Trainer Jackie Greene has pumped out numerous horses who have won awards for Pacer of the Year or Trotter of the Year at Saratoga Casino Hotel over the course of the last decade and a half. A two-time leading trainer at the Spa, Greene features a stable that hasn’t been as large in recent years as it was in seasons past but the one thing she continues to feature is a group of top-flight pacers and trotters. Greene has taken home Trotter of the Year Awards with Prime Interest, Lorenzo Dream and Stirling Cadet and Pacer of Year Awards with Gimmebackmybullets, Atoka Woodstock and Artful Way (a three-time winner) over the span of 2007-2018. Gimmebackmybullets, Prime Interest, Lorenzo Dream, Stirling Cadet and Artful Way have all been named Horse of the Year for Greene in what has been a prosperous career at the Spa since coming to town around 2005.
Artful Way may well be the winningest horse in the Open Pace in track history as the superstar has been nothing shy of sensational while maintaining his top-flight status much longer than most ever do. Artful Way raced in the Open Pace for the first time all the way back in 2015. At the point, the pacer was new to the Greene stable but after graduating out of the condition ranks moved up into the feature for the first time in what was his final start of the ’15 campaign. Fittingly, Artful Way prevailed in that Open debut which certainly served as a foreshadowing for what would come in his, what will be, a Hall of Fame career. In three seasons that spanned 2016-2018, Artful Way won 42 races, almost all of which came in the Open with the vast majority of those victories taking place right here at Saratoga. After enduring some physical issues and subsequently being lightly raced in ’19 and ’20, Artful Way got back to his Open ways last year when he scored in the local feature at the start of his ’21 campaign. More than six years after winning his first try in the Saratoga Open, the classmaster Artful Way prevailed in his first Open start of this year at the Spa when he went wire-to-wire to score in a February feature with Billy Dobson in the sulky. The veteran added yet another win to his insanely impressive tally of Open victories in March before spending much of his ’22 campaign racing at Plainridge Park in Massachusetts.
Jackie Greene spends basically her entire year alternating her top-notch trainees in starts locally and at Plainridge. Usually, the local Open features a Greene-trained pacer, whether it be Artful Way, Hudson Phil, Moonshine Kisses or another. The one attracting the focus these days, though, is the latter as Moonshine Kisses has established himself as nothing shy of an absolute force in recent months. Moonshine Kisses is no stranger to the Spa having come to town late in the 2019 after being purchased by the Kellogg Racing Stables of Queensbury, NY. Wayne Kellogg has said that he always likes to acquire a new young horse late in the year to have one ready to be a potential Open participant if something were to happen to one of his other established Open horses. Moonshine Kisses fit that mold as a candidate for Opens and didn’t waste any time joining the top-flight pacers when he made his Open debut in March of 2020 at the Spa.
Although his ’20 campaign was spent mostly traveling to Yonkers, Plainridge and the Meadowlands, Moonshine Kisses did race a handful of times at the Spa in what was an eight-win season for the-then four year old. If the 2020 season was solid for the Greene trainee, 2021 had to be considered the real breakout for Moonshine Kisses. Splitting his time between Saratoga and Yonkers, Moonshine Kisses raced seven times at the Spa in his ’21 campaign. The up-and-coming pacer finished second in his first two starts in the local Open but following a three month summer layoff, Moonshine Kisses came back like a horse on a mission and became an autumn superstar. Winning his first local Open in September, the five year old went on a tear recording four feature scores and a second-place finish in the fall while incorporating a win in the Plainridge Open in the mix as well before finishing up his 2021 with a victory in the Yonkers Open. In his sensational campaign, the winning machine scored nine times to go with six runner-up tries en route to over $140,000 in earnings.
The 2022 season got off to a late start for Moonshine Kisses. The Greene trainee didn’t make his first start until June of this year but after scoring in his second race of the season, which took place in the $13,750 Winners Over, it was back to the Open to stay for Moonshine Kisses. The six year old has made a handful of starts in the Plainridge Open and has thrived while shipping, winning three times and finishing second in another try in Massachusetts. Moonshine Kisses returned from his stint out of town just before Labor Day and ever since, the Greene stable star has been the top pacer at Saratoga. Despite being assigned an outside post in every one of his starts, Moonshine Kisses has made “swooping the group” the norm posting final quarters of 27 seconds in each try in the $16,000 feature for pacers. Jay Randall has been the regular driver for Moonshine Kisses in both his races at Plainridge and in his Spa starts and the veteran reinsman has made all the right moves at the right times this fall. Following his Labor Day weekend score, Moonshine Kisses came up just inches shy of repeating the following week. The “losses” ended there though as the red-hot star rattled off Open scores on October 1st and 22nd before putting in an amazing mile the final week.
On October 29th, Moonshine Kisses once again got away last in the seven-horse feature and while he made his patented late move, he didn’t really shift gears until the pacers were turning for home. Still sixth at the head of the stretch, here he came again making a sweeping move to take over under the shadow of the wire for his third consecutive victory in the Open. Last Saturday, Moonshine Kisses had the daunting task of coming from post eight in the Saturday feature. This time though, Randall changed tactics some and floated the 4-5 betting favorite out a bit at the start. After landing mid-pack in the early going, Moonshine Kisses sat patiently in a first half that went in 56.3 before being unleashed heading towards the three-quarter pole and unloading on two-time Pacer of the Year Crockets Cullen N who was on the front-end. Moonshine Kisses made it look easy, stopping the timer in 1:52.3 to record his fourth consecutive victory in the local Open. Had he not come up just a nose short of winning back on Sept 10th, Moonshine Kisses would now be the owner of six straight Open scores at the Spa. The late season local surge has led to yet another Greene trainee becoming a real threat in the race for Pacer of the Year and although he hasn’t recorded as many local starts as some of the other top-flight pacers, Moonshine Kisses owns five Open victories, tying him for most of any pacer in ‘22. His resume has come together quickly and the horse who now owns 30 wins in just 69 starts since joining the stable of Jackie Greene late in 2019 will likely see himself be a nominee and perhaps even a favorite for Pacer of the Year, an award Greene is certainly very familiar with. The Saturday win was the ninth of the year in the Open Pace for Greene who recorded a pair of early season scores with both Hudson Phil and the great Artful Way.
Live racing takes place on Saturday evening staring at 5pm and continues with Sunday and Monday matinees that begin at noon. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!