Brett Derue burst onto the scene among local trainers at Saratoga Casino Hotel back in 2008. The native Canadian had family in the business and had been a part of harness racing for a large portion of his life. Brett’s brother Jordan wasted little time making an impact when he became a full-time horseman at the Spa at the age of eighteen at the same time that Brett was getting his start. Jordan won the Johnny Page Award in 2009 when recognized as the track’s top up-and-coming driver. Running a successful stable while thriving in the sulky, Jordan wound up taking home the prestigious Horseman of the Year Award at Saratoga in 2014. While Jordan has been a staple at the Spa for the better part of the last fifteen years, Brett managed a smaller stable after his breakout ’08 campaign balancing running his own barn with working as an assistant to trainer Jackie Greene.
Brett Derue didn’t win the track’s up-and-coming trainer award but after focusing on being an assistant following his first full season in ’08 became a consistent force among local conditioners from 2016 to the present day. Derue had his best year in ’21 when he won a career-high, at the time, 65 races while training to an average of .362, by far a personal best. The following season, Derue’s average dropped a bit but he ended up finishing seventh in the trainer standings at Saratoga in what was his best year since becoming a trainer. If the previous two seasons were good ones, the 2023 campaign has been magical for the 38 year old Derue. Coming out of the gate strong back at the start of the meet in February, Derue has been at or near the top among local trainers for the entire season. Brett has seen his name atop the standings for the entirety of the last six months or so as he has maintained a small lead over trainer Melissa Beckwith who is in pursuit of her tenth title at the Spa.
Heading into the October 16th matinee at Saratoga, Derue saw his lead in the trainer standings shrink to just two. With Beckwith hot on his heels, Brett featured five of his trainees on a Monday card comprised of mostly fillies and mares. Derue’s Shes So Sweet overcame a tough first-over journey in the Monday opener to prevail in the second leg of the Bunny Lake Pace. The victory in the series’ second leg not only gave Shes So Sweet the winner’s share of the $12,500 purse but also gave her much needed points towards the upcoming series final. Though his lead in the standings grew by one with the Shes So Sweet mild upset score, Beckwith punched back and drew to within two on the leader board once again when she secured a win in the race that followed. If it were a prize fight, Derue’s counterpunches were coming fast and furious as by the time the Monday card was halfway complete, the leading conditioner grew his lead to five after enjoying a rare training grand slam.
Young mare Shes So Sweet got the historic day started for Derue but it was a veteran who continued it. Mr Cool Seaeyre N joined the Derue stable last fall and the twelve year old has enjoyed a terrific ’23 campaign. On Monday, Mr Cool Seaeyre N scored for the eighth time this season and the fiftieth in his illustrious career when he went coast-to-coast to give Derue his second winner of the day. A fairly recent addition to Brett’s stable Mini Rose gave her trainer a hat trick when she closed quickly to prevail in a $10,700 race for distaffers. Derue looked to go four-for-four on Monday when his American Tour N stepped onto the track trying to do something she hadn’t done before and something her trainer had yet to accomplish in his monster campaign. In Derue’s sensational season, the breakout conditioner had just two Open wins on his resume this season heading into Monday and both came in the Open regularly contested on Saturday evenings for the boys. Derue features no Open trotter from his stable but he has at times had a participant in the Fillies and Mares Open. That was the case on Monday when American Tour N drew post five in a seven-horse feature for the ladies.
American Tour N has had a terrific season for Derue while mostly competing in the claiming ranks. The nine year old mare scored a series win in the Step Up To The Plate series that took place this spring for claimers. American Tour N continued to thrive all summer long but one thing the veteran distaffer had failed to do was win an Open in a handful of tries against the track’s top mares. Derue’s magical season added another notch to its belt when leading driver Jimmy Devaux guided American Tour N to a mild upset victory in the $15,000 Open on Monday to complete an extremely rare training grand slam. Derue nearly went five-for-five on the day but came up just shy when his DW’s Darlene had to settle for second-best in her Monday try.
The incredible afternoon for Derue gave him a five win lead in the standings, secured his third victory of the season in a local Open and also gave the leading trainer his 100th win of the year at the Spa. With close to a .400 average in his local starts, Derue’s 100 victories left him five ahead of Beckwith heading into last weekend’s action at Saratoga in a year that will likely see him eclipse the $1 million mark in purses earned in the next week. With less than two months remaining in the racing season, Derue is eyeing that title and although Beckwith is still hot on his trail, Brett Derue’s historic Monday afternoon gives him a bit of breathing room in the race for the training title at the Spa that is likely to come right down to the wire. And regardless of whether he wins the championship or winds up second-best, Brett Derue’s 2023 season has been a career one and one that is filled with first time achievements including the four wins in a day, 100 wins in a year and over $1 million in purses earned which have all been achieved or are about to be achieved in what is his career year as a trainer at the Spa.
Live racing takes place on Saturday evenings with first post times of 5pm and on Sunday and Monday afternoons beginning at noon. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!