There are several names that have been synonymous with Saratoga Harness Racing over the course of the last several decades. Harness racing has always been a family affair as there are several Crosses and Mattisons and Mongeons, for example, who have been involved at the Spa for generations. One name that is very familiar to fans that go back several years is Scott Mongeon. With a career that dates all the way back to the early 80’s, Mongeon has made his home and his career at Saratoga. Growing up in a harness racing family in which his father John was a longtime horseman at the Spa, Scott and his brother John Jr. have been local mainstays for close to forty years. Scott’s career, as is the case with so many in this sport, has experienced its ups and downs and has resulted in him adjusting and pivoting a bit over the years. And right now, the 58 year old is in the midst of one of his best seasons as a trainer in the last fifteen years.
Scott Mongeon has enjoyed plenty of success as a trainer in his career, piling up more than 850 victories with nearly all of them coming at Saratoga. Tallying more wins than the majority of trainers at the Spa since the turn of the century, Mongeon had his biggest year in 2002 when he trained 76 winners. He was recognized as Trainer of the Year at the end of the season awards banquet in ’02 and his successes rolled right over to the following year. In ’03, Mongeon won his first and only training title at the Spa. That season was just around the time that purses took a sharp increase after the installations of slot machines at the Raceway and the training colony became very well balanced. With 48 local victories, Mongeon finished atop the mountain among local conditioners. In ’06, with a career training average of close to .300 at that point, Scott’s trainees accrued over a half million dollars in purses, a career high. His stable was led by Pacer of the Year Future Falcon N who was a force in the Open Pace and probably the top horse ever trained by Mongeon. The following season, Ackbro Ms Perfect was named Trotter of the Year to continue the terrific stretch of the Mongeon barn producing top-flight talent.
While he was enjoying success as a trainer, Mongeon was also one of the top drivers at the Spa. Winner of the Johnny Page Award as the track’s top up-and-coming driver all the way back in 1988, the avid sports fan was a staple in the sulky throughout the 90’s and for several years after the turn of the century. Never the leading driver but consistently in the top ten (and often closer to top five) from 1994 to 2007, Mongeon drove his trainees but also was a force as a catch-driver. Consistent and solid would be the best adjectives to describe the almost a decade Scott had as a reinsman from ’99-’07. Mongeon piled up over 100 wins every season in that span and had more than 100 seconds and 100 third-place finishes in each of those years as well. Not an all-or-nothing driver, Mongeon made for a solid option for trainers to use to know they would always get a strong effort and usually a good result.
Over the course of the last decade, Mongeon’s stable has gotten smaller and he has started about half as many horses each year in the 2010’s than he did in the previous decade. In conjunction with the cutback of his barn, Scott all but stopped driving. Yes, he still dons the colors from time-to-time but the days of being a top-five caliber driver are behind him. This season, Scott will drive over 40 times for the first year in the last five. He has been the regular reinsman for a few of the trotters out of his stable this year and has done well recently with a youngster named Im A Little Crazed.
Though the Mongeon barn has reduced in size a bit in recent years, it hasn’t been without its stable stars. In fact, one decade after his Ackbro Ms Perfect took home the Trotter of the Year award, Mongeon’s Twisted Pretzel earned the same honor. Behind thirteen wins (six coming in the Open), Twisted Pretzel had his career year, earning more than $120,000, significantly more than any other local trotter in 2017. Twisted Pretzel’s owners, Steve and Laura Stewart of Petersburgh, NY, currently have another gelding by the sire Crazed who has been a solid factor over the course of his first few years on the track.
The aptly named Im TP’s Crazed Bro (the TP standing for Twisted Pretzel) recorded a pair of second-place finishes in New York Sire Stakes Excelsior A races as a two year old in 2018. ’19 served as the breakout season for Im Tp’s Crazed Bro who prevailed in three of his first four tries in his sophomore campaign before spending a lot of his summer in Excelsior competition again. By the time 2019 concluded, the rising star of the Mongeon stable had recorded seven victories en route to close to $50,000 in earnings. For his efforts, Im Tp’s Crazed Bro was named Three Year Old Trotter of the Year at Saratoga. Yet another Mongeon trainee to be recognized with an end of season award at the Spa. Though he is in the midst of a bit of an inconsistent campaign as a four year old, Im Tp’s Crazed Bro rolled to a decisive win on Monday afternoon at Saratoga with leading driver Billy Dobson in the sulky. Im TP’s Crazed Bro will look to repeat this Monday (Oct 19) while taking a big step up in company off last week’s win.
Another of Mongeon’s winners last week came under different circumstances than about 95% of his career victories have. That is, it didn’t come at Saratoga. Kiwi Tintin N traveled to Plainridge Park in Massachusetts to compete on Thursday afternoon coming off a few extremely difficult trips in his recent local starts. The New Zealand invader scored a mild upset to add one to the tally for Mongeon who has had a handful of winners over the past couple of weeks. Kiwi Tintin N is co-owned by Chuck Harrison, Scott’s longest tenured owner. The pair’s relationship is so much more than that though. The two have been the closest of friends for decades and have a relationship more like that of father-son rather than business associates. They co-own perhaps the top horse in Mongeon’s barn currently, talented pacer Michaels Boy. The Mechanicville resident Harrison also owns a few horses with Fred Barthelmas, of Ballston Spa, including Kiwi Tintin N who set a new lifetime mark in his Thursday score. No, Mongeon won’t be winning any training titles again anytime soon but make no mistake, the veteran conditioner who has been a Spa lifer isn’t done yet. He’s still winning at a solid clip and could well finish up his season with the highest training percentage he’s had in over a decade. And the longtime top ten reinsman has already recorded as many wins in the sulky in 2020 then he’s tallied in the previous six years combined in what has been a solid, steady campaign at the Spa for veteran Scott Mongeon.
Live racing takes place every Monday and Tuesday afternoon at Saratoga 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!