For trainer John Podres, having top quality horses compete at the highest level at Saratoga Casino Hotel is nothing new. The New York native got into the business back in the early 1990’s while running a small sized stable. Featuring a couple of top-flight pacers including Slugger Hanover and Lon Todds Warrior, Podres always seemed to have a horse racing against the best competition at the Spa. After enjoying a fair amount of success over the course of his first decade or so as a trainer, John Podres went through a span from 1999-2003 in which he recorded just twenty total starts. When he returned, though, his barn grew to be much bigger, so much so that in ’07 and ’08, his trainees logged over 430 starts in just those two seasons alone. The star of the Podres stable during that time was a mare named Chausettes Blanche. A New Zealand invader, Chausettes Blanche won her first four starts out of the Podres stable in ’08 before transforming into an Open mare the following year. In 2009, Chausettes Blanche won the Filly and Mare Open at Saratoga four times in the springtime alone before leaving the Spa to compete at other tracks.
Podres went on to have his best two years as a trainer in 2014 and 2015. In those seasons, he compiled almost 800 starts as a trainer winning 97 races en route to more than $650,000 in purses. Although he did have a veteran pacer named Martial Bliss compete in the Open on several occasions over a span of a few seasons, Podres didn’t have any Open winners even in those two best years of his lengthy career. That all changed last year when pacing mare Luck B Mine rode a hot summer stretch right into the fall. At the time, the four year old distaffer was the lone member of the Podres stable after owners Steve Guido and Don Stockwell acquired her in July. Luck B Mine paid immediate dividends for her new connections when she rattled off four wins in her first seven starts for Podres. Despite still being eligible to compete in lower classes, Luck B Mine’s new trainer gave her a shot in the $15,000 Open. Although he admittedly didn’t expect that his rising star would beat the track’s top lady pacers, he did think she could keep up with them and thought it would do her some good to race against the best of the best. Her Open debut last September didn’t get off to a good start when she made a brief break behind the gate. Leading driver Jimmy Devaux was undaunted by the break though and moved Luck B Mine first-over before actually taking the lead at the three quarter pole. She led until the shadow of the wire when she got edged. What looked like a terrific second-place finish in her debut in the Open was made even better when the first place finisher got disqualified for causing interference while making a break late in the mile. Adding Open winner to the resume of Luck B Mine had to come as a surprise even to her connections who had full belief in her abilities.
While the win was impressive, Luck B Mine’s victory would be her only in the Open last season. No, it isn’t because she hit some kind of cold streak but rather that she never raced in the Open again in ’21. After a decent, albeit nondescript start to her ’22 campaign which included a couple of tries against the track’s elite ladies, Luck B Mine returned to the Filly and Mare Open last Monday afternoon at the Spa (May 16). The five year old drew post two for her most recent try in the $15,000 feature and Leon Bailey got the driving assignment. The two-time Vernon Downs leading driver got the 15-1 longshot away in a good spot to sit the pocket behind the race’s favorite Dashintothebeach N. Luck B Mine rode the coattails of the leader before powering right by in the stretch en route to a career-best 1:54.1 victory and her second lifetime win in the Open. Luck B Mine continues to improve and may well begin to establish herself as a regular in the ladies’ Open moving forward.
Luck B Mine now has two Open wins on her card since moving to the Podres stable but her victories against the best aren’t the only ones that her trainer has recorded. Two months to the day from when Luck B Mine gave John Podres his first Open Pace victory in several years, Repeal Or Replace scored an upset in November of last year. Another new addition to the Podres barn at the time, Repeal Or Replace gave his trainer his second Open win of ’21 when he powered past the competition late in the mile to record a “no doubt about it” score at odds of 15-1. He proved the victory was no fluke when he wrapped up his season with a win in the $13,000 Winners Over.
Following a bit of a slow start to his ’22 campaign while competing against big-time competition, Repeal Or Replace dropped in company and secured an open-length win in mid-April. From there, the five year old gelding has climbed right back up the class ladder, hitting the board in three straight miles in which he paced in 1:53 before making his return to the Open last Saturday (May 14). The John Podres trainee wound up being co-favored with Saratoga superstar Artful Way at odds of 8-5 who cut the mile in the $15,000 feature. Repeal Or Replace sat the pocket to the classy veteran before powering past him in the stretch en route to a 1:53.3 score. It was one of two Open wins on the week for trainer John Podres who after going several years between Open victories got two last season and now has quickly tallied two more here in the still early stages of the ’22 campaign. Luck B Mine drew post position six for her try in the upcoming Monday $16.050 Open for fillies and mares which looks to be a highly competitive one on paper as the Podres stable will look to stay hot in Opens at the Spa.
Live racing now takes place four days a week with Friday and Saturday evening racing beginning at 5PM and Sunday and Monday matinees kicking off at 12 Noon. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!