In 2017, longtime horse owner Wayne Kellogg was honored at the end of the year banquet/holiday party with an award never before given out at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Kellogg was given the “Dedication Award” that season after his stable enjoyed a feat never accomplished before at Saratoga and one that we may never see again. Kellogg’s horses won the Open Pace sixteen times at the Spa in ’17 as his powerful stable, trained by Jackie Greene, was led by Artful Way. The superstar pacer’s accolades have been well-chronicled in my column over the past few years. His ’17 campaign was the second in what would become three consecutive Pacer of the Year seasons and the first in what would result in back-to-back Horse of the Year awards. Artful Way won ten Opens in 2017 in what was an historic year for his owner and trainer who had four different horses win the Open Pace on at least one occasion in that incredible season.
Trying to find another Artful Way is seemingly unrealistic but each fall, Kellogg purchases a horse with a similar blueprint to his standout pacer looking for an “heir apparent” or at least someone to have compete in local Opens. St Lads Moonwalk and Some Attitude were purchased by Kellogg in recent years as potential Open threats. Both were bought while wrapping up their three year old campaigns just as Artful Way was when he was acquired several years back. St Lads Moonwalk and Some Attitude both won the Open Pace at Saratoga in Kellogg and Greene’s historic ’17 season but though both are still winning some races, neither panned out as full-time Open forces.
Last fall, Kellogg’s wife Janie was doing research for the Harrisburg sale in Pennsylvania when she came across a horse that she liked an awful lot. Also, the youngster fit the general criteria that Kellogg looks for in an autumn purchase. Hudson Phil was a high-upside talent who had enjoyed success in Canada and though there was no way to really project him to be an Open stalwart, he peaked Janie’s interest enough that Wayne gave the green light to have her buy him. Hudson Phil was acquired for $58,000 and made his way to Saratoga late last season, bringing with him a strong resume including a two year old campaign in which he earned over $136,000 in just eleven starts north of the border.
As a three year old in 2018, Hudson Phil enjoyed another strong season in Canada before coming to town to join the Jackie Greene stable. Frank Coppola Jr. drove each and every one of Kellogg’s Open winners in his award-winning ’17 season and has been a fixture sitting behind all of Kellogg’s horses for the last decade. In Hudson Phil’s local debut, though, the young pacer drew post eight and since the race was a bit of a test run for his new acquisition, Kellogg told Coppola to go ahead and drive the big favorite in the race. It would be a very rare time that Coppola and Greene weren’t a tandem and an unheard of time for the Kellogg-Coppola combo. Kellogg picked Jay Randall to drive and the veteran reinsman guided Hudson Phil to a fourth-place finish in his Spa debut. The youngster really showed promise and came motoring home in the final quarter in his local debut. Randall stayed with Hudson Phil who wound up rattling off three consecutive victories to wrap up his ’18 campaign including two which came in the Winners Over, the regular “undercard” to the local Open. Those races would wind up as the final ones at any level beneath the Open at Saratoga for the rising star.
Hudson Phil finished second in his second time competing in the Open at the start of 2019 and with Artful Way back racing in the Saturday night Open Pace, Hudson Phil hit the road. The four year old enjoyed some success at the Meadowlands and Yonkers this spring and even won the Plainridge Open in a start there this April. In between ships out of town, Hudson Phil solved the Spa’s top pacers on three occasions this spring, winning the $15,000 local Open one time in March, once in April and another time in May, the last of which came in an eye-popping and career-best 1:50.2. Once the calendar turned to June, it became apparent that Hudson Phil wasn’t just a formidable Open horse but had now become a force. Usually utilizing his early speed, Phil won three consecutive Opens in June and July before suffering a rare defeat on Gerrity night in a $25,000 installment of the Open Pace. Following a second-place finish in which he got tracked down for a rare instance after cutting the mile, Hudson Phil made the trek out to Batavia where he held on to win the western New York Open in 1:53.1 as an overwhelming favorite.
On August 10th, Hudson Phil came back to the Spa and was assigned the outside post in the feature. He was again the favorite but this time he had a different look about him. That’s because his connections decided that gunning him to the lead every week was maybe taking its toll a bit and that a trip as a closer might serve Phil well. The leading contender for Horse of the Year was undaunted and swooped the group to win his seventh local Open Pace of the season, powering home in a final quarter of 27.2 en route to victory. This weekend, this year’s breakout star was at it again and despite being assigned the outside post went coast-to-coast to win in 1:51.1. It was the eighth victory in the local Open this year for Hudson Phil and his tenth win overall in the ’19 campaign. He moved his seasonal earnings to over $100,000 with Saturday’s score.
With now eight victories in the local Open Pace, Hudson Phil has not only been the winningest horse at the Open level at Saratoga this season but has emerged as the leading contender for Horse of the Year. As his stablemate Artful Way continues to make his way back from a surgery this spring that has caused him to be laid up, Hudson Phil has more than held down the fort for Kellogg and Greene. He has become exactly what Kellogg searches for every fall, a young horse with big-time upside that could become an Open star at the Spa. He gives credit of course to Greene for training and his wife Janie for picking out and buying the horse but also to Randall after a situation which he admitted is a bit of uncharted territory for the longtime owner. “Frank Coppola has driven for me ever since I can remember, even back in the 80’s. He has been incredible with my horses right throughout. I’m 100% a Frank Coppola guy. It’s weird for me to have anyone else at the controls,” Kellogg admitted. “Circumstances were just unique but Jay has done an outstanding job with Hudson Phil.” Winning Opens is nothing new to Kellogg but make no mistake, he says it never gets old. “I love to watch my horses race and everyone likes to win so this has really been a great ride.” And though he says the hopes are to have Artful Way back at 100% in the coming months, Kellogg has found that next Open Pace star that he has been seeking in Hudson Phil.
Live racing takes place next week on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday with first post times of 7:05pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!