With the exception of the pandemic-abbreviated campaign of 2020, each and every summer season at Saratoga Casino Hotel has been highlighted by the Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial Pace since its inception in 2009. The race that honors the memory of the longtime Chairman of the Board at Saratoga Raceway, Mr. Joe Gerrity Jr, started out as a summer series. From 2009-2012, the Gerrity Pace was a three-leg series followed by the rich Final. That changed in ’13 when the Gerrity Pace became an Invitational, an individual race that features some of the top pacers in North America.
That year, the track record was set. Bolt The Duer dazzled the crowd with an eye-popping score in 1:49, the fastest mile in the history of the track. The record didn’t stand long though as in the ’14 installment of the Gerrity, the record was immediately lowered. Dancin Yankee, who had finished second in the 2012 Gerrity Pace (and would do so again in ’15), paced in an amazing 1:48.4 to set a record that still stands today as fastest of any horse in the over seventy year history of the Spa.
The Gerrity has attracted top talents like National Horse of the Year Wiggle it Jiggleit, who won the quarter million dollar race in 2016. On Saturday night, the 14th installment of the Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial Pace saw a big opportunity for history to be made. After all, the last two winners of the race were back in to go on Saturday. Tattoo Artist and This Is The Plan were the ’22, and ’21 winners, respectively, of the season’s biggest pacing event and each were back in on Saturday looking to become the first two-timer victor of the Gerrity.
Not only has there not been a two-time winner of the race, in the first thirteen Gerritys, there have been thirteen different drivers and thirteen different trainers to prevail! No horse, driver or trainer has ever headed to the winner’s circle twice for the blanket presentation that comes with winning the quarter million dollar event. The two previous winners of the $250,000 Gerrity Memorial Pace squared off against a formidable group of six rivals on Saturday night.
On an evening that brought a big crowd out to the track, the Gerrity Pace was the sixth on the fifteen-race card. Two year old pacing colts and geldings were on hand to take part in New York Sire Stakes action to serve as sort of an appetizer to the big race. The two year olds came out in full force and in fact, history was made on Saturday before the Gerrity even took place. Freshman pacing colt Huntingforchrome came to town off a lifetime debut in which he powered home in a 26.4 final quarter at the Meadowlands.
Joe Bongiorno sat behind the Jenn Bongiorno trainee on Saturday as they got a pocket ride behind the favorite in their $74,500 division of the NY Sire Stakes. Although the favorite continued to pace quickly in the stretch, he was no match for Huntingforchrome who did two things that have never been done before in track history.
The rising star wound up powering past the front-runner in his first try in stakes competition to the tune of a 26.4 final quarter. That final panel makes him the first freshman to ever pace a sub 27 second last quarter in a race at the Spa. In addition, the final time of 1:53 flat is the fastest for any two year old in Saratoga harness history.
At the conclusion of the evening’s Sire Stakes, all eyes were on the Gerrity Pace. Tattoo Artist, the 2022 Gerrity winner, wound up being the race‘s 2-5 betting favorite after drawing post position three on Saturday. Jason Bartlett got the catch-drive behind the six year old who came in with over $2 million in lifetime earnings. Last year’s champ got a relatively easy lead in his repeat attempt but still powered through a fast first lap that went in 55.3.
There were four participants in the race who were coming in from starts in the Yonkers Open Pace and while one of those came first-over on Tattoo Artist on Saturday evening, another one, longshot Idealsomemagic A tried to latch onto cover when he moved second-over. One of the longest shots on the board, Idealsomemagic A came into the race fourth in earnings this season among the participants in the Gerrity and tied with one rival for most victories this year with eleven. Superstar driver George Brennan tipped Idealsomemagic A three-wide around the final turn but it didn’t initially appear that the nine year old had much spring to his step.
That all changed midway through the stretch when he shifted gears and accelerated past his rivals to score in 1:50 flat. While the final time didn’t rival previous winners like Bolt The Duer or Dancin Yankee, it did mark one of the fastest back halves not only in Gerrity history but track history. Idealsomemagic A motored through a final half in 53.2 en route to the biggest win of his career.
While the impressive final half for Idealsomemagic A was standout, it wasn’t the only piece of Gerrity history achieved in the win. Dismissed at odds of 27-1, Idealsomemagic A is the biggest longshot to ever score a victory in the fourteen seasons of the Gerrity Memorial. Paying $56 to win, Idealsomemagic A led an exacta with the 2-5 shot Tattoo Artist second that returned $159.
Fellow Yonkers invader Hellabalou, who sat the pocket to Tattoo Artist, earned the show spot. Former Gerrity Pace champ This Is The Plan, who was the longest shot on the board in the season’s featured race, was not a factor and wound up having to settle for a seventh-place finish.
Idealsomemagic A had George Brennan piloting for trainer Cory Stratton as he made history as not only the biggest longshot to ever win the Gerrity but in doing so, incredibly, made his connections the fourteenth different driver and trainer to record a Gerrity victory in its fourteen years.
George Brennan and Cory Stratton add their names to the list of non-two time winners of the year’s biggest race at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The night was certainly one to remember for the big crowd who was on hand to witness a big night of harness racing action at Saratoga Casino Hotel- a night that included face painting and a silly hat competition for the kids as well as several promotions and giveaways sponsored by Saratoga Casino Hotel and the Saratoga Harness Horseperson’s Association.
Live harness racing takes place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Saratoga throughout the summer with first post times of 6:45pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!