Two trainers with very different credentials and resumes are making a significant impact really for the first time at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The name Jimmy Graham may be familiar to football fans but it is also one that has been atop trainer standings in the past. While he has had success in the New York Sire Stakes, Graham may be a bit of an unknown to fans at the Spa as the majority of the veteran trainer’s damage has been done in Western New York. Graham has won multiple training titles while competing at Batavia and Buffalo Raceway throughout what has been a terrific career.
Graham began his career as a trainer in the early 90’s and enjoyed success for a decade while operating a fairly small-sized stable. In the mid 2000’s, Graham’s number of starts as a trainer increased as he added more members to his stable and in ’07, the veteran conditioner’s numbers really started to pile up. It was in that season when Graham won as many as 100 races for the first time, a feat he would go on to achieve four times over the next six years culminating with a 2012 campaign in which his stable won 132 races in 876 starts en route to purses of almost $635,000. So what started out as a smaller stable turned into a big-time operation for Graham whose numbers are made even more impressive when considering that his main tracks of Buffalo and Batavia don’t race for the same amount of purse money that tracks such as the Saratoga do.
In recent seasons, Graham’s numbers have started to decline a bit as far as starts and wins but the 51 year old conditioner has maintained a solid training average throughout. In 2018, after decades of competing in the western portion of the state, Graham relocated his business to Saratoga. It was a big move for a trainer with almost 9,400 career starts and close to 1,400 lifetime wins. Graham brought to town with him a mix of mostly young horses and conditional pacers and while he got off to a bit of a slow start locally, Graham wouldn’t be held down for long. Albeit in limited tries, Graham went winless in the first month of the racing season at the Spa but after recording his first victory with one of his stable’s rare trotters, Warrior Way, in the final week of March, Graham has taken off. The day after Warrior Way got Graham “off the schneid,” he recorded his first local training double as his Unusual Clarity broke his maiden and his Squeeze This parlayed her class drop to victory.
On Friday night, Graham, who is currently recovering from an injury suffered while training a few weeks back, had another big night as he registered another pair of victories to go with a second place finish. Young pacer Oporto Hanover broke her maiden despite getting a difficult journey and Squeeze This became Graham’s first trainee to become a two-time winner at the Spa this season to complete the training double. After his successful weekend, Graham now has six wins and seven second place finishes in what is turning into a strong “debut” season at the Spa for a veteran conditioner who has had a ton of lifetime success and now looks to make an impact as a regular at Saratoga for the first time.
The similarities between Jim Graham and Harry Landy are very few. Much like Graham though, Landy’s name is not unfamiliar to Saratoga but the early season success locally as a trainer is something fairly new for each of these talented horsemen. Unlike Graham, Landy has spent a bit of time competing at the Spa in the past. In fact, the young New Jersey-based horseman won the Johnny Page Award at Saratoga in 2013 as the top up-and-coming driver. That season, Landy trained the track’s Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year Bell On Wheels as well. In recent years, Landy has done less driving while focusing more on training. Early on in the ’18 campaign at the Spa, Landy’s barn has been on a tear. In just 18 starts in the early stages of the campaign, Landy already has ten winners. Winning at well over a 50 percent clip early on, Landy already has three horses be two-time winners after last weekend as his Duck Duck Dragon and Hammer Time joined Sassa’s Sister as multiple winners this season. Landy had four horses race last week at Saratoga and while one drew post eight and wasn’t a factor, the other three all won and won convincingly. Though based in New Jersey at Freehold, Landy has focused his attention on the Spa in the early portion of 2018 and things have worked out glowingly. While he doesn’t have a stable star like he did in his award winning ’13 campaign, Landy has had success with pretty much all of the horses that he’s brought to town thus far this “spring” as his win percentage, although in a significantly lower amount of starts than most, is tops among local trainers. Graham and Landy have certainly taken very different paths to get here but their names have become more familiar to fans at Saratoga as each of the “Spa invaders” has thrived in the opening months of the 2018 racing season.
Live racing takes place every Thursday and Sunday afternoon with matinees 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!