Summer Superstars Shine at the Spa

The two richest races of the season at Saratoga Casino Hotel took place last week. With summer in full swing and the schedule changed for the next several weeks, superstars converged on the Spa for a big week of action. Three year old trotting colts and geldings were in town on Tuesday afternoon to take part in the New York Sire Stakes. There was only one division carded for sophomore trotters which featured a clear standout. Ahundreddollarbill came to town with a sparkling resume. The Tony Alagna-trained trotter has been nothing shy of a phenom since beginning his career last year.

Ahundreddollarbill raced six times as a freshman in 2020 and recorded a pair of victories to go with a second-place finish. Earning just shy of $70,000 in his two year old campaign, Ahundreddollarbill was poised to have a strong year heading into ’21 but what he has achieved so far, no one could have seen coming. The three year old didn’t make his seasonal debut until late May but when he did, he was all business. Ahundreddollarbill prevailed in his first start of the year at the Meadowlands leading up to his New York Sire Stakes debut at Vernon Downs on June 4th. In that start, the Alagna trainee not only won but set a track record for three year old trotters as he held on to score in 1:52.2. The following week, the rising star recorded his biggest lifetime win when he cruised to a decisive win in a $205,500 Empire Breeders race contested at Vernon. From there, it was off to Yonkers for Ahundreddollarbill who competed in the legendary Yonkers Trot, winning his $40,000 leg before finishing fourth in the half million dollar Final. The defeat, though, would be the only one of the season thus far for the superstar who bounced back in historic fashion.

On July 13th, in a $74,500 NY Sire Stake race at Yonkers, Ahundreddollarbill set his second track record of the season when he trotted a dazzling mile in 1:54. The super soph brought his red-hot streak to Saratoga last week to compete in the richest race of the year at the Spa. Driver Andrew Mccarthy has been the regular reinsman all year long for Ahundreddollarbill and the talented 35 year old moved the star trotter out off the car quickly from post position seven in the $156,600 Sire Stakes race and got him to the lead just past the quarter pole. The first-half fractions of 27.3 and 56.1 were certainly brisk but the trotter who has been like a machine all year was once again on Tuesday and completed an unlikely hat trick of track records by stopping the timer in 1:54, the fastest clocking for a three year old trotting colt or gelding in the 80 year history of Saratoga. Ahundreddollarbill continues to pile up the “Benjamins” and now earned over $311,000 in just seven starts in 2021 in an historic campaign in which he has already broken three track records for three year old trotters.

Last Saturday night saw a packed house at the track as a fifteen-race program was highlighted by the 12th annual Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial Pace. The purse of $150,000 was a bit lower than usual but that didn’t stop some of the top pacers in North America from coming to town to compete. This Is The Plan finished second in the Gerrity in 2019 and was one of three Ron Burke trainees that came to town to take part in the track’s biggest race of the year for pacers. Yannick Gingras was in to pilot This Is The Plan whose resume is nothing shy of sensational. The six year old beast was only about six weeks removed from a win in 1:47.1 at Northfield Park in Ohio. That’s a half-mile track! This Is The Plan had finished first or second in eleven of twelve tries this year coming into Saturday’s start with seasonal earnings of over a half million dollars.

This Is The Plan drew post position seven in the Gerrity which wound up being the outside post after a scratch of the eight horse. Gingras powered This Is The Plan out towards the early lead and though he did take over command approaching the quarter pole had to work awfully hard to get to the top. The 7-5 betting favorite yielded past the quarter to stablemate Backstreet Shadow who was one of the other Burke trainees in the race. Backstreet Shadow and all-world reinsman Tim Tetrick carved out the fractions on the lead, reaching the half in 55.2 before hitting three quarters in 1:22.3. This Is The Plan tipped to the outside and it appeared that the horse with almost $2.3 million is lifetime earnings would draw off for a commanding victory. Instead, yet another Burke trainee came charging at him as 50-1 longshot Rockapelo shook loose around the final turn before motoring home to photo with the favorite. This Is The Plan survived the photo en route to recording his fifth win of the season and the 19th in 82 lifetime starts. Incredibly, the three Burke trainees in the race finished one-two-three. Though the favorite was on top, the exacta and triple comprised of the Burke pacers paid $116 and $337.50, respectively. The final time of 1:50.2 marked the fastest clocking of the season for any horse thus far at Saratoga.

While Burke is at the top of the list of trainers in North America and Gingras has been a sulky star for decades, neither had recorded a win in the Gerrity before Saturday night’s score. In fact, incredibly, they became the twelfth different driver and trainer, respectively, to record a win in the history of the Gerrity.  The memorial pace was created in 2009 as a dedication to Joe Gerrity, Jr – a highly respected figure in the area’s equine development and an integral leader of Saratoga Harness. Gerrity was a breeder of horses in Loudonville and licensed harness driver before becoming Chairman of the Board for Saratoga Harness Racing, Inc. in 1987. He later oversaw the expansion and development of the facility as it became the premier property to feature Video Lottery Terminals in New York State. Mr. Gerrity passed away in October of 2005. What initially was launched as a Pacing Series in his honor turned into a one-race Invitational in 2013. Though we aren’t likely to see Ahundreddollarbill or This Is The Plan compete at Saratoga again this year, it was certainly special to witness their performances last week, one of which broke a track record and the other marked the fastest mile of the ’21 campaign at the Spa as the summer stars shined bright.

Live racing takes place on Monday and Tuesday afternoons starting at 12 Noon and on Saturday evenings this summer with first post time set for 6:45pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!

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