The dog days of summer are now behind us and that means the kickoff of Fall Series’ at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Jim Derue Memorial Trotting Series started in 2013 and the Gary Kamal Memorial Pace began the following year. Each series honors the memory of a horseman that made a big impact at Saratoga. Derue and Kamal impacted Saratoga Harness racing in very different ways- Derue as the farrier at the track for several years and Kamal as a longtime trainer-driver at the Spa. Jim Derue was extremely well-liked and respected and his passing in 2012 hit the regulars at Saratoga very hard. His sons Jordan and Brett are horsemen here at the Spa, each of which is enjoying considerable success. Kamal was a New England-based horseman early on in his career who later became a regular at Saratoga. A member of the Plainridge Racecourse Hall of Fame in Massachusetts, Kamal drove almost 2,200 winners. He passed away in 2007 after succumbing to head injuries suffered from on-track accidents during his racing career.
The Jim Derue Memorial Trotting Series kicked off on Columbus Day and featured trotters five years old and younger who were non-winners of four races or $40,000 lifetime. The series was put together for young horses, many of whom are still early on in their careers, to compete for big purses. The first leg of the Derue Trot featured five divisions each going for a purse of $10,000 which for many of its participants was the larger purse that they’ve ever raced for.
Phil Fluet became the fifth different driver to win the final of the Derue Series in its five installments when in 2017, he catch-drove Dressed For Success to victory for trainer Tim Lancaster. Fluet unveiled a new acquisition of his on Monday afternoon in the Derue Memorial as Barn Star debuted for his new connections. The three year old came into the start as a seven-time winner on the season, most recently prevailing in an impressive 1:57.1 at Batavia. Fluet trains and drives Barn Star who went off as the public’s 2-5 betting favorite in his division of the series and wound up being the fastest of the leg one winners, overcoming a first-over trip to score in 1:57.1. Barn Star drew the rail in Sunday’s second leg and was the 1-9 favorite to repeat as he looked to cement himself as the clear one to beat heading into next weekend’s $38,200 Series Final.
Barn Star didn’t make it through the first turn as the prohibitive betting choice made an early break on Sunday. The trend was pronounced as far as leg one series winners disappointing in their follow-up attempts as none of the leg one winners came back to repeat on Sunday. John Stark Jr’s Shortie Joe finished second in his first two local starts but would not be denied in leg one of the series. Shortie Joe toughed out a first-over journey to score in 1:58.2 for his first Spa victory on Monday but in leg two was no factor as the big favorite in his division. Similarly, fellow three year old trotter Coach Cummings entered the series with two local starts to his credit but had been winless. A recent addition to the Beckwith barn, Coach Cummings shook loose late in leg one and came from a nearly impossible spot to win it all. His break in on Sunday, though, does bring about some questions as he looks ahead towards the final. One to watch in that final could be Missus Mia Wallace. The three year old filly has done much of her damage this year while competing at Saratoga. A leg one break as the favorite yielded 4-1 odds in Sunday’s second leg and Missus Mia Wallace proved up to the task as she avenged her break with a victory in 1:57.4. She is clearly one to watch heading into next Sunday’s final.
Trainer Dave Dewhurst had a big afternoon on Sunday. He had three trotters compete in the series, none of which attracted much attention from the bettors. Dewhurst scored upsets with Minne Cheatum and Credit List, who each went coast-to-coast in their $10,000 division of the second leg of the Derue Memorial. The win by Minne Cheatum was an historic one for the veteran conditioner as it was his 2,000thcareer training victory. Dewhurst’s Tournament was the runner-up in the other division on Sunday as he has now finished second in both legs which should just punch his ticket to the final for Dewhurst who plans to have a very busy day next Sunday when the Jim Derue Memorial Trotting Series wraps up with its $38,200 final. And with no repeat winners in the series’ two legs, what an interesting and wide-open final it should be.
Saturday night marked the start of the Gary Kamal Memorial Pace, the fifth annual installment of the series. If Barn Star established himself early on as the Derue series one to beat, Kiwi Tintin N did every bit of that on Saturday night in leg one of the Kamal Pace. The Paul Zabielski trainee made his USA debut just a few weeks ago and headed into Saturday’s series with a two-for-two American record. Starting from the rail, Kiwi Tintin N was the public’s 1-5 betting favorite and certainly looked the part as he romped in leg one of the series, going coast-to-coast in a career-best 1:53.
Kiwi Tintin N stamped himself as the one to beat as he was the most dominant of the leg one winners on Saturday but some stars emerged in other divisions who could test Kiwi Tintin N as the series progresses. In fact, another Zabielski-trained youngster prevailed in leg one as much like his stablemate did earlier in the night, Saulsbrook Deputy took advantage of his inside post position to go wire-to-wire with Frank Coppola Jr. in the sulky. Though the 1:54.4 win time wound up as the slowest of the three leg one winners, Saulsbrook Deputy cruised to an easy win perhaps setting the table for a Zabielski entry in the final. Arch Hanover has quickly established himself as a force at the Spa after debuting for new connections just a week before the kick-off of the series. Billy Dobson piloted the Monica Krist trainee to a career-best win that was highlighted by a 27 second flat final quarter in the start leading up to Saturday’s first leg. In that try, Arch Hanover powered away from his competition and set yet another lifetime mark as he scored in 1:53.4 to establish himself as perhaps the main rival for Kiwi Tintin N moving forward in the series. While at the risk of getting ahead of ourselves, last year’s Kamal winner was Carolina Beach who has come back this season to be a formidable Open pacer and one that will warrant consideration for the end-of-season awards. Could Kiwi Tintin N, who certainly looked the part of potential Open pacer in leg one of the series, wind up as a future force in Opens? That remains to be seen but he is certainly the one to beat in the Kamal Memorial Pace. Leg two of the pacing series will take place on Saturday night while the $35,200 final is set for the following weekend.
Live racing occurs on Thursday and Sunday afternoons starting at 12:15pm and on Friday and Saturday evenings with first posts of 6:45pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!