A trio of memorials served as features on the Saturday night card at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The 7th annual JP Morel Memorial Pacing Series went for a purse of $32,000 while the 5th annual Virginia O’Brien Memorial Pace was contested for a $32,300 purse and both races saw career-best performances from their winners. Mantario (Sportswriter) drew the rail in the JP Morel Memorial Pace Final and was the odds-on betting favorite. With Billy Dobson in his sulky, Mantario cruised to victory and set a new lifetime mark of 1:53.1 in completing the series sweep. The only winner of both legs of the series, Mantario was a decisive winner on Saturday as he bested stablemate Energyzone Hanover (Jay Randall) who had to settle for second-best. Mantario joins Finnish First, Mach To The Max, Starznheaven, Hillbillycashflow, In A Single Bound and Justin Credible as winners of the JP Memorial Pacing Series. In A Single Bound, like Mantario, was and is trained by Monica Krist and driven by Billy Dobson, making them the first tandem to be a two-time winner of a series at the Spa.
The Virginia O’Brien series for lady pacers was so well balanced that there were six different winners in the divisions heading into Saturday’s final. Reflexionofroyalty (American Ideal) was the even money betting favorite in the final after she impressed in outclosing her rivals in leg two. She came into the night with five victories in her eight starts in 2019. Jimmy Devaux wasted little time putting the favorite on the lead and the Allen Sisco trainee cruised from there. Reflexionofroyalty set a lifetime mark, scoring in 1:55.2 to add her name to the list of previous winners of the Virginia O’Brien Memorial Pace that is comprised of Karla Art, Shesnobeachboy, Nashurallability and Maggies Way.
The 1st annual George Karam Memorial Invitational Pace was contested on Saturday and was won by local superstar Artful Way (Artistic Fella). The Jackie Greene-trained pacer went coast-to-coast in 1:50.4, matching the time of his stablemate Hudson Phil as the fastest of the season for any horse thus far at Saratoga in 2019. Artful Way, the three-time defending Pacer of the Year at the Spa, recorded his 56th win in 147 career starts. Frank Coppola Jr is his regular driver and was in the sulky for Saturday’s score.
Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with a 12:00 Noon first post.
Photo: Melissa Simser-Iovino