While the Independence Day celebration that took place at Saratoga Casino Hotel a couple of weeks ago probably attracted the largest crowd we will see all season, this Saturday brings about the biggest night of the year for racing at the 77 year old harness track. The fireworks spectacular made for an incredible night at the track on July 3rdbut this weekend features the card that harness racing fans will not want to miss. The thirteen-race Saturday program will be highlighted by the 10thannual Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial Pace. The race that honors the memory of the longtime Chairman of the Board of Saratoga Harness and lover and proponent of harness racing Joe Gerrity Jr, started as a pacing series a decade ago. It was contested over a three-week span which concluded with a series final. That changed in 2013 when the Gerrity Pacing Series became the Gerrity Invitational Pace, a free-for-all of sorts for top money earners in that season.
It was in the ’13 installment of the Gerrity when the track record got demolished. Bolt The Duer competed just once at the Spa in his career and what a memorable race it was. The pacer, who would go on to win the Horse of the Year honors at Saratoga despite racing just one time locally, wowed the crowd when he stopped the timer in 1:49 flat! As amazing of a performance as Bolt The Duer delivered in ’13, Dancin Yankee one-upped him when he lowered the track record to 1:48.4 in ‘14’s version of the Gerrity. Dancin Yankee finished second in the Gerrity Final in 2012 but just two years later, he not only would not be denied but would make history. Dancin Yankee has been the ultimate Gerrity success story as the classy pacer who still owns the track record at Saratoga finished second in the Gerrity in 2015 as well.
In 2016, the Gerrity attracted the defending National Horse of the Year as Wiggle It Jiggleit made his way to Saratoga. The superstar pacer had the packed grandstand roaring as he won despite getting a nightmare journey in the Gerrity. That season, Bit Of A Legend N was the runner-up to the phenom. The following year, it was he that would take the Gerrity crown as the Yonkers-based Bit Of A Legend N upset at odds of 15-1. As per the rule made a few years back, the defending winner of the Gerrity gets an automatic bid, should his connections choose, to the following installment of the year’s biggest race at Saratoga. Bit Of A Legend N is expected to be among the star pacers who will invade the Spa on Saturday night. There are 17 horses eligible to take part in this weekend’s Gerrity with the top eight money earners in 2018 at the time the draw takes place on Wednesday earning the bids. Bit Of A Legend N will look to defend his title but just what seven pacers will be here to challenge him remains to be seen.
Saturday night July 21stwill produce the richest race card to be contested at Saratoga this season. Not only does the night consist of the $260,000 Gerrity but New York Sire Stakes action will be featured on the evening as well. Three year old pacing colts usually produce highly competitive action and go for as big of purses as we will likely see all season in the Sire Stakes. Fans of harness racing will also be treated to a special arrival on Saturday night as racing legend Foiled Again is scheduled to come to town. The richest horse in harness racing history, Foiled Again won his 100thlifetime race a couple of weeks back while competing in Pennsylvania. While clearly not the same caliber of horse he was a few years ago when he last came to the Spa to race in the Gerrity, the Ron Burke-trained Foiled Again is looking to build upon his career earnings of over $7.58 million. He has 100 victories in his 315 lifetime starts. Foiled Again will compete in the top level condition race on the Saturday card, a race that is sub-Open caliber. Speaking of Opens, all three weekly Opens that are contested at Saratoga are all scheduled to take place on Saturday night. The purses for the Open Trot, Open Pace and Fillies and Mares Open will be $25,000 each on a night in which total purses will exceed a half million dollars.
While the action on the track will be hot and heavy on Saturday, there will be plenty for the fans to do both in between races and when figuring out their bets for the night. As has been an annual tradition, there will be a t-shirt giveaway in conjunction with the 10thrunning of the Gerrity. Every fan will get a coupon for their t-shirt with the purchase of that evening’s race program, while supplies last. In addition, there will be 77 cent ice cream cones throughout the night in recognition of the 77thracing season at Saratoga Harness. For the bettors, there will be a $7,777 guarantee in the pick five pool in addition to a special wager offered for the first time. The “Toga Toga” double will be a wagering option for bettors on Saturday as Saratoga Casino Hotel teams up with NYRA to offer this new wager that combines that day’s features at both tracks. The first half of the double will be the Diana Stakes contested at Saratoga Race Course with the second half being the Gerrity at Saratoga Casino Hotel. This bet will be offered throughout the day at the thoroughbred track, during simulcasting at Saratoga Casino Hotel and at all of the outlets that accept wagers on both NYRA racing and Saratoga harness races. What a night it will be at the Spa on Saturday as harness racing lovers and even casual fans swarm the track on a horse racing lovers weekend in Saratoga highlighted by the richest night of the season at Saratoga Casino Hotel as the 10thannual Gerrity takes center stage.
The live racing schedule is a bit different this week as we transition into the full summer schedule. There are matinees on both Wednesday and Thursday afternoons this week with action beginning at 12:15pm. Racing takes place on Friday and Saturday evenings starting at 7:05pm. Sunday matinees go on hiatus until September. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!