Pacing Mare Rises to the Top at the Spa

They say it’s better to be lucky than good. At times there has been a little bit of luck involved but the summer surge by young pacing mare Luck B Mine at Saratoga Casino Hotel has much more been a product of skill rather than simply good fortune. Luck B Mine kicked off her career last season and after making three starts in Canada changed connections to join the stable of trainer Melissa Beckwith. Starting in mid- August, the then three year old rattled off four consecutive wins at the Spa before heading to Yonkers Raceway for a brief stint there. The filly had success downstate adding another pair of victories to her total before wrapping up her campaign at the Spa in late November with yet another win. All told, Luck B Mine scored eight victories over a four-month span for owners Steve Guido, of Cicero NY and Don Stockwell of Hudson Falls and finished in the money (first, second or third) in all twelve appearances since they acquired the young filly.

Luck B Mine moved up in class when her 2021 season kicked off in April. Now competing in the winners of two but not more than five race condition, the distaffer got her campaign off to a bit of a slow start. After not enjoying much success in the Virginia O’Brien Memorial Pacing Series this spring, Guido and Stockwell moved the mare to the barn of one of their previous trainers John Podres. Being that he had previously trained for her owners, Podres always had his eye on Luck B Mine and really liked what he saw. “When she won a few last year, it looked like she had a nice motor to her,” Podres told me. And when Guido and Stockwell approached Podres about training the mare, he was more than interested.

The 51 year old Podres took over as Luck B Mine’s conditioner in early July and immediate enjoyed success. Competing in the bottom level condition, Luck B Mine came from off the pace and got up to win by a neck in her first start out of the new barn. That method and result would become the norm this summer for the four year old who took off following that first win of the season. At that point, it was back to the winners of two but not more than five condition for Luck B Mine but this time, her fate was much different. Despite not having much luck when it came to post position draws, Luck B Mine went on a tear. The up-and-coming mare finished second from post eight when dismissed at odds of 13-1. From there, it was back to her winning ways on August 10 when she drew her lone good post of the summer. With Larry Stalbaum in the sulky, Luck B Mine surged first-over before opening up a big lead turning for home. She wound up hanging on by a neck in that one, just as she did in her first victory of the campaign.

Looking to repeat, Luck B Mine put in yet another big first-over bid the following week before taking over the lead. This time though, she got caught, coming up second-best. Each week, she paced 1:55. A picture of consistency and no doubt gutsy, Luck B Mine was on the improve. “When I got her, she was in great shape. She’d been taken great care of. I wanted to try a couple of things and changed her hopple length a bit among a couple of other tweaks and she just responded big time,” Podres explained. The increased hopple length certainly worked out but it wasn’t without its downside. “She never has any issue when she’s jogging and training but when we first hooked up the race bike to her she starts to gallop and gets into this funky stride. She definitely acts up a bit on the track and doesn’t look good in the post parade sometimes. But she’s fine once the race starts.” And fine she’s been. Luck B Mine shaved a bit off of those 1:55 times when she uncharacteristically flashed early speed on August 24th and wound up going wire-to-wire in a lifetime best 1:54.4. She held on to prevail by what else but a neck in her career-best performance. Drawing post eight the following week did nothing to stop the summer surge for Luck B Mine who again toughed out a victory to win by, you guessed it, a neck. “She’s a gutsy, tough mare. She a hard hitter,” Podres exclaimed. “She’s still young though and learning and when she gets the lead sometimes she waits on horses a little bit.” That would explain the winning by a neck every time she prevails. Even though Luck B Mine has opened up some big leads, as many horses do (especially young ones), she waits on other horses to join her and that makes for some interesting and heart-stopping stretch runs for her connections, and the bettors who backed her to odds of 3-1 or less in four straight starts.

While her win from post eight seemed to put a bow on a lucrative summer, it didn’t come without a negative. The rising star won out of the class where she dominated for Podres and thus moved up in company right after Labor Day. Following a third-place finish while battling tougher, Luck B Mine’s class didn’t fill last week at Saratoga and the mare was elevated into the Fillies and Mares Open to take on the track’s top lady pacers. Though this was a significant step up in class, Podres didn’t seem overly concerned. “I thought a start in the Open could help her,” Podres explained. “She’s the type of horse that I think will get better when she races against better horses. She’s been improving so much that we figured we’d take a shot in the Open- that she could at least keep up with them and that it could help make her better.” She kept up. In fact, she did against the best just what she did at the lower levels.

With leading driver Jimmy Devaux in the bike, Luck B Mine again moved first-over, again put in a power surge and again took over the lead! This has been her blueprint for months now but to do it against Open mares is a whole different ballgame. She owned a lead of almost two lengths turning for home but as has been her way, she waited for some company. This time, she got passed in the stretch and came up second-best by….a neck. A solid second in her Open debut. Not bad right? Well, things got better for her and her connections when the winner got disqualified for causing interference while making a brief break past the three-quarter pole which meant Luck B Mine was placed first.  A win in her first ever Open start! “She likes to win. Her determination is second to none,” Podres analyzed. “She’s got a big burst to her and it’s been working to her favor big time. She’s consistent and versatile. Even though she now owns a victory in the $15,000 Open, Luck B Mine will drop in company despite winning as she still fits the lower class, the one that didn’t fill forcing her into the Open to begin with. “We liked her right when we got her. My assistant trainer Joe Vezzua loved her from the get go and he’s done a great job working with her every day. I have to admit, though, she’s been a bit of a surprise, a pleasant one. I didn’t think she would progress this quickly. It’s been a great summer.” As for her future, Podres says “I think she’s going to get better and better.” “I definitely think she’s an Open mare moving forward. She’s still learning and I really believe she’s got even more in her. At least I hope so!” What will come for Luck B Mine remains to be seen but while she enjoyed a little luck this week, she’s been terrific all summer long and has now won 13 of her 38 lifetime starts in what could be just the start of prosperous times for Luck B Mine and her connections.

Live racing takes place every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday afternoon at Saratoga this fall with first post times set for 12 Noon. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!

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