Wilkes-Barre, PA — The weather may have been cold and windy for the opening night of the 2019 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, but one place where it was hot was near the claiming box, as no fewer the fifteen horses were haltered in the five claiming events at the mountain oval Saturday night (March 16) including Urban Renewal, the winner of the featured $20,000 claiming handicap pace on the opener.
With two speedy favorites drawing posts one and two, driver Eric Carlson raced out and accepted a 4-tuck with the altered son of Cam’s Card Shark, then came uncovered on a night when the speed was winless in the first nine races. That figure soon went to 0-for-10, as Urban Renewal grinded right to the lead on the turn, then drew off to win by 3-1/4 lengths in his farewell for trainer Mike Watson and Clifford Grundy, who saw the horse taken for a $35,000 claiming price.
Each of the five claimers had at least two horses changing hands – the $30,000/$35,000-tagged feature saw half of the field of eight entering new barns, with hopeful owners laying out an amazing $297,500 trying to get a sharp horse for the early-season campaigns.
In the race after the feature, a $17,500 conditioned pace, a horse was finally able to last wire-to-wire, and appropriately it was a horse backed by the noted front-favoring team of driver George Napolitano Jr. and trainer Hunter Oakes. It was the Four Starzzz Shark gelding Epaulette A, who took a North American mark of 1:51.3 for the ownership of the Northfolk Racing Stable.
Epaulette A had favored Soho Wallstreet A coming at him late, but withstood that rival in crossing the beam three-quarters of a length to the good. Both feature winners went over the $200,000 mark in career earnings with their triumphs.
Jim Morrill Jr., who had made his first sulky appearance since October 26 on the Wednesday card at Buffalo, was in mid-season form on the Saturday Pocono program, guiding three winners, including $61.00 winner Western Alumni. Simon Allard also posted a driving triple.
The trotters and pacers next take to the Pocono oval on Tuesday, when a 16-race card featuring several hopefuls for the upcoming Weiss Series goes postward at 4 p.m.
Pocono will race at 4 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays this year, while the Saturday and Sunday cards will stay at 7 p.m.