Last season, in the abbreviated 2020 campaign, no horse won the Open Trot in successive tries at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Though the Open didn’t have nearly the amount of installments as in most years, to not have any horse win back-to-back tries showed the “up for grabs” nature of the group of top-flight trotters at the Spa. This season, a dominant force has emerged and on Monday afternoon that force won for the third consecutive week in the trotting feature. Gruden (Muscles Yankee) was assigned post eight in the $14,000 Open and leading driver Billy Dobson took the star trotter back at the start. Aided by the break of two rivals, Gruden advanced to sixth in the early going and with fast fractions being set in the feature things were shaping up very well for the race’s 2-1 second-choice in the wagering. Gruden picked up the cover of Stone In Love (Brian Cross) who was the runner-up to Gruden in last week’s Open. That tandem surged past the weary leader around the final turn but in the stretch Gruden proved to be too much for his rivals. The eight year old trotter stopped the timer in 1:57.3 to record his third consecutive win in the Open Trot becoming the first trotter in almost two years to achieve that feat. Stone In Love continues to be the bridesmaid as she has finished second in five of her last six starts while racing very well for trainer-driver Brian Cross. Longshot Lifetime Credit (John Stark Jr) rounded out the triple. The exacta and triple in the feature paid $41 and $326, respectively. Gruden’s owner, trainer and driver teamed up for a double for the third straight Monday afternoon as Lazzaro completed the double for owner Rick Dobson of Michigan, trainer Monica Krist and reinsman Billy Dobson. Lazzaro has now won four consecutive races and has the look of a future Open trotter in his own right.
Live racing continues on Tuesday afternoon at Saratoga with a matinee beginning at Noon.
Photo: Melissa Simser-Iovino