The last of the handful of Late Closer Series’ for 2016 kicked off on Monday afternoon’s holiday program at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Columbus Day matinee card consisted of ten races, nine of them were series’ contests. The fourth annual Jim Derue Memorial Trotting Series got underway as did the Gary Kamal Memorial Pacing Series. There were five divisions of the Derue Memorial on Monday which each went for a purse of $7,500 as did each of the four divisions of leg one of the Kamal Pace contested on a beautiful autumn afternoon at the Spa.
Jim Derue, who was the farrier at the track and longtime friend to so many at Saratoga Casino and Raceway, passed away late in 2012. Jimmy’s son Jordan has established himself as one of the top all around horsemen at the track in the past few seasons, so much so that last year Jordan was named Horseman of the Year at the end of the season. At the age of 24, Jordan was one of the youngest to ever take home the award for the Spa’s top horseman. Jordan’s brother Brett has also made a career in harness racing as an assistant trainer and occasional driver. Jimmy was extremely proud of both of his sons for the careers they had established. The trotting series, established in 2013 in his memory, serves as a great tribute to a man who spent his life around horses and in the harness racing business and is missed by all who knew him.
Driver Bruce Aldrich dominated much of the action in leg one of the ’16 installment of the Jim Derue Memorial Series. The track’s defending top driver, Aldrich began the day guided Strong Crazed to a convincing victory and went on to pilot another pair of winners in the first leg of the Derue. Following the score with Strong Crazed, Aldrich sat behind Jose Godinez-trained trotters Iwantmytwodollars and BJAnthony as they recorded decisive victories. The journeys couldn’t have been much different for the stablemates either. Iwantmytwodollars was the fastest of the leg one winners of the Derue as she took advantage of her inside post position to go wire-to-wire on Monday afternoon. The 1:57.1 clocking served as a lifetime mark for the four year old mare who has been lightly raced this season but is picking a good time to be in peak form. BJAnthony had the opposite luck of the draw to contend with on Monday and started from the outside post position in his division of the first leg of the series. The race’s favorite was on the front end and was being followed by arguably the sharpest horse in the field as BJAnthony had the tall task of trying to outclose them while coming from the back of the pack. The Godinez trainee had plenty of late pop and surged past his rivals in the stretch before drawing away late to win in 1:58.3. It was the third victory in the four local tries for the young trotter who joined stablemate Iwantmytwodollars as some of the ones to beat among the highsteppers competing in the fourth annual Derue Memorial Series.
Joining the trio of Aldrich-driven victors in the series on Monday were Mugshots Bro and Aberforth who each came into their race sharp as can be and came from well off the pace to record the leg one wins. Mugshots Bro and Aberforth were driven by Stephane Bouchard and Shawn Gray, respectively. The second and final leg was contested on Sunday afternoon as the trotters made their final attempt to qualify for the $32,000 Final that is set to take place this Sunday, October 23rd. Aldrich was also the leg two star as he piloted two winners and had two seconds in the four divisions of the Derue second leg. Iwantmytwodollars stamped herself as the series favorite as she held on for another victory on Sunday, matching her career best 1:57.1 score from leg one. She enters the final as the one to beat as she looks to add her name to the list of previous winners of the Derue Memorial which includes Jimmer, The Lindy Treaty and Showmeyourguns.
Monday also marked the kickoff of the third annual Gary Kamal Memorial Pacing Series which honors the memory of the longtime driver-trainer who raced the New England circuit for many years. He was named to the Wall of Fame at Plainridge Racecourse before settling in Saratoga Springs and becoming a fixture here for several years. Kamal passed away in 2007 at the age of 52 after battling head injuries for many years which occurred in racing accidents. All four of the leg one winners came from well off the pace on Monday to register their victories. Gary Levine’s Southwind Ricardo was the fastest winner among the young pacers as the three year old scored an impressive first over win by almost six lengths in 1:55.1. He was the only favorite to win his division of the Kamal as upsets abounded. Bay Rum made his return to the Spa a winning one as he scored at odds of 9-2 and before mares sprung upsets in the final two divisions on the afternoon. Aldrich recorded his fourth win of the day behind Fox Valley Bailey who accounted for trainer Godinez’s third victory on the card behind her upset score when dismissed at 13-1. The biggest upset of the day came when the Phil Fluet trained and driven Stirling Electra shocked the crowd when she came from well off the pace to beat the boys. Her race’s lone lady, Stirling Electra posted an eye-popping win price of $82.00 as she was the third biggest longshot among the 29 horses that took part in leg one of the Kamal Memorial. This is a brief break for the pacers before they take part in leg two which will be contested next weekend. Leg two takes place on Saturday October 22nd with the $31,000 Final scheduled for October 29th as the pacers look to add their name to the short list of previous winners of the Kamal Memorial which includes Heidi Rohr’s Twin B Spy from 2014 and last year’s winner the Bert Belanger-trained Bell I No.
Live racing takes place every Thursday beginning at 4pm and on Fridays and Saturdays starting at 6:45pm. Sunday matinees take place each week beginning at 12:15pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!