In order for a trainer to win a title at Saratoga Casino Hotel, he or she has to fulfill a long list of criteria. What makes a good trainer a champion is more than just ability. Not only do you need to be good at what you do, for a trainer to finish a year atop the local trainer standings, he or she must first of all have a good size stable. Simply training at a high percentage does not a training champ make. Versatility in a large stable is essential as it is a must for a trainer to have a mixed bag of pacers and trotters, claimers and condition horses and in most cases Open caliber talent as well. In order to check all of the necessary boxes to become a top trainer at the Spa, a conditioner must have several owners for which he or she trains in order to comprise the necessary size stable to even have a chance at enough success to be the top dog in a given year. It is almost always the case, though, that the leading trainer at the track will have a primary owner for which they train.
Jackie Rousse is a two-time training champion at Saratoga. The veteran conditioner moved south from Canada over a decade ago and set up shop at the Spa. Rousse immediately enjoyed local success and as the years progressed, her stable got bigger and bigger. Rousse began training for the Kellogg Racing Stables several years back and that pairing has worked out very well of late. In the past few years, Rousse has trained several top flight horses for Kellogg and together, they have won a host of Opens. This year, while the 2016 racing season has not yet reached its midpoint, there have already been four Kellogg-owned horses to prevail in local features.
Artful Way has become a force on Saturday nights for Rousse this season. The speedy pacer joined the Rousse barn last year and made an immediate impact upon coming to the Spa in the fall. The then three year old scored five wins and a second in his seven starts under the guidance of Rousse in ’15. After rising up the condition ranks, Artful Way made his debut in the Saratoga Open on closing weekend of last season. Utilizing his tremendous early speed, the rising star blasted out to the front end and never looked back en route to an upset in 1:51.4 at odds of 10-1 in his first crack at the Saturday feature. It would be a sign of things to come for Artful Way who now as a four year old has become a bona fide star at the Spa.
Artful Way is the winningest horse in the Open Pace thus far in 2016. Prevailing in his second crack at the Open this year, Artful Way went on to rattle off three wins in four weeks in the $15,000 feature. In July’s first Open Pace, Artful Way again hit the line first to secure his fourth victory in the Open this year, more than any other pacer on Saturday nights. The rising star has displayed versatility along the way. Gifted with a ton of early speed, Artful Way scored three of his Open wins when the races were contested at a distance of 1 1/16 miles. Three of his four wins have come via front-end journeys or pocket rides. On May 28th, though, Artful Way showed he was no one trick pony as he went last to first in the one mile Open, swooping the group while pulling off a mild upset at odds of 5-1. His winning time of 1:51 on July 2nd stands as the fastest for any horse this year at the Spa. Assigned the outside post position last Saturday, Artful Way wasn’t a factor in the Open finishing fifth but remains one of the early frontrunners for Pacer of Year at the Spa behind his breakout season in Open company at the Spa.
Stirling Cadet established himself as one of the more solid Open trotters at the track last year. In his first full season since his acquisition by the Kellogg Stables and Rousse, Stirling Cadet was a Trotter of the Year nominee in ’15 after a season in which he earned more than $80,000 behind seven wins, two of which coming in the local Open. 2016 is on track to be an even better campaign for the five year old highstepper as his consistency has shined. Sunday’s start in the $15,000 Open was the 14th start of the season of Stirling Cadet and he has already amassed over $40,000 by way of three wins (two in the local Open). When Stirling Cadet isn’t winning, he’s usually still a factor as he has hit the board eleven times in his fourteen seasonal tries. Another Rousse trainee who utilizes his incredible amount of early speed, Stirling Cadet has been a winner in both the Opens contested at the mile and at the 1 1/16 mile distance. Certainly well on his way to another Trotter of the Year nomination, Stirling Cadet has now hit the board in six consecutive features as the Sunday threat for Rousse all year long. Artful Way and Stirling Cadet, a lethal Open combo for the Kellogg Racing Stables and their trainer Jackie Rousse who between them have already scored six victories in Saratoga features in ’16. Kellogg’s Titus Seelster and pacing mare Bettorhaveanother have each recorded a win in local features this year as well.
While Open forces wind up being her stable’s stars, Rousse has also enjoyed her share of success with claimers. Rousse claimed Caseofthesillies in early June and the pacing mare has proven to be a solid acquisition for her. Caseofsillies went wire to wire on Friday night, matching her lifetime mark of 1:53.2. In four starts since moving to the Rousse barn, Caseofthesillies has two wins and a second. Rose Run Quest secured a victory for Rousse in the $12,500 claiming ranks on Saturday night to continue the strong stretch for his stable in claimers. Rose Run Quest moved his local record to two for three with the hard-fought Saturday night score. Rousse began the week just one win behind Chris Marino for second place in the local trainer standings and while a surge to the top appears at best unlikely, Jackie Rousse is having another terrific season at the Spa and is doing it while spanning the classes all the way from claimers up to Opens.
Live racing takes place on Thursday starting at 4pm and continues on Friday and Saturday this week beginning at 6:45pm. There is just one Sunday matinee remaining until the fall and that takes place this week kicking off 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!