The 81st racing season at Saratoga Casino Hotel kicked off earlier than normal this year. A pre-Super Bowl kickoff to the meet occurred for the first time and some ten and a half months later, the season came to an abrupt end last weekend. A closing week that began with a scary Monday afternoon accident was set to conclude on Sunday with the annual retirement ceremony for 14 year old horses who officially called it a career. Fortunately, there were no major injuries incurred in the Monday accident despite it being an ugly and, quite frankly, terrifying one. The drivers involved in the spill were all slated to be back in the sulky. Some returned later that afternoon and other were scheduled to drive on closing weekend. Scheduled is the key word though as closing weekend didn’t occur the way that was planned. In fact, it didn’t occur at all.
The final Open of the year was set to be contested on Saturday evening as the $16,000 Open Pace, which has been so wide open all season long, was to feature a couple of Pacer of the Year nominees. That Open never got raced nor did any of the twenty five scheduled races last weekend. The winter storm that rolled through on Thursday and Friday caused the condition of the track to be poor and due to some other unforeseen factors as far as rectifying the issues with the track, racing on closing weekend was canceled. One of the activities slated for the weekend could not occur as the annual retirement ceremony for 14 year olds that always takes place on closing day was sadly wiped away.
There were four horses set to have their careers honored in the winner’s circle on closing day. The first of the four didn’t have the career earnings that the other 14 year olds did but one thing is for sure, DW’s Divine was a Saratoga horse. Deb Miller is the owner and trainer of DW’s Divine who made 95% of her lifetime starts at Saratoga. Earning more than $63,000 over the course of her 104 lifetime races, DW’s Divine won fourteen times including once in the Battle of Saratoga Final in 2012, a race that was contested at a distance of 1 ½ miles. DW’s Divine was one of two retirees that were not to be in attendance on Sunday due to the fact that she is currently in foal and set to produce her fourth baby in February.
The other retiree that was not scheduled to be at the ceremony was Dreamzzzz R For U. The veteran is one of two of the retirees to race right up to the end of eligibility in his fourteen year old campaign. Owner and trainer Rachel Bailey had Dreamzzzz R For U for the last two years of his career. The classy pacer competed for several years at Saratoga out of the stable of conditioner Alicia Gray as well. An earner of $472,679 over the course of his incredible 363 starts, Dreamzzzz R For U was never a superstar per say but was a picture of consistency throughout his career. Bailey, who nicknamed the horse “little man”, donated the retiree to the Purple Haze STB Adoption Program where sadly he experienced a freak accident in which he took a bad step and tragically lost his life.
A pair of classy Spa veterans was set to be on hand on Sunday to be presented with a blanket in recognition of their illustrious careers and subsequent retirement. The first of these is a horse that spent years at Saratoga under the guidance of a handful of trainers but was always a favorite of Amanda Kelley. Kelley was the groom for Martial Bliss in 2014 and 2015 before training him in ’16 when he provided her with one of her first training wins. Martial Bliss was sold later that year but Kelley kept an eye on him as he bounced around to several different stables. In ’18, trainer Joe Decarlo acquired Martial and Kelley went to visit one of her all time favorite horses. It was there where she met Decarlo and fast forward a few years and the two now share a young daughter. Kelley reacquired Martial Bliss for the last time in 2020 when she saw that he was for sale online. She decided to bring him home but after the old boy didn’t really want to race anymore, Kelley retired him later that year. She went on to use him to help train down babies and now he is her turnout buddy for any horse that needs one. Kelley is happy and proud to have Martial Bliss back with her. He earned over $423,000 in his terrific career by way of 44 wins in 275 lifetime starts.
Waiting On A Woman was nicknamed “Charlie” as a weanling in his native Prince Edward Island, Canada. That moniker stuck with him throughout his career despite changing connections multiple times. Waiting On A Woman came to Saratoga late in 2014 while out of the stable of Margaret Spagnola. The big, strong trotter won the Open at Saratoga for the first time in ’15 after moving to the barn of conditioner Kyle Spagnola where he would spend the remainder of his incredible career. Like Dreamzzzz R For U, Waiting On A Woman continued to race right up into his 14 year old season winning for the final time in August of this year. One of the top horses to come out of the Spagnola stable in the trainer’s career, Waiting On A Woman won a pari-mutuel race with 27 different drivers and piled up $638,146 while scoring an incredible 82 lifetime victories. The gentle classmaster is returning to his home country to live with his breeders where he will do a little bit of light pleasure riding and just live his best life. Although they didn’t get their official retirement ceremony, the four retirees are recognized for their achievements.
Though closing week certainly didn’t go as planned, the 2022 racing season has officially come to a close. And what a year it was! The annual awards banquet returns this season and will take place in early January. We will recognize the winners in this column early next year after racing resumes at Saratoga Casino Hotel on February 4th when hopefully we’ll have better weather to deal with than we had during closing week of ’22! As always, everyone at the track would like to thank all of the fans for making this season a success. Have a happy and healthy holiday season and until next year, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU in 2023 at the finish line!
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