Long Reaches 4,000 Win Plateau
When Chris Long came to Saratoga in 2007, he didn’t do so as a rookie. The native of the State of Maine was a regular in the sulky in the Pine Tree State before heading to New York just before the turn of the century. Long did not come right to Saratoga when he left Maine, though, instead choosing to go to Monticello Raceway where he quickly caught on as one of their top sulky stars. At the time of his relocation, the catch-driver was the owner of more than a thousand wins as a driver but he quickly added to his tally upon moving to Monticello.
Chris Long made an immediate impact at his new track and within two years of his move there, he won the driving title. Long enjoyed a monster 1999 campaign, finishing atop the standings to win his first championship since relocating to New York. Long’s 243 win mark from his career-best campaign still stands as the most for any driver in a season in Monticello history.
Several years after setting the new track record for victories, Long made the move to Saratoga. At the age of 40, Long was certainly in his prime and wasted little time becoming a force at Saratoga. In 2007, he won the Johnny Page Award in his “rookie” season at the Spa, the honor that goes to the track’s top up-and-coming or breakthrough driver from that season. Although Long could not be considered up-and-coming at that point, he certainly was a breakthrough driver having made an impact at the Spa for the first time in his career. Chris wound up finishing in the top six among local reinsmen in each of his first few seasons.
Although Long did manage his own stable in the early years of his career while racing in Maine, he has focused on being a catch-driver in the last couple of decades. That is with the caveat that he has been assisting in the running of the stable of longtime partner Robyn Mangiardi. Mangiardi, the 2003 Horsewoman of the Year at Saratoga, has been a fixture at the Spa ever since breaking onto the scene late in the 90’s. In 1997, Robyn was recognized with the Peerless McGrath Award, an honor bestowed to the track’s top up-and-coming trainer. Mangiardi has been a solid force among local conditioners for the last twenty five years and for a large portion of that time, Long has been her running mate. Chris, in turn, is the regular driver for the members of the Mangiardi stable while has also continuing to pick up a lot of work as a catch-driver.
Long piloted his 3,000th career winner in September of 2012 and although his results have fluctuated a bit, the consistency has been evident in Long’s time at Saratoga resulting in him finishing in the top ten among local drivers nearly every year since coming to town. Last season, Chris was the regular driver for the Lisa Zabielski stable who featured a three-headed monster of top-caliber horses. Long piloted Saratoga Trotter of the Year Quadratic Bluechip to almost all of his wins in ’12 in addition to guiding Zabielski’s Racey Rach N to a track-record breaking eleven consecutive wins en route to her earning a nomination for Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year. Long teamed up with Zabielski for three wins in the Open Pace in ’22 with Optical Illusion N in a season that saw that driver-trainer combo prove to be quite formidable.
While Long has maintained his status as a full-timer at Saratoga this year, the soon to be 56 year old reinsman has recently been spending his Friday evenings piloting at Vernon Downs. It was there that on Friday (Oct 27), he came into the night two wins shy of the 4,000 mark for his career. Long was slated to have nine drives at Vernon with a big chance to reach his career milestone at the Miracle Mile in Vernon. After Chris guided Debt Motivated to victory for Mangiardi early in the card, the veteran pilot was knocking on the door of number 4,000. Long was tasked with sitting behind trotter Smooth Aceleration for Saratoga-based trainer Chris Dubois and brushed the high-stepper to the lead approaching the half mile pole. Long was just a passenger in the stretch as a much-the-best Smooth Aceleration scored a decisive victory giving Long his milestone win.
Chris Long currently sits seventh in the local driver standings for 2023. Although a lot of his winning has come with Mangiardi trainees, the veteran has worked hard as a catch-driver to enjoy a second consecutive strong season, one in which he has a chance to eclipse his win total of 134 from ’22 and have his winningest year in over a decade. Long has already surpassed the $1 million mark in purses earned this season, an achievement he has now reached three times in his career. Long will be recognized in the winner’s circle this week (since his milestone was hit when competing out of town) with a presentation honoring his 4,000th career win. Congratulations to Chris Long on piloting winner number 4,000 and we look forward to watching his march toward his 5,000th trip to the winner’s circle!
Live racing takes place on Saturday evening starting at 5pm and continues with matinees on Sunday and Monday afternoons that begin at noon. Tuesdays will be added to the racing calendar starting next week when November 7th will be the first of five race programs added to the original schedule. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!