If you’ve ever wondered what that ‘N’ is after a standardbred’s name in your program, you’re not alone. An ‘N’ or an ‘A’ that comes at the end of a horse’s name is an indicator that said horse was bred in and likely raced in New Zealand or Australia. There are a lot of New Zealand and Australian invaders (more from the former than the latter) in harness racing and oftentimes, they are stars. People with connections abroad usually negotiate a price over the phone (or through an agent) and then the New Zealander or Australian makes the long journey to the U.S.A. But why? Why when there are so many horses bred in this country would people go to such lengths to connect with others abroad to acquire new members for their stables? The answer is fairly simple I suppose. Harness racing is big in New Zealand and Australia and there have been thousands of horses to come over to the States and enjoy success. For a handicapper, it can be a bit tricky as usually all you really have to go on is the mandatory qualifier the horse shows that is contested in the U.S. once he/she gets here. The charted lines from abroad aren’t exact thorough enough to make an analysis of. One thing that more often than not happens when the new horses come to the U.S., though, is that they are often heavily bet in their first start or starts. Why? Well, probably because the success rate of these horses is very high not only while racing at Saratoga but at pretty much every track where they compete.
Trainer Al Annunziata and owners the Blindswitch Racing Stable seem to have a good thing going. Their pipeline abroad has often brought them some very talented horses from New Zealand and Australia. Those horses with that N’ or the ‘A’ after their name have shown up with regularity for those connections and for the most part, those imports have proven to be very powerful. Though they certainly don’t always work out, many of the invaders have thrived in years past and even more so this season at Saratoga Casino Hotel for Annunziata. On Friday night, the overwhelming betting favorite in the $19,500 Fillies and Mares Open was Annunziata’s Sally Fletcher A. This Australian-bred made her debut for her new connections a few weeks ago at the Spa and looked like she may be next in the long line of pacing mares that have come from overseas and thrived out of the Annunziata stable.
Annunziata, who races at several of the tracks in the northeast, has had a big season at Saratoga and currently sits fourth in the local trainer standings. His stable saw its fourth different member win the Fillies and Mares Open at the Spa this season as Sally Fletcher A rolled to a convincing victory on Friday night. Sally Fletcher A, who won the feature in 1:53.1, is now three-for-three in the U.S. with a win at Pocono Downs to go with her pair of local scores. The six year old mare, who now owns 17 wins in 59 lifetime starts, went wire-to-wire in each of her first two victories after joining her new home but on Friday night, driver Jimmy Devaux took back in the early going with the public’s overwhelming 1-9 betting favorite. Would she be testing her luck from off the pace? No, not tonight. In fact, Devaux just waited until things settled in a bit and made his move approaching the opening quarter. Once Sally Fletcher A got to the lead, it was lights out. The rising star cruised through the majority of the mile before briefly being tested in the stretch by the pocket-sitter who gave futile chase.
Friday night is ladies night at Saratoga and last weekend, Annunziata’s mares scored four victories on the card. On an evening in which Sally Fletcher A prevailed in the feature, Annunziata had three other lady pacers secure victories and two of them were New Zealand-breds. The string of successful New Zealanders continued for the connections of Our Els Dream N and Glenferrie Bronte N on Friday as each of those mares were down in class from where they have competed for the majority of the year. Both Our Els Dream N and Glenferrie Bronte N have been Open participants this season at the Spa. In fact, coming into Friday night, Glenferrie Bronte N’s previous four local starts have all come in the Fillies and Mares Open. With a pair of seconds and a third place finish in those four tries, Glenferrie Bronte N looked like she would be the most impactful of Annunziata’s foreign born mares in the local Open for distaffers. Actually, though she has done well in the ladies’ feature recently, she is not one of the four New Zealand or Australian invaders to prevail for Annunziata in the Saratoga Open this year. Sally Fletcher A and Our Els Dream N joined Quick Draft A and Betabcool N as Open winners in ‘17. Quick Draft A started out the year with a victory in the season’s first Fillies and Mares Open and the New Zealanders and Australians have continued to pile up the feature wins all year long for Annunziata.
On a night in which foreign invaders gave Annunziata’s stable three of its four Friday victories, there was another pair of New Zealand-bred mares that secured wins. Carrickmannon N set her lifetime mark at Saratoga last season after coming to town as one of those overseas purchases from the New Zealand pipeline. The mare won ten times in ’16 and set her lifetime mark of 1:52.3 right here at the Spa. On Friday night, she prevailed in her second start since returning to town while competing out of the Beckwith stable. Myeyesadoreya N became the fifth invader from “down under” to score on Friday night’s card, moving her record to three-for-five since making the trek from New Zealand. Five of the thirteen winners came from New Zealand or Australia on a Friday night that highlighted the pipeline from Oceania to the U.S.A. which has been heavily traveled in the past few years by some very successful standardbreds and is becoming quite a popular path in harness racing these days. That trend is certainly not lost on trainer Al Annunziata and the Blindswitch Racing Stable who have thrived at Saratoga this year with their foreign invaders and most notably with the lady pacers who have been extremely impactful in the Friday features at the Spa.
Only two weeks remain in the 2017 racing season at Saratoga with live racing taking place on Thursday and Sunday afternoons beginning at 12:15pm and on Friday and Saturday evenings starting at 6:45pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!