Trainer Dave Spagnola has finished on top of the mountain at Saratoga Casino Hotel on eight different occasions. The veteran conditioner is one of the winningest trainers all-time at the Spa. Inducted into the Saratoga Harness Hall of Fame in 2016, “Spag” was named the Peerless McGrath Award winner in his debut season of 1987, an honor bestowed to the track’s top up-and-coming trainer that year. He quickly went on to win training titles, finishing atop the local standings in 1989 for the first time in what would be the first of an incredible five consecutive trainer’s championships for him. Dave Spagnola’s name vaulted right back to the top in 1999 when he won the first of what became three more consecutive titles at the Spa. No one else in track history has finished as the leading trainer as many times as Spagnola’s eight.
Dave’s son Kyle has followed in his father’s career path and has become a force in his own right at Saratoga over the past several seasons. The track’s Peerless McGrath Award winner in 2013, almost 25 years after his father earned the same honors, Kyle Spagnola has followed in his dad’s footsteps as far as enjoying success at the Spa, regularly finishing in the top ten since launching his stable earlier in the decade.
In recent years, another Spagnola’s name has re-appeared in the program. Margaret Spagnola is Kyle’s mother and Dave’s wife. Dave turned over the primary training duties to Margaret beginning in 2011 before taking the reins back for a couple years in ’16. Midway through last season, it was Margaret who emerged as the trainer once again and they now run their stable together. With a barn comprised of horses at pretty much every level, the Spagnola stable has been on a little hot streak of late. Spanning the ranks from two year olds to Open horses, Spagnola trainees have enjoyed quite a bit of success in the last few weeks.
Last week started out strong for the Spagnola stable as they sent out two winners on Thursday’s afternoon card. A pair of three year old trotters made trips to the winner’s circle on Thursday though their paths were much different. Match My Miracle was his race’s favorite with Brian Cross in the sulky. Though the sophomore trotter drew post position one, he lacks any significant early speed and subsequently got away seventh from the rail. Cross found open road for Match My Miracle and they surged up the passing lane to get up in the final stride to win it. In the matinee’s other $7.500 division for New York sired trotters, Spagnola’s Marcella Bella had veteran reinsman Frank Coppola Jr. at the helm when she went coast-to-coast in a career-best 2:00.1.
Saturday night’s program consisted of fourteen races, eight of which were New York Sire Stakes Excelsior A Finals and each of them went for a purse of $55,000. The Spagnola stable was one of only a few locally to have a horse compete in the finals. My Rugala is in the midst of a solid two year old season and hit the board in three of her five starts in Excelsior competition this summer before breaking her maiden at Saratoga in the start leading up to Saturday’s try. Coppola piloted My Rugala who faded late in the mile while up against top-flight competition in the Excelsior final but that did nothing to take away from the solid freshman campaign that the filly has enjoyed. My Rugala is the daughter of a former Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year at Saratoga. Chapeau was the track’s top lady pacer in 2006 after turning a strong NY Sire Stakes career into one in which she tackled and thrived against the Spa’s top distaffers. Her owner, Mike Polansky, turned Chapeau into a broodmare at the conclusion of her racing career and she has gone on to produce several different pacers that have competed at the Spa over the course of the last several years. My Rugala is the first of those pacers to not be named after some type of headwear. Sons and daughters of Chapeau, which is a hat, include Yamaka, Gibus, Montera and American Sombrero each of which was named by Margaret.
After some of the Spagnola stable’s younger members enjoyed success last week, their stable’s most recent star was back at it on Sunday afternoon. Cartier Volo, also owned by Polansky, has been a member of the Spagnola barn since her career began in 2016. Like her stablemate My Rugala this season, Cartier Volo was a participant in Excelsior A competition as a two year old but really didn’t come into her own until the following season as a sophomore. Cartier Volo navigated through the ranks of a young trotter and scored six victories in her ’17 campaign. Last year though, the mare suffered from a bit of seconditis as she was the runner-up an incredible eleven times in 2018 while recording only two wins.
The narrative for Cartier Volo has significantly changed in her ’19 campaign as the now five year old is seemingly reaching her ceiling. The mare has become the Spagnola stable star after registering both of her barn’s Open wins on the season. Cartier Volo competed twice in the Open late last season but was no factor. This year, she found herself again competing against the track’s top trotters but the results have been much different. After Cartier Volo recorded a few fourth and fifth place finishes this spring in the Open, she was the runner-up in the June 16th installment of the $15,000 trotting feature. Cartier Volo was a picture of consistency this summer as she finished second or third in her following three starts while competing in the Open. On August 6th, the Spagnola stable star won the Open for the first time, albeit in a bit of an unconventional fashion. The trotting mare hit the wire second but was placed first after a disqualification. It’s an Open win all the same. And she wouldn’t have to wait long for a more conventional victory. Despite recording the win the week before, Cartier Volo was dismissed at odds of 23-1 the following week when she left no doubt about who was best that day, trotting to victory as the Open’s lone lady participant. At that point she had hit the board in nine of ten starts in a stretch that has highlighted her breakout campaign for the Spagnolas. On Sunday, Cartier Volo dropped out of Open company for the first time in months and wound up doing what she does. Cartier Volo became the fourth trotter to win for the Spagnolas last week as she came from well off the pace before charging hard to score in 1:57.2 to complete another training double for the Spagnola barn on Sunday. It was a four-win week at Saratoga for the Margaret and Dave Spagnola stable which is nothing new for a barn that has thrived at the Spa for now better than thirty years.
Live racing takes place every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday afternoon starting at 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!