Familiar Face Making Horse of the Year Case

Twisted Pretzel is a familiar name to fans of Saratoga Casino Hotel. The veteran trotter has run the gamut at the Spa, competing in everything from New York Sire Stakes races as a young up-and-comer to now the Open Trot where he is becoming a fixture. Trainer Paul Kelley had Twisted Pretzel as a two and three year old and raced him primarily in the Sire Stakes in 2012 and 2013. Twisted Pretzel began his career in style as he kicked off his racing career with a win and two seconds among his first four starts in a freshman campaign which would culminate with a third place finish in the $225,000 stakes championship on the Night of Champions. While his lone career Sire Stakes win came while racing at Batavia in western NY, Twisted Pretzel did finish second in a $50,000+ stakes start at the Spa as a two year old. Kelley sold Twisted Pretzel at the end of his three year old season after earning just shy of $150,000 in twenty-five lifetime starts.

2014 was a bit of a down year for Twisted Pretzel and his new connections but they wouldn’t keep this good man down for long. In ’15, the now veteran trotter was back at it. Competing at a host of tracks, but primarily at Saratoga, Twisted Pretzel had a strong comeback campaign for trainers Mike Traylor and Kyle Spagnola, wrapping up his season with some wins in the local Winners Over for trotters, a bit of a foreshadow for what would come for him in his following years. Twisted Pretzel earned over $60,000 in ’15 behind five wins and ten second place finishes. 2016 didn’t get off to a great start for the gelding by the sire Crazed. The season did get better and better as it progressed and in August of last year, Twisted Pretzel changed connections once again and entered the stable of Saratoga veteran Scott Mongeon.

Like a true pro, Twisted Pretzel acclimated very well to his new situation, winning his debut for Mongeon in August and recording three victories in mid-level condition races over a two month stretch after changing connections. He wound up dabbling in the Winners Over once again late last year finishing as high as second in one of his handful of tries in the $13,000 trot. He even stuck his hoof in the water in the local Open for the first time in November putting in a solid showing while finishing third. Twisted Pretzel began his 2017 season on opening day at the Spa in February when he secured a victory in a mid-level condition race. That start would certainly wind up foreshadowing what was to come for the trotter who already entered the year with more than a quarter million dollars in career earnings.

Twisted Pretzel finished second in his second career try in and first start of the season in the Open Trot one month to day after recording his first win of ’17 on opening day. Fast forward another month and he prevailed in his first shot at the $14,000 Winners Over at the Spa, a level he wound wind up dominating. The Mongeon trainee was piloted by several different drivers in the first few months of the year but by the time established himself as a force in the Winners Over and Open levels, Jimmy Devaux became the regular reinsman for the seven year old high-stepper. Devaux piloted Twisted Pretzel to his first career Open win on Sunday afternoon June 11th. In that start, the Spa veteran trotted to a career-best matching 1:55.3 victory while upsetting at odds of 8-1. Though it served as a lifetime mark at the time, the 1:55.3 clocking would continue to be lowered in what has turned out to be a career year for the Pretzel.

It was a strong spring for the Mongeon stable star but by the time the calendar turned to July, it became the summer of Twisted Pretzel. He recorded four wins in six starts over the span of July 2nd to August 8th. Two of the victories came in the Winners Over while the other pair came while besting the top local trotters in the $18,000 Open. Later that month, he started to look mortal. In what was by the far the most disappointing start in months for the Open’s breakout star, Twisted Pretzel faded sharply late in the mile on August 29th. It was a very uncharacteristic start for Twisted Pretzel who we have become accustomed to seeing such consistency from. He has proven to be very versatile this year as well and as Mongeon pointed out to me, “he can do it pretty much any way you want him to. He’s got good early speed but he’s a strong closer as well. He’s even won first over this year.” As it turns out, the rare clunker was most likely due to the trotter being sick. He wound up missing almost a month following that try due to sickness which Mongeon said could have been a factor in that rare dull effort.

Conventional wisdom would tell a handicapper that after a month off, you might want to stay away from Twisted Pretzel for a week in his return. He was again competing in the Open Trot in his first start off the mini layoff. That proved to be not much of a problem as Devaux worked out another good trip for the Pretzel and they wound up finishing second. Then came the most recent installment of the Open when on October 1st, Twisted Pretzel not only made his return to the winner’s circle, he did so behind a career-best effort. In what was his eleventh win of the season, Twisted Pretzel stopped the timer in 1:55. It was his fourth victory in the local Open this year, tying him with Cash Me Out for most among trotters in ’17.

In total, Twisted Pretzel has recorded eleven local wins this year, most among any trotter at the track in ’17. He is putting together a strong case not only to be Trotter of the Year but maybe even for Horse of the Year as he has piled up just shy of $95,000 in earnings for owners Steve and Laura Stewart with still more than two months left in the racing season. Mongeon says that though there was no Open Trot last week at the Spa that he hopes to continue racing Twisted Pretzel exclusively at Saratoga if he can. And why not. It has been home for 112 of his 152 career races, a career that has now seen him earn over $365,000. Twisted Pretzel is truly a Saratoga horse and one that will likely be taking home some hardware when the end of the season award winners are announced this winter.

Live racing has matinees this week on Monday and then next Sunday as a Columbus Day matinee is taking the place of Thursday racing this week. Friday and Saturday night action will be under the lights starting 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!

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