Pennsylvania Power

Ron Burke trainees won both eliminations for the inaugural $561,500 Pennsylvania Classic at Pocono, while Dan Patch winner Pure Country had her career undefeated streak snapped in one of three eliminations for the $318,300 Miss Pennsylvania.

courtesy Pocono / PHHA

JK Will Power (1:51.1) and Check Six (1:50.4) both posted new lifetime marks Saturday (April 30) at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono while winning the two $25,000 elimination races for next Saturday’s inaugural $561,500 Pennsylvania Classic for PA-sired three-year-old colts and geldings.

The winning duo also contributed to give trainer Ron Burke a familiar position of domination, as he sent out both winners, a second-place finisher, and a third-place finisher from four starters. The Classic Championship is to be held during the evening portion of the Kentucky Derby Day doubleheader next Saturday at the mountain oval.

The Burke Stable had the two favorites in the first Classic elim in JK Will Power (1/2) and Manhattan Beach (9/5), and they finished 1-3 respectively, split by Canadian invader The Catamount Kid. JK Will Power, off a strong 2016 bow at Philly, went by his stablemate early, briefly gave up the lead to the parked The Catamount Kid at the :26.4 quarter, but was quickly in the move to reclaim the front. Explained driver Yannick Gingras, “I wasn’t sure, with my driving the favorite, that Jody (Jamieson) and his horse were the ones to sit behind from the program, but as it turned out I could have gone either way.”

JK Will Power got a real rest during panel and hit the half in :56.2, continued on with a tailwind to put up a 1:23.3 three-quarter split then sprinted home in :27.3 – and needed all of that dash through the lane as The Catamount Kid tried hard to emulate the three “pocket rocket” winners of the Miss Pennsylvania elims. His Pocono Pike late effort, at 11/1, came up a neck shy, with Manhattan Beach holding his third spot ahead of Western Dynasty. Burke conditions the victorious Somebeachsomewhere—What’s New Pussycat colt for the 3 Brothers Stable.

In the other elim, Check Six and Big Top Hanover were coupled in the betting as the 3/5 favorite, and they finished a nose apart on the money, just ahead of Lyons Snyder. These three had been in the thick of the action throughout – Lyons Snyder claimed the front, yielded to Easy Lover Hanover before the :26.3 opener, then was quarter-mover number one to the lead in front of the stands, yielding to quarter-mover number two Big Top Hanover, who took the field to the half in :55.

Check Six and driver Yannick Gingras, completing the Classic elim sweep along with Burke, came up first-over and made a bold backstretch brush to clear his stablemate by the 1:22.1 three-quarters, then stayed game late as Big Top Hanover came outside from the pocket for the drive and lost by the smallest possible amount, with Lyons Shadow only a half-length off the win; Duke Of Delray was fourth, and from this division JJ Flynn had the faster clocking of the two fifth-place finishers and thus was the last horse advancing to the final.

Somebeachsomewhere picked up his fourth sire credit in the five stakes elims, two at each sex, with the victory of Check Six, who is out of Southwind Vanna and owned by Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, William Switala and James Martin.

Gingras said that he would await the results of Monday’s open draw before finalizing a selection of whom he’ll guide in the final. Matt Kakaley guided the other two Burke qualifiers.

Trainer Chris Ryder will have three in the final, Western Dynasty, Duke Of Delray. and JJ Flynn. Owner Geoffrey Lyons Mound is in the interesting position of having two horses in the final with different trainers: Manhattan Beach (Burke) and Lyons Snyder (Mark Silva).

Earlier, three $20,000 eliminations for next Saturday’s inaugural $313,800 Miss Pennsylvania Pace for PA-sired three-year-old pacing fillies were held, with the pocket the racing position to be in. All three winners rallied from the two-hole – one outside, the other two inside up the famed “Pocono Pike.”

In the first elimination, Pure Country, undefeated in 10 starts at two and national divisional champion, fell from the ranks of the unbeaten, as in a :54.3 sprint home she couldn’t go enough in her seasonal bow. She had to settle for third, and a position in the Miss Pennsylvania, behind the victorious Darlinonthebeach, a 1:50.4 winner, and Pocono Pike-shooting second-place finisher Newborn Sassy.

Driver David Miller sent the Somebeachsomewhere—Darlin’s Delight filly Darlinonthebeach directly to the front, ceding the lead at the :26.3 quarter to the 50-cent favorite Pure Country, with Newport Sassy sitting third. Pure Country got a breather into the second quarter headwind and hit the half in 56.1, picking up the tempo to reach the three-quarter pole in 1:23.3.

Turning for home, Miller pulled Darlinonthebeach (second choice at 2-1) outside and sailed right on by, with Miller sitting chilly in the bike. Newport Sassy came up the Pike to grab second, a length behind the winner and a neck ahead of Pure Country. Nancy Johansson had the winning filly ready for a 1:51.3 seasonal bow victory here, and now the fast miss is two-for-two in 2016 and possessor of a new speed badge for owner/breeder White Birch Farm.

“She was really strong all through the mile,” Miller noted after the race. When reminded that a win in the Miss Pennsylvania would put Miller in the $200 Million Club in driving earnings, joining John Campbell and Ron Pierce, Miller gave the thumbs up and said, “Something to aim for!”

The two-hole was again the place to be in the second Miss Pennsylvania elimination, as the Well Said—Silksndiamonds filly I Said Diamonds, parked to the :26.1 quarter for the top then yielded to sit behind Sail To The Beach through :54.2 and 1:22.3 middle splits. I Said Diamonds used the inside route to get the decision in a personal best of 1:51. I Said Please, uncovered from late backstretch, stayed game for second, a length back and completing the “I Said” Exacta, with Sail To The Beach hanging in for third, another half-length behind the victorious 3/5 favorite.

Matt Kakaley handled the sulky duties for Little Bapa LLC and trainer Matias Ruiz, who got the filly to train in the offseason and enjoyed victory with her at first asking. “She is by far the best horse I have ever trained,” said Ruiz after the race with a smile. “She was good last year, and she’s a little bigger, a little stronger this year.”

Driver Scott Zeron watched the first two elims and settled on a winning strategy in the third elim, sailing up the Pocono Pike to an easy two-and-a-quarter length triumph in 1:51.3 with the Somebeachsomewhere—Preppy Party Girl filly Call Me Queen Be, an even-money choice in her first start of the year. Zeron and the “Queen” parked main rival Ivy League to a :26.1 opener, and even when the pacesetter got a breather to the 56 half, Zeron was not worried: “This filly has great speed, and can do anything on the racetrack,” he said after the race.

And sure enough, after a 1:23.3 three-quarter, Call Me Queen Be waited for the inside lane to open, then darted through with lightning quickness to go by with ease; Save The Treasure was along from third-inside position to get second, one-and-a-half lengths ahead of Ivy League, who held for third. Ross Croghan trains the winner, who also took a new mark, for the Let It Ride Stables Inc. and Dana Parham.

These top three fillies for each division will return for the Miss Pennsylvania Championship during the evening card of a Kentucky Derby doubleheader next Saturday at The Downs. David Miller has the only driving decision to make, as he guided Darlinonthebeach and Ivy League; Ivy League’s trainer Jimmy Takter, who also handles Pure Country, was the only conditioner to land two in the rich event.