Pocono closes 2022 meet; Kakaley, Burke honored

Wilkes-Barre, PA – The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono held its final of 133 cards for 2022 in near-freezing temperatures on Saturday afternoon (Nov. 19), with the meet’s leading horsemen and retiring 14-year-olds feted.

Top purse event of closing day was a $25,000 fast-class pace, taken easily by the Bettor’s Delight gelding Ilikemebettor A in 1:51.3. Marcus Miller guided the recent import to the lead, backed off the half to walking-horse time of :57.1 even under the conditions, then dashed home in :54.2 – :27 to serve serious notice he will be a big factor wherever he will next race. Erv Miller trains Ilikemebettor A, who has posted a Stateside record of 6-4-1-0-$48,000 since Oct. 1 for Ervin Miller Stable Inc. and Douglas Overhiser.

In an $18,500 co-featured trot, Secret Bro was out raw and challenging much of the last half, and got his nose past favored pacesetter Rich And Miserable on the money in 1:54.2. Secret Bro, a Dejarmbro gelding, is trained by Jennifer Bongiorno for JB Racing, Richard Weinstein, and Joseph Di Scala Jr.

Pocono management and family and friends of driver Matt Kakaley (in colors holding sign) gather to honor him as the track’s leading driver and UDR champion of 2022. Curtis Salonick Photo.

Secret Bro was driven by Matt Kakaley, who was the leading Pocono driver in both the victory and UDR categories, and was congratulated for those achievements in winner’s circle ceremonies. This is Matt’s first UDR crown here, and his second in wins – the other coming when he was 23 back in 2011, the last time George Napolitano Jr. did not take that local laurel (he was second this year, and on closing day was the leading driver with four wins). Kakaley’s final stats for the year at Pocono were 1199-262-216-153-.361.

Also honored was the winningest trainer at Pocono, Ron Burke, who harnessed 76 winners during the meet. The only other time the Hall of Famer led the local training colony in victories, 2020, he completed a “Pennsylvania Triple” – being the winningest trainer at Pocono, Meadows, and Philly – and he has a chance to get a second Triple this year: he has the Pocono title, he won’t be caught at The Meadows, and he is second to Per Engblom at Philly with five weeks to go.

Pocono Director of Racing Rick Kane (left) and Director of Racing Operations Mike Zullinger (center) present Mike Seddon, of Team Burke, with a sign commemorating Ron Burke being the leading trainer at the track in 2022. Curtis Salonick Photo.

The Downs also honored with winner’s circle retirement ceremonies four 14-year-old horses, a group of very solid career accomplishment (223 wins among them, and earnings of $2,504,746):

–Chancellorcullen N, a Grade I winner Down Under before coming to North America, and a career winner of $435,557;
–Hopetobefirst, a winner in all 13 of his racetrack years, and a sub-2:00 horse in 12 of them, including at 14, when he won in 1:53.2, just off his lifetime mark of 1:52.3 taken at two, and an earner of $400,938 with 64 career wins;
–Lyons Johnny, who did not race at two but then won in each of his 12 years of racing in under 2:00, ending his career with 60 victories and a bankroll of $486,537;
–Zooming, the only trotter of the group, who nonetheless won in sub-2:00 in all 13 of his racing years, rolling up 72 wins and $1,181,714 in earnings.

Finally, seven horses changed hands via the claiming box on closing day, for a total of $150,750. Those numbers brought the yearly totals to 554 claims at Pocono, with $12,019,775 changing hands for an average of $21,696 (mirroring the last day’s average of $21,535). Doubtless many of those horses will be back at The Downs for the 2023 racing season, the dates for which should be announced shortly.

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