Janice Connor is certainly not new to harness racing. She along with husband Chuck Connor Jr. is a veteran of the business. The tandem ran a stable together at Vernon Downs for a long period of time before moving to south to Goshen where they called home for several years. Recently, the Connors came to Saratoga Casino Hotel to set up shop here. While Janice and Chuck split the official training duties, Janice has done all the training for the horses who have competed at Saratoga this season. Her stable has competed at the Spa from time to time in the past but recorded just a dozen local starts in 2020 and didn’t register any victories. This season, though, has been a totally different story.
The stable of Janice Connor has thrived upon relocating to Saratoga this season. She has accumulated more wins and earned higher purses than in any year since ’15. While there isn’t one horse in particular that is responsible for the breakout campaign, there is one who has been the stable’s star. Quagmire Blue Chip broke his maiden right here at Saratoga as a three year old back in 2019 while under the guidance of his previous connections.
He had a fairly non-descript ’20 season, a year in which he moved to the Connor stable in September. The 2021 campaign though has proven to be a monster one for the now five year old. Quagmire Blue Chip enjoyed a widely successful spring when competing at Yonkers Raceway as he rattled off five wins in the span of a month and a half.
Quagmire Blue Chip raced for the first time at Saratoga since being acquired by Connor when in July, the talented pacer competed in the Open. The rising star went from a horse who earned less than $30,000 in his three racing seasons coming into ’21 to Open Pacer in a short amount of time. There is a difference, though, between being a horse who occasionally races in the Open and one who is a force at the highest level. Dismissed at odds of 56-1 in his Open debut, Quagmire Blue Chip finished third. A solid showing but one that would wind up being not an aberration but rather a mere drop in the bucket for what was to come in the summertime for Quagmire Blue Chip.
The Connor trainee earned a pair of seconds and a pair of thirds in the track’s featured race for pacers before winding up springing an upset in the August 28th installment of the Open. After another second and a third, despite getting away last in the $15,000 feature a few weeks later, Quagmire Blue Chip secured his second ever Open score when he swooped the group. At this point, Quagmire Blue Chip was established as an Open force and the youngster rattled off his third feature victory on October 24th in what wound up being his last start of the season.
All told, Quagmire Blue Chip recorded fourteen starts in the Open Pace winning three times and hitting the board in ten of the fourteen to be one of the top pacers at the Spa in 2021. After compiling less than $30,000 in his first three seasons, Quagmire piled up earnings of more than $110,000 in ’21 with almost half that tally coming from starts in the Saratoga Open Pace. With those statistics to his credit, Quagmire Blue Chip earned a spot as one of the four nominees for Pacer of the Year this year as the star of the Janice Connor stable.
Despite Quagmire Blue Chip’s season having been concluded, the Connor stable still has members participating at the Spa….and enjoying success. Last Tuesday afternoon, Dew Can Dew and Sweetest Ideal competed for Connor. The two horses couldn’t be any more different as Dew Can Dew has been a longtime member of the Connor stable having made every one of her 94 career starts while under the guidance of Janice and Chuck. A pretty successful filly in the Excelsior A division of the New York Sire Stakes in her two and three year old seasons, Dew Can Dew hasn’t done a ton of winning over the course of her career.
A horse that has often finished second and third, Dew Can Dew came into October’s Jim Derue Memorial Trot at Saratoga off a second-place finish at Yonkers. In that race, young driver Brett Beckwith piloted the now five year old mare for the first time. Beckwith has quickly become the regular reinsman for the Connor stable this season. Driving Quagmire Blue Chip in each and every one of his local starts this year, Beckwith has become a force at the Spa when teamed up with Connor. The 18 year old driver guided Dew Can Dew to a front-running score in her $12,500 division of the Derue Memorial Trot before piloting her to a fourth-place finish in the $36,600 Final.
On Tuesday, Dew Can Dew finished second which wrapped up another strong day at the Spa for the Connor stable. Earlier on the card, Sweetest Ideal made her debut out of the Connor barn after being acquired via private purchase earlier this month. Beckwith sat behind the young filly who made the early lead and never looked back on Tuesday. The win broke an O for 12 on the season for the sophomore pacer who paid immediate dividends for her new connections.
Perhaps the filly will follow in the hoofsteps of fellow Connor trainee Nuttin But Finesse who shined this season at Saratoga. With Beckwith at the controls in each of the three year old’s twelve local starts in ’21, Nuttin But Finesse rattled off five wins to become the winningest horse at Saratoga for the Connor stable in what has been a breakout one for conditioner Janice Connor.
In fact, Quagmire Blue Chip’s nomination for Pacer of the Year at the Spa is not the only one for Connor as she herself is one of three nominees for the Peerless McGrath Award, an award that goes to that year’s top breakthrough trainer. While she may not be the favorite to take home that honor, Janice Connor has thrust herself onto the local scene in 2021 behind a fantastic campaign led by Open Pace star Quagmire Blue Chip but complimented by youngsters Dew Can Dew, Nuttin But Finesse and the newest member of her stable Sweetest Ideal, who will bring a one-for-one record out of the Connor stable into her next start on Tuesday afternoon when she will be the big favorite in her race.
Live racing takes place every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday for the remainder of the month before the conclusion of the 2021 racing season on December 21st. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!