A Spa staple made his return to the winner’s circle on Monday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Panocchio was the Horse of the Year at the track in 2014 and was named Pacer of the Year in both ’14 and ’15 as the Jimmy Mattison trainee was a dominant force for several seasons. Now at the age of ten, Panocchio (No Pan Intended) is still a talent and fairly regular participant in Opens both here at Saratoga and at Pompano Park in Florida where he spends much of his year. On Monday afternoon, Panocchio drew the rail while taking a drop in company off a third-place finish in last week’s Open Pace. The veteran utilized his inside post to power out to the lead though the fractions were fast considering he was untested in the early going in the $5,750 conditional race. Despite posting first half fractions of 27.1 and 56 seconds, Panocchio was up to the task on Monday and drew away from his rivals late in the mile before stopping the timer in 1:52.4 for his third win of the season and his first since returning to the Spa. Saratoga has been a place of consistency and at times dominance for the superstar pacer who has amassed over $640,000 in career earnings behind 71 lifetime victories. Gerry Mattison, the regular reinsman for Panocchio when he competes at the Spa, sat behind him on Monday for the wire-to-wire score.
The afternoon’s feature once again went the way of Crockets Cullen N (Christian Cullen) who went coast-to-coast for owner/trainer/driver Larry Stalbaum. The defending Pacer of the Year has been the fixture in the local Open Pace and its dominant force for close to a year now. After scoring ten consecutive Open wins at one point from 2019 into the start of 2020, Crockets Cullen N has now prevailed in four of the last five installments of the Open Pace as he sparkled in a 1:51.4, a clocking which serves as the fastest of the season at the Spa. The 3-5 favorite of the bettors on Monday, Crockets Cullen N survived first lap fractions of 26.1 and 54.4 to have something left in the stretch and make yet another trip to the winner’s circle for Stalbaum who has been on a tear of late.
Live racing continues on Tuesday afternoon at Saratoga with a matinee beginning at 12 Noon.
Photo: Melissa Simser-Iovino