Fall is here and at Saratoga Casino Hotel that has meant the kickoff of the annual Gary Kamal and Jim Derue Memorial Series’ for the last several years. This year’s installment of the Gary Kamal Memorial is the sixth since the series was instituted for pacers back in 2014 and this year’s Jim Derue Memorial is the seventh annual version of the series for trotters. Both series’ have had two legs with each division having gone for a purse of $10,000.
There were three divisions of the first leg of the Gary Kamal Memorial Pacing Series contested on Saturday October 12th and when the night was over, a clear series favorite emerged. Mister Miami came into this season as a very lightly raced four year old out of the Claude Huckabone III stable. Mister Miami raced just once as a two year old before being laid off until last season when at the age of three he wound up recording just two starts. Following a layoff of another full year, Mister Miami moved to the Huckabone stable and qualified at Vernon Downs in August. After prevailing decisively in that qualifier, the now four year old came to Saratoga to compete in the non-winners of two race lifetime condition. Mister Miami went four-for-four to begin his campaign, winning in 1:54.1 in between victories in 1:53.3 and 1:53.4- nearly unheard of times for that classification.
Mister Miami fit the qualifications to take part in the Gary Kamal Memorial Pace and entered the series as one of its top contenders. The task was tall in leg one for the up-and-coming star as he drew post seven in a strong division going for $10,000. Despite the unlucky post draw, Mister Miami was the public’s 6-5 betting favorite as he has shown a propensity for closing, winning most of his races from well off the pace. That was a strategy he needed to employ in leg one of the series as he found himself more than a dozen lengths behind the leader approaching the half mile pole. Mister Miami paced his third quarter in a sensational 27.2 but despite that impressive clocking remained better than nine lengths off the lead at that point. The lightly raced four year old looked like an old classy veteran as he began to fly around the final turn and made a comeback that seemed impossible just a quarter mile before. Swooping the group in 1:54.2, Mister Miami stamped himself as the series’ one to beat, not just because of his final time being faster than any of the other winners in leg one but due to how he did it. In Saturday’s second leg, Mister Miami again put in a big move in the final half to register another dominant score so impressive that regardless of his post draw, the razor sharp pacer is almost certainly be the favorite in next Saturday’s $35,000 Gary Kamal Memorial Series Final.
Another Vernon invader impressed in leg one of the Kamal Memorial as Dan Daley’s Sweet Deisel surged in the stretch to record a 1:54.4 victory in his $10,000 division. Sweet Deisel was a Saratoga regular for a large portion of the spring and into the summer and fared very well at the Spa. Caught in a strong division in leg one, Sweet Deisel wound up shaking loose just in time to reel in the race’s favorite. In the series’ second leg last Saturday, Sweet Deisel showed his early speed once again in a race that served as a rematch for him, out-of-towner Bro and The Great Buzz N who was used hard every step of the way before finishing third as a beaten favorite in leg one. Those three squared off once again in leg two and round two wound up featuring a sensational battle between Bro and Sweet Deisel. Bro was the 1-5 betting favorite after drawing the rail but wound up first-over on Sweet Deisel who was up to the task. Those two went toe-to-toe for better than a half mile before Daley’s Sweet Deisel drew off late to repeat in 1:54.2. Bro was a strong second while The Great Buzz N earned the show spot for the second consecutive week. Leg two also saw SB Angelindisguise, the runner-up to Mister Miami in the first leg, not have to settle for second on Saturday night as the Amanda Kelley-trained pacer went coast-to-coast in convincing fashion to punch his ticket to next weekend’s Final.
The Jim Derue Memorial Trotting Series kicked off on Sunday October 13th with four divisions and resulted in some career-best performances. Jordan Derue won the series contested in memory of his father in 2014 as a driver and now one of his trainees is a major contender in the seventh annual installment of the series. TT’s D-Jay set a lifetime mark in the first leg of the series as trainer-driver Jordan Derue guided the trotter to a career-best score in 1:56.3. In leg two, Derue’s trotter lowered that lifetime mark again in leg two as he went back-to-back in 1:55. HL Revadon was making his local debut when he went coast-to-coast in his $10,000 division of leg one with driver Jay Randall at the controls and joined TT’s D-Jay in recording a career-best effort, tying the mark he set at Yonkers earlier in the year. Halliama has been sensational at the Spa of late and won for the fifth time in his last six local tries when he was a decisive winner in leg one for his trainer-driver Alek Chartrand.
While those leg one winners were all impressive, they didn’t hold a candle to the effort of Certify. The three year old trotter had a strong summer competing at the Fairs and in the Excelsior Series of the New York Sire Stakes before changing connections prior to racing in the $55,000 Excelsior Final. He went coast-to-coast in that first start for his new connections scoring in a career-best 1:55. Certify rolled into the Derue Trot as the one to beat on paper and after leg one, his favorite status wasn’t restricted to just paper. With great expectations attached, Certify was the 1-9 betting favorite when he cruised to a better than six-length romp in 1:56.4. In Sunday’s second leg, Certify again recorded a convincing victory, this time in 1:55.1, to cement his role as the clear favorite heading into Sunday’s $38,000 Jim Derue Memorial Trotting Series Final.
Live racing takes place every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday afternoon beginning at 12 Noon and on Saturday evenings 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!