Sardella’s Column

Beckwith’s Star Shining Bright at the Spa

Posted: 02/28/24

For Brett Beckwith, harness racing is in his blood. Both sides of his family have a long history in the sport. Brett’s mom Melissa is the daughter of the late Hall of Famer Jerry Silverman who passed away earlier this month. Silverman was a harness racing legend having won the 1966 Pacing Triple Crown at the age of 31 with Romeo Hanover. Silverman’s career spanned over five decades during which he remained a significant presence on the Grand Circuit and concluded with his induction into the National Hall of Fame in 2019. Melissa’s brother Richie Silverman piled up almost 2,000 wins in his career as a driver. Melissa Beckwith is a nine-time training champion at Saratoga Casino Hotel.

Brett’s family ties certainly don’t stop with his mom’s side of the family tree. His father Mark has more than 5,800 career victories as a driver and has been a staple at Saratoga for close to two decades now. It was only logical that Brett would attempt to have a career harness racing and in his later teenage years, the Saratoga resident expressed interest in becoming a driver.

Brett has always been around racing, growing up in the backstretch and in the grandstand but unlike many who spent their youth in the stables, the son of Mark and Melissa didn’t always dream of being a driver. In fact, it was to the contrary.

“I was around the horses a lot when I was young. Then I kind of got away from it,” Brett told me when we spoke a couple years back. “When I turned like fifteen or sixteen, I spent more time in the barn and started to really grow a passion for it. I would jog them and train them a little and really started to love it.”

At that point, Brett decided to lay the groundwork for a career as a driver. At the age of sixteen, drivers can compete in amateur races and qualifiers and that is the path Beckwith took. Fast forward five years and he is one of the winningest catch-drivers in the Northeast.

Beckwith wasted little time making an impression in the sulky, winning the Johnny Page Award in his breakout rookie season of 2021. That year, Brett finished seventh among local reinsmen, one spot ahead of his father in perhaps an unspoken friendly family competition. In 2022, Brett began to spread his wings a bit and drove at several other tracks over the course of the year, making an impact in New Jersey, most notably at Freehold Raceway in the wintertime and then at Plainridge Park in Massachusetts where his mom was the leading trainer.

Locally, Brett continued to thrive as well, wrapping up his sophomore season fourth in the local driver standings despite suffering some injuries from an on-track accident that cost him some time. Last year, the career path continued on the right trajectory when Brett nearly doubled his win total from ’22 when he piloted 453 (almost exactly half of which came at Saratoga) winners en route to purses earned of more than $4.4 million in a hefty 2675 drives. Beckwith finished second to three-time driving champ Jimmy Devaux in the standings and split the honor of Horseman of the Year for ’23 with the leading driver.

Although Brett’s season didn’t get off to a strong start on opening night at the Spa when the newly-turned 21 year old was winless, it didn’t take long for him to start piling up the victories. On the first matinee card of the campaign, Beckwith enjoyed a five-win day, an achievement he would match just a week later when on February 12th, Brett piloted five winners including one in the Open Trot with invader Manofmanymuscles.

That Monday five-bagger marked the start of what would be seven consecutive race cards in which the young driving star would record at least three wins. A hat trick is already becoming old hat for Brett Beckwith who has surged into a fairly substantial lead in the way-too-early to really consider driver standings. While three weeks within a ten-month racing season hardly seems significant in the big picture, things just look different this year for Beckwith. Not only does he remain the regular reinsman for his parents’ stable but Brett is also picking up more and more work for many of the top trainers at the Spa.

The youngster has displayed a knack for finding the right blend of aggression and patience while guiding both trotters and pacers alike to win after win. With a pair of Open scores to his credit in the early going, Beckwith has recorded wins in the biggest races the Spa has to offer.

On Tuesday afternoon (Feb 20), Beckwith piloted five winners on the matinee card, the third time in just eleven race cards that he achieved that feat over the course of the first three weeks of the 2024 campaign. The red hot streak spilled right over into Saturday night’s program when the rising star piled up another four victories on a card that consisted of just ten races.

Three of Brett’s Saturday scores came while driving for his father, trainer Mark Beckwith. Led by Boozer, who just last year finished as the runner-up for the Three Year Old Pacer of the Year Award at the Spa following an eleven-win campaign, Brett guided a trio of talented pacers to wins for his dad’s stable in addition to a catch-driving victory in the evening’s opener with claiming pacer Big Idea.

Heading into Sunday’s matinee, Brett Beckwith led the way among local drivers with a bulky win total of 37 in just twelve race days, far more than any of his competitors. Seven consecutive cards saw Beckwith pilot at least three winners and in five of those instances, Brett made at least four trips to the winner’s circle in what has been one of the best months for a driver in recent history at Saratoga.

It could be a very interesting year in the driving ranks at the Spa as the 21 year old Brett Beckwith is seeing his star shine bright while in pursuit of his first ever driving title.

Live racing takes place every Saturday evening with a 5pm first post and continues with matinees every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday with afternoon racing starting at noon.

Saratoga Casino Hotel | Saratoga Springs, New York

Back to racing