It is that time of year. Once Memorial Day is upon us, young horses begin to take center stage at Saratoga Casino Hotel and throughout New York State. The New York Sire Stakes season kicks off this week at the Spa just a week after the conclusion of the eighth annual versions of the John Mongeon Sr. Memorial Trotting Series and J.P. Morel Memorial Pacing Series came to an end. Last Monday and Tuesday, respectively, the two spring Series’ saw their winners be crowned in the same week that the previously postponed Virginia O’Brien Memorial Pacing Series got underway. While nowhere near all of the competitors in the recently completed series’ will take part in the NY Sire Stakes, there is some crossover from those who raced in the Series’ and those who will go for the big money in the stakes circuit.
The winner of the John Mongeon Sr. Memorial is a trotter who raced in the Excelsior ‘A’ portion of the NY Sire Stakes as a two year old last season. The Dave Dewhurst trainee won his lifetime debut last July while competing in a $15,000 race for freshman high-steppers. Though that win wound up being the only one in stakes competition for Dewey Arnold in ’20, the maturation process from two to three years old was in full effect for the Dewhurst-trained trotter. After a couple of terrific qualifiers at Saratoga, Dewey Arnold made breaks in each of his first two starts at the Spa in ‘21. At that point, Dewhurst opted to take the trotter that he co-owns with Philip Hale of New Hartford, NY, to a bigger track and headed down to Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania with him. The move proved to be a successful one as Dewey Arnold rattled off three consecutive wins at Pocono with each victory more impressive than the last.
Upon his return to the Spa to compete in the Mongeon Memorial, Dewey Arnold continued his winning ways bringing a five-race win streak into Monday’s Series Final after dominating the competition in the two legs of the Series. On Monday, reinsman Jimmy Devaux settled the 1-9 betting favorite in early before brushing him to the lead approaching the quarter. Once the sophomore got the front, it was over. Dewey Arnold recorded his sixth straight victory on Monday while completing the Series sweep behind a 1:55.4, nine-length romp in the $32,900 Final. Dewey Arnold is likely poised to head into Sire Stakes action in the coming weeks and will do so with six wins in eight starts in ’21 and almost $44,000 in earnings to his credit already this season. Dewey Arnold is ready to take on the top-flight competition that he is likely in store to battle with against with Sire Stakes season now upon us. With the victory in the Series, Dewey Arnold adds his name to the list of previous Mongeon Memorial Series winners which is comprised of Pop I, Order By Don, Quick Feet, Palmers Pride, Reigning Autumn, Spoiler Alert and Pumping Irony. Interestingly, Jimmy Devaux is now the eighth different driver to pilot the winner of the Mongeon Memorial Trot in the eight years since it was established.
Tuesday afternoon’s card was highlighted by the $32,200 Final of the J.P. Morel Memorial Pacing Series. Much like in the Mongeon Trotting Series, the Morel Pace had a clear-cut favorite heading into its Final. Unique Beach recorded a resounding victory in late April in his Saratoga debut and the Melissa Beckwith-trained pacer scored two wins by a more than a combined eighteen lengths heading into leg one of the Series in mid-May. Hall of Famer Wally Hennessey has come to Saratoga to drive on Mondays and Tuesdays and picked up the drives behind Unique Beach for the Series. Similar to Dewey Arnold, Unique Beach was simply dominant in his two legs of the Series, both while the public’s 1-9 betting favorite. On Tuesday, Hennessey rolled Unique Beach out to the lead and it was case closed. The four year old recorded another decisive victory, stopping the clock in a career-best 1:54 to complete the Series’ sweep. The paths in the recently concluded Series’ were very similar for Dewey Arnold and Unique Beach but their upcoming roads will head in sharply different directions. At the age of three, Dewey Arnold is poised to compete this summer in the New York Sire Stakes while Unique Beach is obviously not a Sire Stakes horse due to the fact that he is four years old, with the Sire Stakes restricted to only two and three year olds. Unique Beach becomes the eighth winner in the history of the J.P. Morel Memorial Pace joining past winners Finnish First, Mach To The Max, Starznheaven, Hillbillycashflow, In A Single Bound, Justin Credible and Mantario, some of whom went on to become Open Pacers. What the future holds for Unique Beach remains to be seen but there is no doubt that the star is on the rise for the most recent winner of the Morel Memorial Pace.
Every year, there have been three spring Series’ contested at the Spa. While the first two were completed last week, the third got just got underway. This year’s installment of the Virginia O’Brien Memorial Pacing Series was postponed by two weeks after an ugly accident marred what would have been the kickoff to the Series for fillies and mares. The accident in what was set to be the first leg of the O’Brien Pace caused the race to be declared a “no contest” and due to that, the Series was postponed for two weeks in order for the horses involved, who thankfully weren’t seriously injured, to recuperate. Heading into Wednesday, Rckaroundtheclock N was the clear Series’ favorite, maybe even more so than Dewey Arnold or Unique Beach was in theirs. Rckaroundtheclock N prevailed in the race declared a “no contest: but even with that victory wiped off the record, she came into Wednesday’s start with six wins in seven starts this season for trainer Amanda Kelley. She added another to the win column in Wednesday’s first leg as Rckaroundtheclock N prevailed decisively in leg one. The weather kicked up into a rain and wind storm during the race. That, combined with the fact that she was a 1-9 favorite and completely in control, meant the final win time for Rckaroundtheclock N came in a leisurely 1:57.1, a mere cruise-control clocking for a mare who has multiple 1:54 wins to her credit already this season. The other division of the O’Brien Memorial saw American Chance and Jimmy Devaux go last-to-first a five horse to field to score in 1:56.4. American Chance finished second to Rckaroundtheclock N in the canceled race and now will head into leg two of the Series off back-to-back wins. There will be a week off before the running of leg two the O’Brien Memorial with the Final taking place on Wednesday June 16th.
Wednesday marks the start of the New York Sire Stakes at Saratoga with three year old pacing fillies featured. Some superstars will be in town led by Test Of Faith, the filly who won the Stakes Final as a two year old last year and amassed exactly a half million dollars in her freshman campaign behind eight wins and a second-place finish in nine starts. It is that time of year at Saratoga and in NY State as a whole as Sire Stakes season is getting underway. Live racing takes place on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week with first post times set for 12 Noon. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!