Crockets Cullen N was Saratoga Casino Hotel’s Pacer of the Year in both 2019 and 2021 (there were no awards in ’20 due to the shortened season) and although he has had solid showings against the track’s top horses in ’22, the veteran didn’t have an Open victory on his ledger this year heading into Saturday night’s start. Larry Stalbaum owns, trains and drives the classy eleven year old who is the winningest horse in the local Open Pace over the course of the last three years.
On Saturday, Crockets Cullen N drew post two while competing in the $16,000 feature and was aggressive from the get-go. Stalbaum moved him out to the early lead where they traveled unopposed through a first half in 56.2. The favored Alluneedisfaith N (Shawn Gray) rode the pocket behind the leader while last week’s Open winner Optical Illusion N (Chris Long) made his move heading toward the three-quarter pole.
The trio of New Zealand invaders slugged it out in the stretch but it was Crockets Cullen N who would not be denied, stopping the timer in 1:51.3 to record his fifth victory of the campaign but just his first in Open company.
Alluneedisfaith N, the 2-5 betting favorite, had to settle for second while Optical Illusion N earned the show spot. Crockets Cullen N paid $22.40 to win in the upset in the $16,000 feature. The exacta and triple returned $50 and $190, respectively. With the earnings from his Saturday score, he moved his career bankroll to over the half million dollar mark.
Live racing continues on Sunday evening at Saratoga with a first post time of 6:45pm.
Photo: Melissa Simser