Carolina Beach showed some promise as a two year old back in 2016 but encountered some issues that caused him to start his sophomore season very late. The young pacer was purchased and subsequently joined the stable of trainer Melissa Beckwith late in the ’17 campaign. Carolina Beach joined the non-winners of two race lifetime class at Saratoga Casino Hotel in September of 2017 and after not factoring in his local debut was the runner-up in his second local try. Those races seemed to serve as preps for the Gary Kamal Pacing Series which took place that fall, a series that would end up being dominated by the-then most recent addition to the Beckwith barn.
The Kamal Pacing Series wound up serving as the coming out party at Saratoga for Carolina Beach who enjoyed a simply sensational autumn. Following a win in leg one of the series, Carolina Beach went coast-to-coast in 1:53.1 in leg two before heading into the $36,000 final as the one to beat. The public’s 3-5 betting favorite in the final, Carolina Beach lengthened his win streak to three and completed the series sweep, matching his leg two effort with a 1:53.1 score. The three year old wrapped up his season with a victory to go four-for-eight at the Spa for earnings of more than $36,000. As strong as the initial showing was for Carolina Beach in his debut season at Saratoga, it was nothing compared to what he had in store for 2018.
After spending the early part of last year competing in the conditional ranks, Carolina Beach made his debut in the Open Pace in late March. On paper, he was a bit over his head. After all, the young pacer had only about twenty lifetime starts under his belt when he started from the rail in the Saturday night feature. The rising star sprung the mild upset in his debut in Open company, prevailing in what else but 1:53.1, the exact time he won each of his final two series’ races in. The wins just kept coming for Carolina Beach who scored in five of seven starts, including a pair of victories while competing at Yonkers before the Beckwith trainee returned to the Spa Open in May.
Carolina Beach became a fixture in the Open Pace and once the calendar turned to June of 2018, he would never race in a level below the Open in any of his starts. On a warm evening in early June, Carolina Beach set what was his lifetime mark by prevailing in the $14,500 feature in wire-to-wire fashion, stopping the timer in 1:51.3. A dazzling effort from the up-and-comer and to think, just a few months before this career-best effort, the young pacer had made just a couple dozen starts in his life. The following week, “Beach” proved that the sizzling win-time was no fluke as he went back-to-back in the Open, once again scoring in 1:51.3. This winning thing was becoming a habit now and though he faced formidable foes such as three-time defending Pacer of the Year Artful Way and standout veteran JK Panache pretty much every week, Carolina Beach made a name for himself at the Spa. By this point, the Beckwiths had handed over the controls to Hall of Famer Wally Hennessey to drive Carolina Beach, a move that proved to be a fruitful one. The breakout campaign continued for Beach when in August, he again rattled off back-to-back jacks in the Open, a feature he would win three times that month with Hennessey at the helm. All told, there were six trips to the winner’s circle following Open victories at the Spa for Carolina Beach in ’18, a season in which he was second only to Artful Way for most wins in the Open Pace. His year wrapped up with a trip to Pompano Park in Florida where the third racing season for Carolina Beach ended with two more wins, one of which came in a lifetime best 1:50.3 over the 5/8 mile track. By the time 2018 was complete, Carolina Beach had piled up fourteen total wins en route to more than $110,000 in earnings which resulted in him being named one of just three nominees for Saratoga’s Pacer of the Year award.
Much of the Beckwith stable shipped south for the winter and Carolina Beach, his stable’s star in 2018, kicked off his ’19 campaign in style at Pompano. Reunited with his summertime driver Wally Hennessey, Carolina Beach recorded an Open win in his first start of the year. Before heading back north for the beginning of the meet at Saratoga, the now five year old pacer logged a pair of wins to go with a second-place finish in the $10,000 Open Pace in Florida. The members of the Beckwith barn shipped back to New York for the start of the local meet and though Carolina Beach’s return start at the Spa didn’t go very well, his impression would be stamped in the feature very soon after.
Highlighted by a final quarter of 27.4, Carolina Beach came from well off the pace before finishing third in his second start back at the Spa. With nearly all of his wins coming while on the lead or in the pocket, Carolina Beach appeared poised for one of those journeys on Saturday night when he started from post five in the six-horse Open Pace. Bet down as one of the 9-5 co-favorites, Carolina Beach flashed his patented early speed and wound up in the pocket behind veteran JK Panache, a horse with whom he has regularly sparred since vaulting into Open company last year. Millionaire pacer Western Fame was in town to compete in what was his first start of the season. The superstar pacer, who earned over $350,000 while competing against the top horses in North America, was co-favored despite the fact that it was his first race back off a three month layoff. The stretch drive ensued with the co-favorites and JK Panache and the three-way battle was won by Carolina Beach, who came on to score in 1:53.4 for his third win of the season and first since returning to Saratoga. What kind of year it will be for Carolina Beach certainly remains to be seen but if the recent results are any indication, the five year old might again prove to be the stable star for a barn that has led the way among local trainers in seven of the last eight seasons at the Spa.
Live racing takes place every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday afternoon with matinees beginning at 12:00pm and on Saturday evenings with action under the lights starting at 6:45pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!