Lisa Zabielski was named the Peerless McGrath Award winner at Saratoga Casino Hotel back in 2019. In that season, she wasn’t just the track’s breakout star, she was one of the top trainers at the Spa when she finished third among local conditioners in a year in which she piled up 71 wins (almost all of them coming locally) and earning just shy of a half million dollars in purses. After a little bit of a lull in the abbreviated 2020 season, Lisa started to head back in the right direction in the ’21 campaign when she ended up fourteenth in the local trainer standings. Zabielski is back in full force this year and is enjoying a very strong meet. After just a run of the mill first few months, Zabielski’s stable has been on an absolute tear this summer. Her barn has grown recently and the successes of some of the new additions, combined with a couple of old friends, have resulted in a summer streak that has been sensational.
Zabielski had gone through a stretch in her terrific ’19 season in which she enjoyed success in local Opens. She even rattled off a hat trick in the Open Trot with Mugshots Bro who went on to be a nominee for Trotter of the Year that season. While Lisa was scoring victories in the Open Trot, she was also thriving in the track’s big race for lady pacers as her Osprey Blue Chip made back-to-back trips to the winner’s circle in the Fillies and Mare Open. Outside of that month long stint, Zabielski has only seen one of her trainees secure a victory in an Open. That is, until last month.
Optical Illusion N joined the Zabielski stable early this year and the New Zealand invader wasted little time making an impact. After finishing second in his U.S. debut, the six year old went on to rattle off five consecutive victories in the springtime while competing in large part locally but while also winning a pair of races at Plainridge Park in Massachusetts. Following a fairly successful, albeit non-descript, stretch early on in the summer, Optical Illusion N went back-to-back in late July. When the calendar turned to August, he launched into Open company at the Spa for the first time, a territory where he doesn’t look like he’ll be getting out of any time soon.
Optical Illusion N drew the rail for his first start in the Open Pace and the Zabielski stable’s regular driver Chris Long was at the helm. Long, who has sat behind the rising star in every one of his starts since late June, wanted the lead at all costs with the Zabielski trainee who parked out a rival while on the lead in his Open debut. The fractions in the $16,000 feature were as hot as the weather and the talented pacer held his ground throughout before stopping the timer in 1:52.3 in what was his third consecutive victory and first in Open company. Two weeks later, Optical Illusion N proved the score was no fluke as he once again went coast-to-coast in the Open, this time having to withstand first-half fractions of 26.3 and 54.4 while cutting the mile in the Saturday feature! Following a third place finish on August 27th, Optical Illusion N took part in one of last Saturday night’s double features. Installed as the 2-1 morning line favorite in one of two $16,000 Opens on the evening, the speedy pacer got a tough trip and had to settle for a fourth-place finish.
While Optical Illusion N gave his trainer her first career wins in the Open Pace with his pair of scores in August, a trotter out of the Zabielski stable also had a month to remember. Quadratic Bluechip joined the Zabielski stable last August and enjoyed a ’21 season in which he won a total of 13 races between his time at Northfield and after coming to the Spa. The six year old has spent his year mostly bouncing between the higher level conditions and the Winners Over. After prevailing on a few occasions in the Winners Over, Quadratic Bluechip has wound up in the Open on a handful of occasions in ’22. That scenario presented itself once again in mid-August when the Zabielski stable’s top trotter finished third from the rail in the $16,000 Open one week before drawing post three. Long, who sits behind Quadratic Bluechip in almost all of his starts, got a pocket trip in the August 26th installment of the Open when he rode the coattails of local legend Cash Me Out before tracking that millionaire trotter down to record his first ever Open victory doing so while dismissed at odds of 10-1. It was the third Open score for the Zabielski stable during the month of August but if the young trainer was upset to see the calendar turn to September, she didn’t stay forlorn for very long.
Quadratic Bluechip was back in the Open last Friday night but this time he drew post seven in the eight-horse feature. Due in large part to that post draw, the fresh Open winner was the biggest longshot in the race, going off at 25-1. Long took back in the early going and gave Quadratic Bluechip a ground-saving trip on the rail. Fortunes shined upon the red-hot Zabielski-Long combo when a rival broke around the final turn opening up the inside for the razor sharp high-stepper. The dueling leaders were quickly joined in the stretch by Quadratic Bluechip who seemed to come out of nowhere before closing to win in 1:56.3 to match his seasonal mark in what was his second victory in as many weeks in the Open for Zabielski who now owns four Open wins over the course of the last four weeks. In each of those victories, Chris Long has been in the sulky in what has been a sizzling summer at the Spa for the veteran reinsman.
Although Optical Illusion N and Quadratic Bluechip have no doubt been the stars of the stable of Lisa Zabielski, there is another of her horses who owned the month of August and is catching the eye of many at the Spa. Much like Optical Illusion N, Racey Rach N is a New Zealand import and the mare had less than a dozen career races to her credit when she made her U.S. debut in early August. The mare is looking like the kind of talent that will wind up being in the Open sooner rather than later as she finished her month of August with a record of four-for-four, winning each of her starts by open lengths. Within that stretch, she handled a step up in class with ease and on Sunday night was attempting to lengthen her win streak to five. Although she’s not an Open horse, yet, Racey Rach N is another Zabielski trainee to go on a tear in recent weeks and could well find herself in the Fillies and Mares Open before the season is complete. At this rate, she may be ready to tackle the top ladies at the Spa by the time September is through which would give the Zabielski stable a participant in all three Opens in what has been a big time bounce back season for the former McGrath Award winner.
The live racing schedule changes for the month of September and will feature racing four days/evenings per week with action starting at 5pm on Fridays and Saturdays and at 12 noon on Sundays and Mondays. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!