Two veteran trainers who are certainly familiar names to fans of racing at Saratoga Casino Hotel each recently reached the 1,000 win plateau. Dan Hennessey and Jackie Greene (formerly Rousse) both achieved the career accomplishment in recent weeks with Hennessey scoring his 1000th at Pompano Park in Florida while Greene recorded her 1000th competing at Plainridge Park in Massachusetts. It was only fitting that Hennessey’s 1000th came at Pompano as that is the track where the veteran conditioner has done the majority of his winning. With his brother Wally in the sulky for almost all of his victories, Hennessey spends much of the year in Florida but calls Saratoga home for several months every year. While some of Hennessey’s stable have made the move north for the season, several of Dan’s trainees have remained in Florida with Wally. One of his stable stars Boli provided Hennessey his historic win on May 17th.
A top flight trotter who has done a ton of winning since joining the Hennessey barn a few seasons back, Boli provided Dan with win number 1,000 when he overcame the outside post to record the victory in Pompano’s $10,000 Open Trot, of course with Wally in the sulky. While Boli has been the trotting star of the Hennessey stable for the last few years, we saw the stable’s pacing star shine in Friday night’s Fillies and Mares Open at Saratoga. Godiva Seelster has not only been a picture of consistency in her several seasons under the guidance of Hennessey, the now seven year old mare has displayed flashes of dominance.
Godiva Seelster joined the Hennessey stable in October of 2013 and won her first start for new connections in what certainly served as a foreshadow for what was to come with the-then rising star. Though in her ’14 campaign, she recorded just four wins, Godiva did hit the board in 17 of her 23 starts. That consistency continued in the years that followed but the Hennessey trainee began to discover the knack for winning, a knack that would end up resulting in back-to-back fourteen win years in 2015 and 2016. While she transformed from solid to superstar, Godiva Seeslter continued to be a “sure thing” to hit the triple almost every week. After finishing first or second in an unheard of 23 of 26 starts in ’15, Godiva proved it was no fluke in ’16 by piling up another 24 firsts or seconds in 30 tries. Though she did have one second place finish in her first four starts this spring after her recent ship up from Pompano, it was a bit of a slow start for the mare who we have grown accustomed to seeing run one-two every week.
In Friday night’s installment of the $17,125 Fillies and Mares Open, Godiva Seelster was moved out to the early by driver Shawn Gray who has piloted her in her local tries before he likely hands over the lines to Wally who comes back to town this week. On Friday, the star distaffer fought gamely while confronted by several rivals in the stretch before stopping the timer in 1:52.4 for her first local score of the year for the mare who despite a bit of a slow start in her return to town has still finished first or second in seven of her eleven starts in ’17. Look for another big summer from the star of the Hennessey stable as the veteran trainer looks to continue what has already been an incredible year. After all, in addition to recording his milestone win last month, the 62 year old Hennessey, who recently went over the $6 million mark in money earnings, won another training title this winter at Pompano which just concluded its meet. Dan will now have his brother back in town to complete the dynamic duo that has enjoyed so much success over the years.
While the majority of Hennessey’s starts each year come out of town, trainer Jackie Greene does most of her damage right here at the Spa. Greene, who used to go by Jackie Rousse, owns two training titles at Saratoga as she finished atop the standings in 2007 and 2010. Greene has trained multiple Trotters, Pacers and Filly-Mare Pacers of the Year at Saratoga. In fact, just last year Greene’s Stirling Cadet was named Horse of the Year as well as Trotter of the Year at Saratoga and her Artful Way took home the award for Pacer of the Year. Stirling Cadet added his name to a list of previous Greene trainees to be named Horse of the Year that includes Gimmebackmybullets, Prime Interest and Lorenzo Dream. Greene, whose training career began in 2004, has piled up more than 100 wins in five different years. That has resulted in her hitting the thousand win mark in just over 4,700 races, a very impressive win percentage no doubt. While a great majority of her victories have come at Saratoga over the course of the last decade, her milestone thousandth came while claiming pacer Talldarknhandsome was competing at Plainridge Park in Massachusetts on May 29th, a day that saw Greene earn win number 998, 999 and 1,000.
Heading into last week’s action at the Spa, Greene sat in third place in the local trainer standings. She has consistently finished in the top five every year and always ends up with one of the highest percentages among local trainers. In fact, Greene has finished with a training average of under .300 under once in her entire career. While her stable is diverse, the top flight pacers have been the stars of her barn thus far this season. Defending Pacer of the Year Artful Way has proven that last season was no fluke and on Saturday night won his third Open Pace of the year. The speedy star went coast to coast in 1:50.1, the fastest mile for any horse at the Spa thus far this season. The win was the sixth in the Saturday feature for a Greene-trained pacer as Titus Seelster has a pair of Open victories while St Lads Moonwalk also logged a win in the feature to go with the trio of Artful Way scores in what has been another big year for Jackie Greene, a year in which she recorded her milestone 1,000th career victory.
Live racing takes place on Thursday and Sunday afternoons with matinees kicking off at 12:15pm. Friday and Saturday night racing begins 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!