04/25/2017 11:22PM

Pocono: Checkmate Time shines in 2017 debut

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Curtis Salonick
Checkmate Time is now the fastest 3-year-old trotter of 2017 after her 1:53 3/5 win on Tuesday.

Trotters of both sexes raced in three $15,000 divisions of Bobby Weiss Series action on Tuesday at The Downs and Mohegan Sun Pocono, with the distaffs going in their fourth and final prelim, while the males contesting their third prelim round action.

Fastest of all, in her first start in over nine months, was the Muscle Hill filly Checkmate Time, who looks ready to improve on her main notoriety gained in 2016, as the only horse ever to be favored against superfilly Ariana G. Checkmate Time let the field settle into the first turn, then rolled up after the frontstepper Connie Jean after a 28 1/5 quarter, and with the wind Checkmate Time reached the half in 56 1/5, then coasted to a 1:25 3/5 three-quarters.

With John Campbell barely moving in the sulky behind her through the stretch, Checkmate Time trotted home with the wind in 28 to stop the timer in 1:53 3/5, a lowering of her mark by 1-2/5 seconds and five lengths clear of Connie Jean. Checkmate Time is trained by Dennis A. Laterza for owner Roy Dobbins. The filly more than fulfilled the promise she showed last year when she won two NJSS prelims while Ariana G won her only NJSS prelim start, and was 13-10 in the NJSS final to Ariana G’s 3-2, only to suffer an interference break on the lead and finish back, a hard-luck start that finished her 2016 racing.

Sunrise Avenue, who had won her first two outings in the series only to lose a nose to Connie Jean last week, rebounded nicely Tuesday to equal her mark of 1:55 4/5, taken two weeks ago in a Weiss prelim, and run her Weiss scorecard to 4-3-1-0. The Kadabra mare made the front past the quarter and set the rest of the pace, withstanding the pocket charge of The Muscle Touch by a length for driver Eric Carlson, trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera, and J M F Racing LLC.

In the other cut, Hot Mess Hanover took her second Weiss triumph with a 1:56 2/5 effort that saw her lead at every call, with back fractions of 57 3/5 – 28 3/5 allowing her to lower her record, taken in her other Weiss victory, a tick. Andrew McCarthy had sulky duty behind the Cantab Hall filly for trainer Joe Pavia Jr. and the ownership group of the Estate of Edmund Smith, Daniel Smith, and James and Daniel Gianuzzi.

So here are the nine Weiss trotting female finalists for next Tuesday’s $30,000 Championship, with high pointearner first and onward: Sunrise Avenue, Hot Mess Hanover, Connie Jean, The Muscle Touch, Abbie’s Celticlass, Talkin Tootsie, Whambamthankumaam, Gin’s Tonic, and Checkmate Time, who claimed the ninth guaranteed starting spot with her fast victory!

None of the three males who won their first two Weiss prelim starts were able to run their record to 3-for-3 during the three $15,000 divisions of their third round prelim. One section had double winners Hilarious Hero and Ooh Rah, but various pieces of bad luck kept both of that pair from attaining even a 1-2-3 finish; instead, driver Eric Carlson and trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera, also the braintrust behind Weiss trotting mare Sunrise Avenue, got their picture taken with the Explosive Matter sophomore gelding Gustavo Fring, who stormed home from second-over in a personal kicker of 28 1/5 to defeat Muscle On Fire, on his back, by 1-3/4 lengths. Gustavo Fring lowered his mark by almost three seconds to 1:54 3/5 for his trainer, who is also co-owner with Michi Yvette Abday.

Another division had the other double Weiss prelim winner, Bend In The River, but after opening a clear margin early in the stretch, that one could not hold off the Muscle Hill 4-year-old gelding Tech Titan, who unleashed an explosive last 1/16 in his seasonal bow to win in 1:55 1/5 and double his lifetime victory total in his 23rd career start. “Mr. Sebastian K,” trainer/driver Åke Svanstedt, visited Pocono’s Victory Lane for the first time this season behind Tech Titan, who won for Knutsson Trotting Inc.

Uncle Leroy finally stopped knocking on the door and went right in to the winners circle in the final division, leading at every call to win in 1:57 1/5. Andrew McCarthy gained a victory on the male side to match his female triumph with Hot Mess Hanover as the driver teamed with trainer Jeff Gregory and owner Richard McCormick as the braintrust behind the 4-year-old altered son of Neely Dunn, who posted his 18th career triumph after much success at the Ohio fairs at two and three.

-edited release (Jerry Connors for Pocono)