When Nameisonthehalter hit the wire first in the twelfth race on Sunday afternoon, the 2019 racing season reached its conclusion. The Sunday finale served as the end of the career of the race’s runner-up Flem N Em N who competed for the last time as per standardbred rule, a horse cannot race past his fourteen-year-old season. That veteran pacer began his career in New Zealand before coming to the U.S. in 2010. Competing at a number of tracks for several different trainers, Flem N Em N has enjoyed a simply sensational career. There was a stretch from 2013 to 2015 in which he earned six-figures each year led by a ’13 campaign in which he tallied over $200,000. Flem N Em N joined the stable of local conditioner Gary Levine at the end of the ’17 season and immediately enjoyed success. Racing in the upper level claiming ranks, Flem N Em N recorded victories at both Saratoga and the Meadowlands before beginning a 2018 season in which he would wind up as a nominee for the track’s Claiming Pacer of the Year award.
On closing day, the annual ceremony for the retirement of 14 year old horses, whether they are still racing or have been previously retired, took place prior to the races. Flem N Em was one of two active horses to participate in the retirement ceremony as the veteran emerged from the paddock to parade to the winner’s circle several hours before heading onto the track to take part in the matinee’s finale. Sunday’s race was the 360th in the career of stalwart Flem N Em N whose lifetime earnings wind up just shy of $950,000. The battle-tested Flem N Em N was the runner-up for the thirteenth time this season to go with his five victories in ’19. What a terrific run it has been for Flem N Em N, one that reached its conclusion on closing day.
The final week of action featured a pair of $20,000 Series Finals in addition to the regular trio of $18,000 Opens. The favorite in Wednesday’s Holiday Trot Final was Barn Star who, along with entrymate JS Trotting Bob, went off at odds of 3-5. Phil Fluet co-owns as well as trains and drives Barn Star who had just one win on the season before rattling off back-to-back jacks in the series’ two legs with each score coming in 1:58.2. Barn Star got a pocket trip once again on Wednesday and for the third consecutive week parlayed it into a victory. The four year old stopped the timer in 1:59.3 to record the biggest win of his career. Longshot Duluth finished second while CC Bank earned the show spot in the Holiday Trot Final.
Saturday’s Holiday Pace Final also went for a purse of $20,000 but in this one, the favorite would not prevail. Santanna One was the fastest winner of any of the divisions of the two-leg series behind a leg two score in 1:55.1 and was subsequently bet down to odds of 1-9 on Saturday night when he got an easy lead in the Final. Reckless Rebel, who is owned and trained by George Merton, got the two-hole trip behind the favorite and popped the pocket past the 5/8 pole before powering right by Santanna One. Reckless Rebel stopped the timer in 1:56 to score the upset at odds of 9-1. Blueberry Heaven came on to finish second while Santanna One had to settle for third. Also participating in the Holiday Pace Final was another Sunday retiree. Dinner Guest, who is owned and trained by Frank Multari, achieved a rare feat in 2018 when he won Claimer of the Year at Saratoga….at age 13! An upset winner in leg one of the Holiday Pace, Dinner Guest drew post eight and subsequently didn’t factor in Saturday’s Final. With somewhat similar credentials to fellow retiree Flem N Em N, Dinner Guest retires with 77 career wins and an ultra-impressive $738,000+ in earnings. The veteran pacer has only been at Saratoga for a few seasons but has been a star no matter where he’s competed over the years. Rock DJ was our third Sunday retiree. A trotter that spent almost his entire career racing at the Spa, Rock DJ earned almost $290,000 while under the guidance of trainers John Mongeon and Doug Maura.
Closing weekend also featured two of the track’s top stars doing what they’ve done pretty much all year at Saratoga. Crockets Cullen N has a big chance to be named Pacer of the Year at the end of season awards next weekend and on Saturday evening did what he always does. Crockets Cullen N won another Open Pace as owner-driver Larry Stalbaum guided his star to what was his ninth consecutive victory in the local feature. Nine wins in his last nine appearances in the track’s regular Saturday feature! Absolutely unheard of and the second-half of the season surge for Crockets Cullen N may well wind up leading him to the track’s top award for pacers.
On Sunday afternoon, the final feature of the season saw veteran Cash Me Out once again be his race’s favorite. The Kyle Spagnola trainee wrapped up what has been another fantastic year for the veteran trotter who has spent almost his whole career at Saratoga. The eight year old was assigned post seven in Sunday’s $18,000 Open Trot as he sought his thirteenth victory of the season. Brett Crawford piloted Cash Me Out who powered out to the lead in a sizzling 27 seconds flat and held on to win his ninth local Open of the season and put the finishing touches on what has been a phenomenal 2019 campaign. Owned by the Traylor Racing Stable of Ballston Spa, Cash Me Out became a millionaire early in the ‘19 season and wrapped up his campaign on Sunday with now 200 career starts and 50 lifetime wins en route to $1.13 million. He was the most consistent force among the top-level horses at Saratoga in 2019 and is the clear-cut favorite to be named Trotter of the Year next weekend. Cash Me Out has a legitimate shot to take home the Horse of the Year award as well.
Next week, in my final column until next February when racing resumes, I will chronicle the award winners and put a bow on what was a terrific 78th racing season at Saratoga Casino Hotel was a terrific one and one that will officially come to an end next weekend with the annual awards banquet. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!