PLAINS TWP. — For a good portion of Saturday night’s racing card at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, a driving, swirling rain pelted the track.
However once the third annual Van Rose Memorial was about the start in the tenth race of the card, it was almost like something powerful interfered as the rain nearly came to a complete stop. The wetness continued again once the race had ended, albeit not as heavy, but still seeming as if a higher power decided to clear the skies for the moment.
Also fitting was that Dancin Yankee, out of Baron Racing Stable, won the $50,000 purse, the highest of any race of the 24 races held at Pocono Downs during the Kentucky Derby festivities all day on Saturday. That’s because Rose, a longtime sportswriter at The Times Leader before passing away in 2011, was beat writer for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees and Red Barons for many years, and danced with the Yankees when they won the Governors’ Cup title in 2008.
Dancin Yankee, which paid $8.40 for the win, wasn’t the favorite entering the race. He had to overcome an extremely strong field, including Golden Receiver, who won the race last year and Dovuto Hanover, who entered as the favorite. Driven by Brett Miller, Dancin Yankee started from the No. 2 position en route to a win by 3 1/2 lengths.
“He was good tonight, very good” said Dancin Yankee owner Rich Lombardo from Solon, Ohio. “(Trainer) Josh (Green) had him good and ready. He’s been great all year. He’s a great horse, no matter where he goes.”
It took a little while for Dancin Yankee to get in the front. In fact, after starting in the top three, he didn’t lead the pack until halfway through the 1-mile track. Defending champion Golden Receiver held the lead for most of the first half of the race.
Then once Dancin Yankee got in the lead, the rest was history. Shortly after getting to the front, Dancin Yankee opened a 3 1/3 length lead and at the three-quarters part of the race, he was ahead by a colossal six lengths before the gap was closed slightly by second-place finisher Bandolito. Dancin Yankee finished in 1:49.0, while Bandolito crossed the line in 1:49.3. Third-place finisher Sweet Lou ended in 149.4 and Dovuto Hanover, who finished fourth, ended in 150.0.
“Once he made the front, I was pretty confident that he was OK,” Lombardo added.
Dancin Yankee, who won for the seventh time in 13 starts this year and is owned by Baron Racing Stable and Lombardo, now has 31 lifetime wins and career earnings of $766,422.
•In addition to covering minor league baseball for The Times Leader, Rose was a lifelong fan of racing and wrote about harness racing for many years. Rose was a native of Kentucky who worked in the horse racing industry before moving to the Wilkes-Barre area to work at the paper. His favorite day of the year was the Saturday that the Kentucky Derby was held.
•The winner of the inaugural Van Rose Memorial in 2011 was Special T Rocks driven by Daryl Bier, who drove Bandolito Saturday night. Special T Rocks holds the record time for the event finishing in 1:48.2, which was a world record time two years ago.
•Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs had a record handle of nearly $400,000 on Saturday wagered on the Kentucky Derby for the highest wager ever on the Derby at Pocono.
•Defending champ Golden Receiver took sixth, finishing in 1:50.3 after entering as the most accomplished horse in the field beginning with 60 career wins and the highest bankroll of any horse in the race earning $2.14 million.