Hall of Fame Adds Two New Inductees
On an evening in which the victims of a horrific and cowardly act of arson at Tioga Downs in the Southern Tier of New York State were remembered by those running the show on Friday night, a more positive and uplifting ceremony took place at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The annual Saratoga Harness Hall of Fame induction took place in the lower clubhouse at the track where raffles took place to benefit those affected by the barn fires at Tioga which claimed the life of over thirty horses in a heartbreaking and disgusting crime that rocked the world of harness racing last week. Despite the negative emotions hanging over the horsemen and women in the sport, spirits were high outside the new Hall of Fame, which was relocated last year to the main portion of the lower grandstand at the track, as two Saratoga standouts were enshrined.
Scott Mongeon spent his career as a full-blown Saratoga regular. Mongeon grew up in a harness racing family. His father John Sr. is memorialized at the Spa with a series in his honor and Scott’s brother John is a lifelong local regular as well. Scott Mongeon’s career in racing began in the 1980’s. He took home the Johnny Page Award in ’88, an honor bestowed to the track’s top up-and-coming driver. Mongeon was a staple in the sulky at the Spa throughout the 90’s, consistently finishing in the top ten in the driver standings while maintaining a medium-sized stable as a trainer. In 2002, Mongeon won the awards for both Trainer and Horseman of the Year in a season in which his stable won a career-high 76 races. Mongeon won the training title the following year. In ’04, Mongeon was the regular driver for the John Mongeon-trained Flapjack Attack who was voted Trotter of the Year. Scott’s trainees went on to earn over a half million dollars in 2006 when his stable was led by Pacer of the Year Future Falcon N. The following season, Mongeon’s Ackbro Ms Perfect was named Trotter of the Year to continue the terrific stretch for the Spa veteran.
Mongeon trained another star in 2017 when his Twisted Pretzel was recognized as the Trotter of the Year at the Spa. Just last season, Mongeon’s Perfect Vixen was the most recent Mongeon trainee to achieve career highlights for her trainer when in her three year old campaign, she earned well over $100,000 by way of two memorable wins. Perfect Vixen prevailed in the ninth annual series named in honor of Mongeon’s father. The John Mongeon Sr. Memorial Trotting Series was started in 2013 and in the ninth installment of the Series, Scott Mongeon added his name to the list of trainers who have scored victories in the Mongeon Memorial when Perfect Vixen scored the historic and emotional win for her trainer. Later that season, the sophomore standout scored in the Final of the Excelsior Series of the New York Sire Stakes winning the $50,000 race, one that was contested right here at Saratoga. At the time of his induction, Mongeon trained just shy of 1,000 winners and has made close to 1,800 trips to the winner’s circle as a driver with nearly all of those victories coming at Saratoga. A true Saratoga horseman, Scott Mongeon was enshrined in the Saratoga Harness Hall of Fame last weekend.
Slugfest was one of the top trotters to compete at the Spa in the 2010’s. The talented high-stepper participated in the New York Sire Stakes Final in both his two and three year old seasons. At the conclusion of his stakes career in the fall of 2012, the talented trotter made his way to Saratoga joining the stable of trainers Maureen and Frank Salino where he resided for the next eight years. As a four year old in ’13, Slugfest became an Open trotter at the Spa where he would spend the majority of the following four seasons. In 2014, the Salino trainee took home Trotter of the Year honors at Saratoga. Slugfest continued his dominance the following season, a year that concluded with him being named both Trotter of the Year and Horse of the Year after piling up over $120,000 in earnings. At the time he achieved the feat, Slugfest was just the second horse in track history to be named Trotter of the Year at the Spa in back-to-back seasons. 2015 marked the third time in four years that the Salino-trained trotter went over the $100,000 plateau. Jay Randall was the regular driver for Slugfest throughout his time at the Spa.
A true Saratoga horse, Slugfest earned close to a half million dollars at his home track over the course of his illustrious career. He was owned by Tom Vassiliou and Nick Tallarico. Over the course of his 167 lifetime starts, Slugfest earned $586,543 by way of 39 career victories. After his racing career concluded following just a handful of races in 2018 and 2019, Slugfest found a great home and enjoys his new job as a riding horse. Knowing his love for people, Slugfest’s new family put him in a parade somewhat recently and when they did, they watched as he followed right behind a police car like it was a starting car and they struggled to get him off it. Even after his career on the track concluded, it was tough to get the racing out of Slugfest’s blood. “Tough as nails, hard hitting and gutsy” were terms used to describe Slugfest over the course of his Hall of Fame career. An earner of over $586,543 over the course of his 167 career starts, Slugfest was truly a Saratoga horse becoming, at the time, only the second horse in track history to earn the title of Trotter of the Year in consecutive seasons. Slugfest was enshrined into the Saratoga Harness Hall of Fame in 2023.
The Virginia O’Brien Memorial 110% Award goes annually to an individual who is greatly impactful to harness racing in Saratoga but doesn’t get the same accolades than a driver or trainer does. It can be an owner, a groom, a backstretch worker or anyone else who devotes their efforts to the betterment of harness racing. This year’s recipient was Tom McTygue. The longtime horse owner, who is the past President of the Saratoga Harness Horseperson’s Association, has done so much to fight for the horsemen at the track in that role. McTygue still owns horses to this day and was on hand Friday night to receive his honor in recognition of his services to the horsemen and the sport of harness racing in Saratoga.
Live racing takes place every Saturday evening and continues with matinees on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays throughout the month of November. First post time on Saturday is set for 5pm and action kicks off at noon for each of the matinees. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!