day fans and simulcast wagerers, and the plant will then transmit all of the color and majesty of the Triple Crown event between cards through its closed-circuit system. … The record for the Van Rose is the 1:48.2 posted in the inaugural event by Special T Rocks, driven by Daryl Bier, who handles Bandolito tonight. At the time, the 1:48.2 earned a line in the world record books.