Friday night has been ladies night for the last several seasons at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Friday race cards are filled with mostly fillies and mares, the majority of which are pacers, and are highlighted most weeks by the $16,000 Fillies and Mares Open. Trainer Heidi Rohr has been one of the most dominant female trainers (and trainers in general) in the past few years at the Spa and won the local training title in 2014. Rohr has become a stronghold in the top five among local conditioners and currently sits in fourth among Spa trainers after a big performance on Friday’s ladies’ night.
A native of the state of Maine, Rohr came to New York to compete on a full time basis last decade and has thrived at the Spa since earning the Peerless McGrath Award in 2009, an award that recognizes the track’s top breakthrough trainer. In 2010, Rohr enjoyed the first year in which her stable would accrue more than $1 million in earnings and it would serve as a sign of things to come for the now 37 year old trainer. Rohr’s numbers have been incredibly consistent in the past few seasons. In each year from 2013-2015, Rohr’s stable won between 153-190 races and earned purses of between $1.5 and $1.8 million. Her ’16 campaign looks like it will result in much of the same and could even exceed her previous seasons if she has a few more nights like she did on Friday at the Spa.
Though members of the Rohr stable compete at several different tracks in the Northeast, the majority of the Maine invader’s races are contested at Saratoga and the top flight conditioner may not have had a better night this year than she did on Friday. On the most recent installment of ladies’ night, Rohr had eight of her trainees compete and what a night they had. Rohr recorded three wins, three seconds and a third on the evening as her pacers shined bright. Milky Way Rae was added to the Rohr stable last month after competing in the New York Sire Stakes throughout the first year and a half of her racing career. When the three year old filly joined her new barn, she did so already as a winner in 1:53 in a previous start at the Spa and headed into Friday’s Open after first or second place finishes in her previous four tries.
Driver Billy Dobson, who had a big night sitting behind Rohr trainees on Friday, moved Milky Way Rae out to the early lead in the feature before yielding to the odds-on favorite So Nice, a mare who is the likely front-runner in the race to be the track’s Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year this season. Milky Way Rae popped the pocket around the final turn and it appeared that she was going right by the favorite. So Nice dug in though and held off the Open newbie to prevail in 1:52.4. Milky Way Rae was the longest shot on the board as she finished second in her Open debut at 15-1. While her future is undetermined, the early speed that Milky Way Rae possesses in addition to the upside of a three year old filly who often improves greatly before her four year old season may just make her a distaffer to watch next season in Open company.
Fellow Rohr trainee Bazooka Terror knows a thing or two about finishing second in the ladies’ Open on Fridays as well. Bazooka Terror recorded seven second place finishes in Friday features before the seven year old mare won her first Open in August. While she did go on to win the feature again in September, Bazooka Terror hit a little cold streak following that victory. The mare has subsequently dropped in class a bit and on Friday drew the rail in a high level conditional race.
Dobson got Bazooka Terror to the lead, a lead she would never relinquish and the mare won for the eighth time in the ’16 season to go with her eight second place finishes. Already earning close to $90,000 this year, Bazooka Terror may be the latest Rohr trainee to be nominated for the track’s top award for mares. Let’s Go Higher took home honors in 2013 as Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year as she beat out yet fellow Rohr trainee Bijou Theater to win the award. Though Bazooka Terror is not likely to win such an award this year, she will likely be a nominee as she has been a picture of consistency in her first year competing at the Spa.
After young filly Southwind Marilyn gave Rohr her second win on Friday night, Keene Olivia completed the stable’s hat trick. While not having the same kind of year that she had in 2015 when she earned over $100,000 racing against top flight mares, Keene Olivia is still that same hard-hitting mare that she was when she had her career year in ’15. Dobson elected to sit the pocket with Keene Olivia on Friday and the race’s favorite surged up the inside to complete the hat trick for Rohr. Whether the win launches Keene Olivia into a strong remainder of the year or not, the pacing mare is just another lady with previous Open credentials to still be succeeding at the Spa.
Despite the terrific Friday night for Rohr, perhaps the most exciting race of the week for the stable came in a qualifier. Wait, a qualifier? Yes. Rock Me Baby was purchased just last week at the horse sale in Harrisburg, PA by an owner of Rohr’s for a hefty sum of $82,000. This three year old filly qualified at Saratoga on Thursday in a dazzling 1:52.4, an eye-popping time for a qualifier. Rock Me Baby is scheduled to compete this coming Saturday in the $125,000 Courageous Lady at Northfield Park in Ohio where the connections hope to get a significant chunk of what they paid back in what will likely be her final start of the year.
The plan is for Rock Me Baby to be an Open mare next year whether at Saratoga or at one of the other tracks that Rohr sometimes competes at. Could Rock Me Baby be the next in what has been a long line of Rohr ladies to thrive at the Spa? That will likely be determined next year when the potential stable star is unveiled at Saratoga for the first time, presumably on ladies night in the spring, a night that has seen Rohr enjoy plenty of success over the years and a night that was dominated by her stable last week.
Live racing takes place on Friday and Saturday this week beginning at 6:45pm with no Thursday racing due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Sunday’s matinee will be carded as normal starting at 12:15pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!