Larry Stalbaum has had an incredibly successful career in harness racing. The Michigan native’s career started all the way back in the 1980’s and now some 35 years later, the veteran is still enjoying big time success on the track. Stalbaum owns many of the horses he trains and also does a lot of catch-driving. In fact, the numbers Larry has piled up in the sulky over the years have been terrific and on Monday, he reached an impressive career milestone. Stalbaum came into Monday with 5,998 career wins as a driver. After guiding trotter Bold Creation to victory midway through the matinee card, Stalbaum had just one drive remaining for the day when he sat behind the Melissa Beckwith-trained Scarlett Raider. Scarlett Raider was a second-place finisher in two consecutive starts heading into Monday’s try when he was dismissed at odds of 14-1. When the race’s favorite made an early break and a few of the other top contenders slugged it out early, the table was set for a closer and when the curtain rose, it was Scarlett Raider emerging victorious to give Stalbaum the milestone win. A sign recognizing the incredible driving feat was presented to Larry in the winner’s circle.
Though Stalbaum made history on Monday, that afternoon’s card was just the start of what would be a huge week for the veteran reinsman. The Tuesday program kicked off with Stalbaum picking up a catch-drive as he replaced an injured Chris Long to sit behind the Andy Sardella-trained Stonebridge Mach. That pacer got a first-over journey as a big longshot at odds of 24-1 but raced like a favorite as he powered past his rivals to record the upset win. A pair of Stalbaum trainees rounded out yet another big day at the Spa for aggressive and talented sulky star. 2019’s Pacer of the Year at Saratoga, Crockets Cullen N was the odds-on favorite in the $8,500 Open Pace on Tuesday and Stalbaum wasted little time powering the stalwart out to the front-end. Crockets Cullen N posted sizzling fractions throughout. After getting to the first quarter in 26.3, the track’s defending champ went to the half in 55.3 before clicking off three quarters in 1:23.4. The nine year old star stopped the timer in 1:52.4 to win his fourth Open Pace of the year and his incredible thirteenth since September of last season. A dominant force once again in the ’20 campaign, Crockets Cullen N is certainly on pace to repeat as the track’s top pacer. Stalbaum ended up securing a hat trick on Tuesday when he guided his Jericho Willie to a first-over victory late in the card. A nine-time winner in ’19, Jericho Willie prevailed for the first time this season for Stalbaum who has been on a tear.
Wednesday evening wound up being more of the same for Stalbaum who not only made three more trips to the winner’s circle but did so while piloting horses that he trains. In fact, another Stalbaum trainee won an Open as his Miss Irish Rose A went coast-to-coast to score her third victory of the season in the Fillies and Mares Open at the Spa. Jericho Diva, a full sister to Jericho Willie who Larry won with on Tuesday, followed in her little brother’s footsteps as she recorded a victory. Stalbaum has a promising freshman in his stable as well and he unveiled her at Saratoga for the first time on Wednesday. Abby Rose broke her maiden in just her second lifetime start while competing in the New York Sire Stakes Excelsior Series A at Tioga Downs a couple weeks ago and went back-to-back on Wednesday night behind a decisive score for Stalbaum. All told, Larry piloted eight winners last week, five of which were his trainees including two who won Opens.
Stalbaum going on a tear is nothing new. Not in his somewhat limited time at Saratoga and certainly not in what has been a terrific overall career in the sulky. In 2006, while still a regular in his native Michigan, Stalbaum piloted 419 winners, the most he’s had in any season. Long after relocating to New York and competing at numerous tracks throughout the northeast, Stalbaum enjoyed a ’17 campaign in which he won 347 races as a driver. More than anything, Larry has been consistent. With a strong blend of driving his own horses and catch-driving, Stalbaum now has over 6,000 wins as well as 5,700 seconds and 5,400 thirds in his more than 40,000 attempts since beginning his career back in 1986. Over that time, the now 56 year old has amassed purses of over $42 million. Stalbaum is certainly one to watch right now as he is on top of his game. The members of his stable are competing at a very high level and his catch-driving has been spot on of late. And while it is a certainly a long ways away, the veteran sulky star can now start to eye victory number 7,000, a pursuit that he kicked off last week while having the best week of his season at the Spa led by scores in consecutive Opens while sitting behind his Miss Irish Rose A and his standout Crockets Cullen N. That superstar will no doubt be favored once again when he heads out onto the track to compete in Monday afternoon’s installment of the $8,500 Open Pace looking to keep the streak rolling for Stalbaum who became harness racing’s newest 6,000 race winner last week.
Live harness racing takes place on Monday and Tuesday afternoon at Saratoga this summer with matinees beginning at 12 Noon and on Wednesday evening with first post time set for 7:15pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!