There is no question that harness racing is and always been a family type of business. A high percentage of the trainers and drivers not just at Saratoga Casino Hotel but really throughout the industry either were raised in horse racing families or had relatives that were involved in the sport. That is certainly the case for Jordan and Brett Derue who are the sons of Jimmy Derue, a man who spent his life around horses and in the harness racing business both in Canada and here in the U.S. Jimmy was the track farrier at Saratoga before passing away in 2012. There is a series at the Spa named in his honor, a series whose seventh installment will take place this fall.
Jordan started in the business at a young age and wasted very little time making an impact at the Spa. Derue won the Johnny Page Award back in 2009, an honor bestowed to the track’s top up-and-coming driver. After enjoying success right away at the age of 19, Derue continued his improvement not only as a driver but even more so as a trainer. Just a few years later, Jordan took home the prestigious Horseman of the Year Award after a ’14 campaign that saw him finish in the top ten as both a driver and a trainer at Spa. While he doesn’t have any titles to his credit, Jordan has remained a solid force at Saratoga over the years (he’s still not 30 years old by the way) and is enjoying another strong season in 2019. Jordan came into last week’s action in seventh among local trainers in ’19 and aided by his biggest night of the year wound up climbing the ladder a peg or two.
On Wednesday evening, Derue had three of his trainees compete at Saratoga. Jordan focuses most of his attention on trotters which comprise the majority of his stable. All three horses he started on Wednesday were trotters, two of which drew the rail. J S Peyton has emerged as a force in the conditional-claiming ranks in recent weeks and wound up as the public’s odds-on favorite on Wednesday while looking to follow up his best start of the season with another victory. J S Peyton pulled off an upset at odds of 11-1 to record his first local win and on Wednesday had little difficulty going back-to-back as he went wire-to-wire in a career-best 1:55.4. J S Peyton has the look of a young trotter with big time upside- just what Jordan seems to look for when acquiring a new horse for his stable.
When J S Peyton put in the best effort of his young career on Wednesday, he became the second winner on the card for Derue. Squirely Girly had put together a solid stretch for her trainer-driver in the last couple of months when she held on to win on Wednesday. The four year old trotting mare was winless in 2019 until July 10th when she went wire-to-wire with Derue guiding the way. From there, Squirely Girly enjoyed a strong two-month period which culminated with her third win in the last six starts when she held off the charge from a rival in the stretch to match her lifetime mark of 1:58.1. Squirely Girly’s most recent score earned her the winner’s share of a $9,000 purse in a race for New York sired trotters.
Derue looked to go three-for-three on Wednesday when he sent out his New York Chrome from the rail. After faltering slightly following a claim in July, New York Chrome was a strong-closing second place finisher in the start leading into Wednesday’s try. The public’s betting favorite got away third from the rail but was able to vacate the pylons past the half before surging past his rivals to score in 1:57.2 and complete the hat trick on the card for Derue. While his stable doesn’t have any Open caliber trotters at this point like it did last year with Piercewave Hanover, who recorded two wins in the Open Trot, Jordan Derue again features a solid group of high-steppers and may wind up being a contender for the Horseman of the Year Award just as he was in 2014. The 29 year old is enjoying another strong season and after Wednesday’s hat trick currently occupies the sixth spot in the trainer standings in ’19.
While Jordan Derue is in the midst of another big campaign at the Spa, his big brother Brett is also thriving once again this season. Like his little bro, Brett sits inside the top ten in the trainer standings in ’19 and is doing so despite have a significantly lesser amount of starts than the majority of his counterparts. Coming into last week’s action, Brett had just over 100 starts at Saratoga this season. With 30 wins in those tries, Derue’s win percentage of better than 28% is second only to Monica Krist among local trainers in 2019. While a portion of his stable has been racing in western New York at Batavia Downs in recent weeks, Derue was back to town this weekend and made an immediate impression. Though his young trotter It Aint The Whisky, who has emerged as a summer stable star for Brett, made a break on Friday night, Derue did make a trip to the winner’s circle on Saturday with veteran high-stepper Golden Tate. Winner of the Claiming Trotter of the Year Award back in 2017 while competing out of Derue’s barn, Golden Tate has since changed connections on a couple of occasions. The veteran trotter returned “home” earlier this season and has again gone on a tear for Derue. After winning a race on July 27th at the Spa, Golden Tate shipped to Batavia for three starts. The nine year old scored two front-running victories in those three tries before returning to the Spa on Saturday. Taking advantage of drawing post position one, Golden Tate scored another win, prevailing on the front-end in 1:59. Brett Derue has ridden It Aint The Whisky and Golden Tate as well as some claiming pacers such as Gitn Drunkonaplane to success in ’19 and currently completes the only brother tandem to sit together in the top ten in the local trainer standings in quite some time. Yes, it’s a family business and there are several common last names to the different horsemen at the track but no family pairing has enjoyed more success in 2019 at the Spa than the brothers Derue.
Live racing returns to the “normal” schedule this week with the summer portion of the racing calendar now behind us. Racing takes place every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday afternoon starting at Noon and on Saturday evening with first post time set for 6:45pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!