Playing the claiming game can be a difficult task in the sport of harness racing but it also can be very rewarding. As is the case any time an owner acquires a horse, whether it be private purchase, sale purchase or via a claim, that owner is taking a chance. Is the horse sound? How will he or she adjust to the barn change? What driver will be used for his/her new connections? These questions and many more will often go through an owner’s head when they consider entering a claim. Oftentimes, a horse that is entered for a claim at Saratoga Casino Hotel has spent a lengthy time racing at the Spa while sometimes they can be a relative unknown either due to being a shipper or because he’s a local newbie. For owner Lou Magliocca, claiming has often been the game of choice over the course of his over a decade worth of horse ownership.
Magliocca decided to get involved in owning in 2010 and put together a partnership to claim a lower level horse to give to trainer Jim Martuscello, a longtime family friend. Martuscello, Magliocca’s football coach back in the day, manages a small size stable which allows him to give each of his horses a little extra tender loving care according to Magliocca. “When we decided to get horses, Jimmy was the no-brainer trainer for us. He’s a good man, a good horseman and we go back a long, long time,” the Amsterdam resident told me. The first experience in horse ownership worked out pretty well for Magliocca, who along with his brother and their friend Ray Lasky, claimed a mare named Please Sweetie midway through the ’10 season. The claim certainly proved fruitful when the pacer won her first five races after moving to the Martuscello stable. Her successes eventually resulted in her being named Filly and Mare Claiming Pacer of the Year that season. Not a bad start for a new ownership group.
After enjoying immediate success, Magliocca assembled a big group of guys to add to his group. He has had over a dozen horses over the course of the last decade and most often has a different mix of owners for each one. This season, Lou teamed up with one of his regular partners Ray Lasky, of Mechanicville, and added a new pair to their group. Richard Jozwiak had horses previously but had never been part of Magliocca’s group while Zach Gugliemelli, another Amsterdam native, wanted to get involved for the first time. The hard part, according to Lou, is finding horses. “We don’t usually like to buy horses from sales or online. I prefer getting one that we at least know something about. A local horse that we’ve seen race before,” Magliocca explained. “We wanted to get one last year but during the pandemic horses were so hard to come by so we just waited it out. We didn’t want to rush things and waited until we saw something that we were really interested in.” Fast forward to the spring of 2021 and Magliocca approached Martuscello about Acefortyfour River.
The four year old mare came to Saratoga in May and was being trained by the track’s defending training champion Gary Levine. She won her first start at the Spa after which Martuscello inquired about the mare to Levine who indicated that she would be back in the $8,000 claimer in which she won if they wanted to claim her. And they did. Acefortyfour River was claimed out of her second local start but the young distaffer didn’t respond well to her change of connections. At least not right away.
Acefortyfour River not only struggled in the early going for Martuscello but she never even made to the start of her first two races while staying on stride. After making breaks in her first two starts for them, Magliocca and Martuscello had to watch their new acquisition qualify. Not a good start. But….better times were ahead. Much better. Following a really strong qualifier, Acefortyfour River finished fourth in her third start off the claim. Though she did tire on the front end, she showed improvement. First of all, she stayed pacing. Also, she showed fast turn of foot to get to the lead. The following week, Acefortyfour River drew the rail with young driver Brett Beckwith sitting behind for the first time in what wound up being a wire-to-wire victory. It wouldn’t be the last good post draw for the mare and it certainly wouldn’t be her owners last trip to the winner’s circle. “She had some issues early on for us,” Magliocca said. “She was acting a little crazy and wouldn’t even make the gate. We changed some equipment and she qualified great. Thankfully, she quickly turned the corner.” And turn it she did.
Acefortyfour River enjoyed a super summer at the Spa. Jay Randall became the driver for the mare once the veteran reinsman returned from a lengthy layoff caused by injuries suffered in an on-track accident. In Randall’s first start sitting behind her, Acefortyfour River recorded her second victory of the summer and did so in career-best fashion. The lifetime best score in 1:55.2 came during a stretch in which she hit the board (finished in the top three) in six consecutive starts. The four year old had seemingly figured it all out and after thriving in the non-winners of two race lifetime condition graduated up into the next level following her win on August 31st. After a ho-hum debut in the class, Acefortyfour River found the winning way again and registered another wire-to-wire score for Randall right after Labor Day. After a second-place finish the following week, she drew the rail last Monday while competing for a purse of $10,500. She did it again. Down the road, start to finish, coast to coast for Acefortyfour River who has finished first or second in seven of her last eight starts. The memories of the crazy mare who couldn’t make the gate a distant memory, Magliocca told me how much fun this run has been for the ownership group. “Most of us have been there every time she’s raced,” he said of the partnership of owners. “We bring the grandkids to the barn. Being at the track with our friends and family to get our picture taken when she wins is what it’s all about. We’ve really just enjoyed the whole experience.” And it would be tough not to. Acefortyfour River has hit the board in nine of her last ten starts and made over $20,000 over the course of the past two months. What’s next for her? She is entered into the first ever Bunny Lake Pacing Series for fillies and mares set to take place on Tuesdays this fall. “The competition looks like it’s going to be really tough,” Magliocca admitted. “But she’s really sharp right now and she deserves a try. She’s earned it. She’s been a blessing.” As far as what’s next for the newly formed ownership group, Magliocca says “we’re a little particular when it comes to buying horses. Don’t want to overpay or to buy one just to buy one. But this group has obviously had a ton of fun with this whole experience and we’ve got other guys who want to get into the business as well. So we’re looking.” And why not? Maybe Magliocca and company can find another “Ace” up their sleeve like the one they’ve watched thrive all summer long.
Live racing takes place every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday afternoon this fall with first post time set for 12 Noon each day. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!