If you were to read a bio on the career of driver Jay Randall, one of the first sentences would have to include the word solid. Randall has been a solid, consistent force among drivers at Saratoga Casino Hotel for decades. The veteran reinsman has never won the local driving title and really hasn’t been the guy to have ten or eleven drives on a race card but the consistent stability that Randall has offered is indicated in his statistics.
Randall’s driving career dates all the way back to the late 1970’s and really began to take off in the 80’s. Jay earned the Johnny Page Award at Saratoga back in 1982, an award that recognizes the track’s top up-and-coming driver. Midway through that decade, the native New Yorker was putting up big numbers while starting to establish himself here at the Spa. The voters got it right and the young pilot continued to improve every year before in 1986 he recorded the most wins of any year in his career when he made 247 trips to the winner’s circle. Randall became that solid, steady force in the sulky all the way up until the end of the millennium when the veteran driver headed to New Jersey, where he had competed from time-to-time, on a full-time basis. Becoming a regular at Freehold Raceway and the now defunct Garden State Parkway, Randall could also be found at Yonkers and occasionally at the Meadowlands. It was in the five plus years competing primarily in Jersey that Randall enjoyed his greatest successes in the sulky. Randall earned purses of over $1 million (which back then was super impressive) each year while a Jersey regular, highlighted by a ’02 campaign in which he piloted 222 winners.
In 2006, Randall returned to home to Saratoga where he would re-establish himself as one of the track’s top catch drivers, finishing among the top handful of reinsmen in the standings in both ’06 and ’07 before having another solid campaign in 2008. Randall continued to annually finish in or near the top five locally until after the 2012 campaign when his number of drives decreased. The fact that Jay went from 970 starts in ’11 to 686 in ’12 wasn’t really a referendum on him though. It’s no coincidence that once top-flight catch drivers like Bruce Aldrich Jr, Jimmy Devaux and Stephane Bouchard came to the Spa to compete full time, a lot of the previous locals saw their number of drives decrease. Randall, though, remained solid. As consistent as they come in the last several seasons, Randall has finished with between 50 and 80 wins in each of the last five years, seasons that were highlighted by him being the regular reinsman for Slugfest. That standout was named Trotter of the Year at Saratoga in back to back seasons in ’14 and ’15 and Horse of the Year in 2015. Randall’s stats are eerily similar each year in the last handful. He earned purses of between $460,000 and $580,000 each season from 2013-2017. In that five year span, he finished with just a decent, but consistent, driving average of just north of .200.
While Randall’s last few years can be deemed solid, 2018 would have to be viewed as a season of resurgence. The early stages of the campaign began with Randall thriving with an Open trotter just as he had in seasons past with Slugfest. Slugfest was always a cold weather monster and in ’18, another top-flight trotter that Randall piloted thrived in the winter and spring at the Spa. Ulster is enjoying his breakout season and was the Open Trot star early on in the campaign. The veteran trotter has always displayed promise but didn’t put it all together until this year when he has emerged as a star. Randall piloted Ulster to his first ever victory in the local Open in December, a month that saw him prevail in back to back installments of the local Open for high-steppers. The story was much the same to begin the ’18 campaign for the seven year old Ulster who rattled off wins in three of the first four Opens of the season. The breakout star did go through a bit of a lull late in the spring after winning his fourth Open of the year and subsequently wound up taking a brief break. Following a month off, Ulster won his qualifier and rediscovered his winning ways when it counted, prevailing in the Winners Over, the class just beneath the Open. Following a second place finish in the $14,500 Open, Ulster drew post five last Tuesday evening and Randall moved the star trotter out to the early lead. It was a lead Ulster would not relinquish en route to a 1:55.1 seasonal best score. Ulster is a big favorite in the race for Trotter of the Year at Saratoga as the Amanda Facin-trained high-stepper Ulster has certainly emerged as the “top drive” for Randall this season, a campaign in which the veteran pilot is enjoying the most success he’s had in the last several years.
At the conclusion of last week’s racing at Saratoga, Randall sat sixth in the driver standings for the season. If that position holds, it will be the best finish for the 57 year old reinsman in several years. Jay is already just a few wins shy of reaching his high-water mark for the last six years and is well on his way to securing the most victories he’s tallied since 2011 when he piloted 118 winners. In the past few weeks, Randall has been furthering his quest towards a milestone as well. The veteran has been moving closer and closer to the 4,000 win plateau and after having another strong week last week currently sits just one win shy of that historic mark. With over $22 million in purses in his career, Randall is about to win his 4000thrace, an impressive number for any driver, let alone one that isn’t in every race on a given night. Jay’s 3,000thcareer victory came right here at Saratoga back in April of 2007 and his 4000thwill also come here at the Spa in the next week as Randall looks to add that historic achievement to what has already been a terrific resurgence for the solid, consistent and classy local driver.
While enjoying plenty of success as a driver, Randall has always maintained a small size stable of his own. With training stats dating back to the start of his career in harness racing, Jay shelved his “side gig” when he moved to New Jersey to race for that few years in the mid-2000’s. Rarely with more than 100 starts in a season as a trainer, Randall does have well over 200 wins in the training ranks with purses of more than $1.5 million but it is clear that the imprint that Jay Randall has had in harness racing is as a driver and a driver who is about to reach the 4,000 win plateau during his resurgent 2018 campaign at the Spa.
Live racing takes place every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evening in the month of August with first post time each night set for 7:05pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!