For the first three months of the 2022 season at Saratoga Casino Hotel, racing took place on Sunday and Monday afternoons and well as Saturday evenings. Right before Memorial Day, Friday evenings were added to the calendar for a four-day race week. That schedule will remain until mid-July when it returns to three days in conjunction with the start of the thoroughbred meet at the Spa. Saturdays have been the night for the upper level, “hard hitting” pacers, Sundays have been the day of the trotter and Mondays have featured fillies and mares at the track this season. When Fridays were added, they consisted of a bit of a mixed bag as far as classifications and conditions. For the most part, classes on Friday are filled by younger horses on the pace and the trot on evenings that don’t have an Open as a feature.
Trainer Melissa Beckwith has eight training titles to her credit since coming to Saratoga almost fifteen years ago. After Beckwith finished atop the trainer standings for the first time in 2011, she rattled off eight titles over a nine-year span from ’11-’19. Although her trainees have continued to thrive in the years following 2019, Beckwith has passed the championship belt to Gary Levine and Larry Stalbaum, who, respectively, won the training title in the last two years at the Spa.
The 2022 campaign started out strong for trainer Andy Gardner who made a late push in the standings last year to finish second behind Stalbaum, edging out Beckwith for second by a margin of four wins. Gardner and Beckwith have spent much of the first few months of this season going back-and-forth atop the list of local trainers with Gardner ending up atop the list for the majority of the still young campaign. That was until Fridays were added to the racing calendar which became Friday night delights for the Beckwith barn.
The program that took place on June 3rd was the third Friday night of racing for the season and wound up providing the Beckwith stable with some separation in the trainer standings. The Beckwith barn featured six of its trainees over the course of the ten race card that Friday. Among the six Beckwith horses, four came into the night off a win, although one was from a victory in a start previous to joining the Beckwith stable, while the other two posted second-place finishes in their last start. The four horses who recorded wins in their last start all came back to score again on June 3rd while another added one to the win column to give the Beckwith barn a five-win evening. Young pacers Righthererightnow, Get Extreme and Brave Element all secured victories on the card while trotters Insanity and Jive Ninety Five completed a very rare training five-bagger as Beckwith started to get some separation in the standings for the first time this year.
Last Friday, the Beckwiths had a tough act to follow and again had six horses in to go. Several of the usual suspects from the previous few weeks were back at it, many of whom enjoyed similar results once again. Young trotter Insanity made his debut out of the Beckwith stable a winning one in his previous start and last Friday cruised to a career-best victory. Competing in one of several $11,000 races on the card, Insanity, who scored in his last race in Canada before moving to the Beckwith barn, made it look easy. Scores in the $11,000 co-featured races just kept coming for the stable as Vergeofgreatness N and Get Extreme continued their recent hot streaks while Righthererightnow, who has been the biggest of all of the Friday stars thus far, threepeated. Interestingly, all four of the Beckwith winners on Friday made every pole a winning one going coast-to-coast to continue what has been an incredible month of Fridays for the stable of Melissa and Mark Beckwith who have ridden that scorching stretch into a somewhat bulky lead in the trainer standings at the Spa.
While Friday’s largely youngster-based programs have seen Beckwith trainees pile up the victories, the eight-time training champ has enjoyed some recent success with top-flight horses as well. Sea Shadows made her debut out of the Beckwith barn in last Monday’s (June 6) installment of the Fillies and Mares Open. The talented mare spent her season in Florida before coming north following the closure of Pompano Park this spring. After a ho-hum first try in the $15,000 Open for distaffers, Sea Shadows went to the Beckwith stable and despite a three-week layoff proved up to the task on Monday. Hall of Famer Wally Hennessey has trained the mare since late last year and after ceding training duties to Beckwith stayed on as the reinsman for the seven year old. If there was any thought of having “rust” to shake off, Sea Shadow quickly put those thoughts to rest when on Monday she scored a decisive win in the ladies’ feature. The final time of 1:52.3 was the fastest for any mare at the Spa this season in a win that served as the fourth of the season in an Open for a Beckwith trainee. Although way too early to put too much attention on the standings, the lead built over the course of the last few weeks, in large part due to the monster success on Fridays, has Melissa Beckwith in position to make a run at her ninth training title at Saratoga.
Live racing takes place on Friday and Saturday evenings with first post times of 5PM with Sunday and Monday matinees starting at Noon. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!