Every year, with the exception of the abbreviated 2020 campaign, there are spring series contested at Saratoga Casino Hotel around this of year. Oftentimes, the pacing fillies and mares group compete in the Virginia O’Brien Memorial although this season there were not enough entries to make that series go yet although that could change in the coming weeks. The John Mongeon Sr. Memorial for trotters and the JP Morel Memorial for pacers kicked off their ninth annual installments last week in their first of what will be three legs leading up to the Finals with clear favorites emerging in both groups.
The John Mongeon Sr. Memorial was instituted in 2013 for young trotters. The series honors the memory of the longtime horseman at Saratoga whose sons Scott and John Jr. have been staples at the Spa for several decades. For the first time in now the ninth year of the series, a Mongeon trainee has a legitimate chance to win it all. In fact, the filly Perfect Vixen has emerged as the clear-cut one to beat among the young trotters competing in the series. Scott Mongeon trains the sophomore filly who last season showed significant promise as a two year old. Hitting the board in five of her eight starts in ’21 en route to just shy of $14,000 in earnings, Perfect Vixen was a factor in New York Sire Stakes Excelsior competition. Her maturation and education during the offseason immediately became apparent when the Mongeon trainee romped by more than a dozen lengths in her 2022 debut last month. She then handled the step up into the non-winners of two race lifetime class with little difficulty as she rattled off victories in three of her next four starts to head into last Monday’s first leg of the Mongeon Memorial with four wins in five tries to kick off her three year old campaign.
Perfect Vixen was the public’s 1-9 betting favorite on Monday afternoon when she drew post four in her $10,000 division of the first leg of the series. Driver John Stark Jr. has taken the lines for Mongeon in every one of her ’22 starts thus far this year and the Saratoga Hall of Famer sat behind her on Monday when she changed tactics a bit. After winning her first start back in March on the front-end while drawing the rail, the filly took to closing tactics in each of her starts that followed. The rising star has had little difficulty swooping the group in every start with the one exception but on Monday Stark moved her right out to the early lead. From there, it was over as Perfect Vixen stopped the timer in a career-best 1:56.2 to put her stamp on favorite status for the series as her trainer Scott Mongeon looks to win the series named in honor of his father.
There were three divisions of the first leg of the Mongeon Memorial and although Perfect Vixen was clearly the fastest of the winners, she wasn’t the only lady who thrived. In fact, all three of the leg one winners went on to set new lifetime marks on Monday afternoon. One Margarita competed at Saratoga for a good chunk of her ’21 campaign and after kicking off this year at Pompano Park made her return to the Spa on April 10th and won by ten lengths. In the first leg of the series, trainer/driver Dan Daley pointed her onto the engine and One Margarita cruised to another decisive score winning in a career-best 1:57. The third division of leg one also went the way of a filly as the girls handled the boys pretty soundly on Monday. Deli Tessel competed primarily in Excelsior A competition last year and hit the board in six of her eight starts. The Marissa Chadbourne trainee drew the rail for her ’22 debut and wound up parlaying her pocket ride to victory in leg one of the Mongeon Memorial. Phil Fluet sat behind the three year old who added lasix for the first time and, just as the winners earlier in the day had, set a lifetime mark on Monday as she stopped the clock in 1:58.4. Three fillies setting three lifetime marks as the ladies led the way in the first of the three legs of the series heading towards a Final that is set to go for a purse of more than $30,000 and will be contested in early May. The three leg one winners all squared off against one another after drawing into the same division of the second leg contested on Sunday afternoon. It was Deli Tessel that proved up to the task and wired the field in career-best fashion. Leg one winners Perfect Vixen and One Margarita finished third and fourth, respectively.
The JP Morel Memorial Series honors the memory of one of the top drivers in the history of Saratoga. The ninth annual series for colts and geldings had two divisions on Saturday evening (April 16) each going for a purse of $10,000. JM’s Rollin kept it rollin’ as the Ken Koch-trained three year old moved his seasonal record to six-for-six. Not an overwhelming favorite at odds of 3-2, JM’s Rollin thrived on the front-end once again with leading driver Jimmy Devaux at the controls. The final time of 1:55.1 was not only the fastest of the two divisions but served as a new lifetime mark for the sophomore. Pound For Pound used different tactics to record his victory in leg one as the Erica Chartrand trainee dug out of a hole of nearly ten lengths in the early going before circling his rivals to score in 1:57 with Shawn Gray in the sulky. The youngster showed big time promise as a freshman in ’21 when he registered a win in 1:56 at Saratoga.
The second leg of JP Morel Memorial was contested last Saturday night and JM’s Rollin continued his impressive win streak. Not only did the youngster rattle off his seventh consecutive victory, he lowered his lifetime mark once again. Devaux sat behind the sophomore as he again made every pole a winning one en route to a seven-for-seven start to his campaign. Barring something unforeseen in the series’ third leg, JM’s Rollin will head into the Final as the clear-cut one to beat. The second division of the second leg contested on Saturday went the way of Mega Miki who wound up as the public’s even money favorite despite a disappointing fourth-place finish in leg one when bet down to odds of 9-5. Mega Miki avenged in leg two though when he went last-to-first to prevail in 1:55.4 with reinsman Luke Hanners at the controls for trainer Joel Flanders. Leg three will take place this Saturday as the young pacers get one more try and accruing points towards the $30,000+ JP Morel Memorial Pacing Series Final.
Live racing takes place every Saturday evening starting at 5PM and on Sunday and Monday afternoons with matinees beginning at Noon. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!