The Crawford name has been synonymous with racing at Saratoga Harness for decades. Kim Crawford’s driving career began back in the late 1970’s and the Vermont native enjoyed immediate success in the sulky upon kicking off his career some forty years ago. Crawford was one of the dominant forces among drivers at the Spa throughout the eighties and into the nineties. Crawford has compiled the majority of his nearly 4,700 career wins as a driver while competing at Saratoga and while the veteran reinsman isn’t near the top of the standings anymore, he is still making trips to the winner’s circle. The 62 year old pilotb is one of the winningest drivers in track history and has earned more than $15 million in purses throughout his illustrious career. Elected into the Saratoga Harness Hall of Fame in 2009, Crawford is still getting the job done and scored a driving double on Thursday afternoon.
Crawford drove a pair of winners for Vernon Downs-based trainer Angus Mac Donald on the matinee card. Young trotter Cash N Chrome has been a force over the past month or so and the Mac Donald trainee set a lifetime mark on Thursday afternoon. After two wins and three seconds in his first five starts of the season, Cash N Chrome scored in 1:57.1 for Crawford last week as the young trotter continues to get better and better. While Cash N Chrome was a 1-5 betting favorite on Thursday, Mac Donald’s Burton’s Way was dismissed at odds of 47-1 as the young highstepper took part in a maiden trot. With the top three favorites making breaks in the early going, the opportunity was there for Burton’s Way who moved first-over under Crawford urging. The youngster lit up the tote board returning $96 to win as he secured his first career victory in what was the biggest afternoon of the year thus far for the veteran Crawford.
The harness racing business has always tended to be a familial one. Oftentimes, the sons or daughters of trainers and drivers get involved in the sport. The prime example right now at Saratoga is the Dave and Kyle Spagnola combo. Multiple-time training champion Dave Spagnola’s son Kyle grew up around the stables and now in his twenties has established himself among the top conditioners at the track. The Crawfords have that family thing going as well as Kim’s son Brett has made harness racing his vocation and the younger Crawford has been on a tear of late.
Brett Crawford, much like the afore-mentioned younger of the Spagnolas, spent a lot of his youth around the barn. Learning from his Hall of Fame father, Brett began his career in harness racing about a decade ago but it wasn’t until 2011 when Crawford really started making an impact. It was in that season that Brett started running a big stable on a full-time basis and that corresponded with him driving more than ever. Crawford recorded 243 starts as a driver and 129 as a trainer in ’11, both tallies being more than in his previous years combined. Crawford would compile more driving victories than in any year that followed though he did drive quite a bit in 2012 as well. At the conclusion of the ’11 campaign, Crawford took home the Peerless McGrath Award which recognizes the track’s top up-and-coming trainer. Brett went on to fulfill what the award is intended to signify as he used the 2011 season as a springboard for his career as a conditioner.
Crawford has seen his starts increase on a yearly basis ever since his award-winning 2011 season. At one point relocating to Vernon Downs to race primarily at the Miracle Mile in central New York, Crawford returned to Saratoga a few years back and it has been his home base ever since. While Crawford’s stable went without a win for the first chunk of this year, the barn was still having some success. How? Well, there were several Crawford trainees regularly finishing second and third and while the stable was winless until just a couple of weeks ago, Crawford’s training average was still pretty solid. It seemed like only a matter of time until the horses that were coming up second or third best would start to get over the hump. That happened a few weeks back on May 5th when Anty Entity “broke the seal” for the stable. The pacing mare dropped down to the bottom condition to record a victory and the barn seemed to take off from there. Beginning with the Anty Entity score, the Crawford stable rattled off six wins and four second place finishes in a twelve race span. Nitro Glistening became the stable’s first two-time winner when the young pacer recorded victories on back to back Saturday nights, a feat he followed up with a second place finish last weekend.
On Thursday, on an afternoon card in which his father piloted a pair of winners, Brett added a third victory for the Crawfords when his young pacer Justin Incredible made his lifetime debut. Coming off a qualifier in which he won in 1:58, a very strong showing for a horse who had never raced, Justin Credible wasted no time visiting the winner’s circle as the three year old pacer broke his maiden on Thursday afternoon and did so in style. The first time starter stopped the timer in a dazzling 1:55.2 with Brett in the sulky. It was his second driving win of the season (he won with trotter Twice Too Nice who he owns) but more impressively it completed a stretch for Brett in which his stable dominated. While he certainly has a lot of work to do to eclipse his previous best win total of 38 as a trainer set in 2015, Brett Crawford is on a tear of late with a stable of mostly young horses that is getting it done in recent weeks as he is proving the voters right from back in 2011 when he won the award for up-and-coming trainer at Saratoga. Brett is currently enjoying a training average that if it were to hold would be the best since his stable expanded back in ’11. Like father like son for the Crawfords who had their best week of the season last week at the Spa.
Live racing takes place on Thursday and Sunday afternoons with matinees kicking off at 12:15pm. Friday and Saturday night racing begins 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!