Velocity Vespa was a relative unknown to us at Saratoga Casino Hotel when she came to town on Gerrity night last month to compete in the Winners Over for Fillies and Mares. She had been scratched out of her previous race in which she was eligible to be claimed for $30,000 (plus allowance) at Yonkers Raceway and by rule had to keep the claiming tag on in the start that followed the scratch. The pacing mare who scored eleven wins in 2015 was is the midst of another monster campaign in ’16 when she debuted at the Spa on July 23rd. Assigned post eight in her start in the $15,000 Winners Over, Velocity Vespa was no factor but was claimed by out-of-town trainer Rich Banca. Banca entered the six year old mare into the local Open the following week and the distaffer who has been a winning machine over the past two seasons continued her winning ways.
Velocity Vespa sprinted the opening quarter in 26.1 in her debut for Banca and cruised through a first half in 55.1. With Jimmy Devaux in the sulky, the speedy mare held strong in the stretch to win her first try in the Fillies and Mares Open, stopping the timer in 1:52.1 for what was her 13th win of the season. On Friday night, Velocity Vespa looked to overcome her outside post position and once again flew off the car in the early going and had the field looped by the first turn. After facing just mild pressure, Velocity Vespa again displayed why she wins so many races as she sprinted away to prevail in 1:52.2 by a commanding four lengths. Some horses just know how to win and do so with regularity. Velocity Vespa is obviously one of those horses as Friday’s victory was her 13th in 20 seasonal starts and marked the 24th win in 52 tries in the last year and a half. The mare who was as low in company as a $15,000 claimer back in May has surged up the class ladder and displayed dominance in winning back to back Friday features at the Spa. Velocity Vespa, though, is probably not long for the Spa as Banca races primarily at Yonkers and is likely to bring his newest winning machine back downstate in the near future.
While the last couple of Friday Opens have been dominated by Velocity Vespa, Friday nights have belonged to a different lady pacer this year at Saratoga. Mademoiselle Paris had two wins to her credit this year when she came to town for the first time back in March. Joining the stable of current leading trainer Melissa Beckwith, Mademoiselle Paris won her local debut and has just kept winning. She dominated the $5,000 claiming ranks and has stepped up to the $10,000 claimers and continued her winning ways. On Friday night, Wally Hennessey piloted the Beckwith trainee to her fourteenth victory of the year, twelve of which have come at the Spa. The versatile mare had a six race win streak snapped in the start previous to her try on Friday night in which she wasted no time starting a new streak. Mademoiselle Paris was her best yet last weekend when she recorded a new lifetime mark as Hennessey drove the mare to a wire-to-wire score in 1:53.2. The winningest horse at Saratoga in the 2016 campaign, Mademoiselle Paris was claimed on several occasions throughout the first few months of the season and though other connections did register some victories with her, the majority of the damage done by the winning machine has occurred while coming out of the Beckwith barn. Her six race win streak came after her most recent claim-back by Beckwith, a claim that has proven fruitful to say the least. Since her re-acquisition in mid-June, Mademoiselle Paris has rattled off seven wins to go with a second place finish in eight starts. While it’s a little early to start thinking about end of the season awards, Mademoiselle Paris is certainly the front-runner for claiming pacing mare of the year after building a resume that seems extremely unlikely to be matched by any other lady pacer at the Spa.
Though Mademoiselle Paris has been a complete winning machine in ’16, she isn’t the only Beckwith trainee to go on a Friday night winning spree recently at the Spa. Bye Bye Michelle came to Saratoga last September and while she didn’t register a win until November, once she discovered her winning way, she rattled off three victories in her final four starts in ’15. Her climb up the ranks took her all the way from the $12,500 claiming level to the Open, a race that she won in her final start of last year. Bye Bye Michelle finished second in her first two local tries in 2016 and did so while competing in the Winners Over for fillies and mares, a race that served as the Friday feature in the first few weeks of the season at the Spa. Following those two starts, though, the six year old Beckwith trainee took a six week layoff. Something just wasn’t right and even upon returning, the mare did not appear to be at her best. Though she was taking on some of the top mares at the track, Bye Bye Michelle didn’t finish better than third for nearly three months (including the time spent during her layoff.) She recorded her first victory of the season on June 1st after dropping down to a lower level condition race. While that, in and of itself, may not appear to be all that impressive, what followed certainly was. Bye Bye Michelle went on to find a home in the optional $20,000 claimers and on Friday night, rattled off her third consecutive win and fifth in her last seven starts. The only two “losses” that the mare suffered during that stretch still resulted in second place finishes. She followed up wins in 1:52.3 and 1:53 with an impressive score in 1:52.4 last weekend as she has joined Mademoiselle Paris as lady pacers who have become Friday stars this summer. Bye Bye Michelle was claimed out of her most recent race and will look to extend her win streak for her new connections next time out. Friday night is ladies night at Saratoga Casino Hotel with the majority of its races being contested by fillies and mares and Velocity Vespa, Mademoiselle Paris and Bye Bye Michelle have recently been the Friday queens of the distaffers at the Spa.
Live racing takes place every Tuesday through Saturday at Saratoga during the month of August with first post time each night set for 7:05pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!