Quadratic Blue Chip & Chris Long

It has been a terrific late summer surge for Quadratic Blue Chip (Muscle Hill) at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Lisa Zabielski-trained trotter, who has previously dabbled in the local Open here and there, won the Friday feature for the first time last week (August 26). Zabielski and driver Chris Long have been a potent pairing this summer at the Spa and after their Quadratic Bluechip scored his first Open win last week, he drew post seven on Friday in his effort to repeat in the $16,000 feature.

The race’s favorite Reign Of Honor (Brett Beckwith) made a rare appearance on the front-end and despite working relatively hard to get to the top clicked off a half in a reasonable 57.2. As he and pocket-sitting ER Sophia (Jimmy Devaux) squared off in the stretch, the rail opened up for Quadratic Bluechip who was dismissed at odds of 25-1. The biggest longshot in the feature charged hard in the passing lane and won a photo with Reign Of Honor in a mile clocked in 1:56.3.

ER Sophia finished third but was disqualified for causing interference to a rival around the final turn which resulted in Remember Titans (Jay Randall) being placed third. Quadratic Blue Chip, who is co-owned by Mark Salerno and trainer Lisa Zabielski, paid $52 to win as a rare back-to-back Open Trot winner and led an exacta and triple that returned $316.50 and $809, respectively.

Zabielski and Long doubled on the card as they teamed up for a victory with young trotter Sevenare who like stablemate Quadratic Bluechip recorded a victory for the second consecutive week.

Live racing continues on Saturday evening at Saratoga with a 6:45pm first post.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

Crockets Cullen N & Larry Stalbaum

Crockets Cullen N was Saratoga Casino Hotel’s Pacer of the Year in both 2019 and 2021 (there were no awards in ’20 due to the shortened season) and although he has had solid showings against the track’s top horses in ’22, the veteran didn’t have an Open victory on his ledger this year heading into Saturday night’s start. Larry Stalbaum owns, trains and drives the classy eleven year old who is the winningest horse in the local Open Pace over the course of the last three years.

On Saturday, Crockets Cullen N drew post two while competing in the $16,000 feature and was aggressive from the get-go. Stalbaum moved him out to the early lead where they traveled unopposed through a first half in 56.2. The favored Alluneedisfaith N (Shawn Gray) rode the pocket behind the leader while last week’s Open winner Optical Illusion N (Chris Long) made his move heading toward the three-quarter pole.

The trio of New Zealand invaders slugged it out in the stretch but it was Crockets Cullen N who would not be denied, stopping the timer in 1:51.3 to record his fifth victory of the campaign but just his first in Open company.

Alluneedisfaith N, the 2-5 betting favorite, had to settle for second while Optical Illusion N earned the show spot. Crockets Cullen N paid $22.40 to win in the upset in the $16,000 feature. The exacta and triple returned $50 and $190, respectively. With the earnings from his Saturday score, he moved his career bankroll to over the half million dollar mark.

Live racing continues on Sunday evening at Saratoga with a first post time of 6:45pm.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

Quadratic Bluechip & Chris Long

Driver Chris Long has been on a tear this summer at Saratoga Casino Hotel and on Friday night, the veteran reinsman hit a grand slam. Among the quartet of victors on the card for Long was Quadratic Bluechip (Muscle Hill) who prevailed in the $16,000 Open Trot. The Lisa Zabielski-trained Quadratic Bluechip, who finished third in last week’s installment of the Open, drew post three on Friday night and was dismissed at odds of 10-1.

Long powered the six year old out a bit in the early going and situated him in the pocket behind veteran Cash Me Out (Phil Fluet). The fractions for Cash Me Out were extremely soft as the millionaire cruised unopposed through a first half in 59 seconds. The race’s favorite Reign Of Honor (Brett Beckwith) came first-over on the leader and as those two went toe-to-toe in the stretch, Quadratic Bluechip found late life in the passing lane before coming on to score in 1:56.4 for his first Open win of the season.

Reign Of Honor came up second best while Cash Me Out held on to finish third. Quadratic Bluechip paid $22 to win and led an exacta and triple that came back $83.50 and $271.50, respectively. Zabielski’s Sevenare scored in the evening’s nightcap with Long at the controls to complete a training double for her. Long also piloted a pair of Andy Byler-trained trotters to wins as Katkin Morgan and Mark Of A Beast prevailed via first-over journeys on the Friday card. Byler scored three wins, in total, on the card.

Live racing continues on Saturday evening in Saratoga with a first post time of 6:45pm. All eyes will be on race 1 when the Pick Five begins as the carryover in the Pick Five pool will be $11,243.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Cheyanne Mandy

Birch Island Betty & Luke Hanners

Birch Island Betty (Big Jim) won the Fillies and Mares Open for the fourth time of the season at Saratoga Casino Hotel when the Eve Bergeron-trained pacer went coast-to-coast on Sunday night. They powered out to the early lead and driver Luke Hanners rated the mile well, getting a half in 57.2 before clicking off three-quarters in 1:25.4.

The seven year old distaffer got tested in the stretch when last week’s Open winner Demeter N (Larry Stalbaum) tried to complete a last-to-first move to repeat in the ladies’ feature. They held off that late bid and stopped the timer in 1:54.2 to record her fifth victory of the season and fourth in Open company. Demeter N finished second while Luck B Mine (Jimmy Devaux) earned the show spot in the $16,000 feature.

Birch Island Betty, who paid $11.80 to win in the mild upset, is owned by Dany Grenier of Quebec, Canada. The exacta and triple in the race came back $51 and $313, respectively. With the win, Birch Island Betty moved her career bankroll to over the quarter million dollar mark.

Live racing resumes on Friday evening at Saratoga with a first post time of 6:45pm. There will be Pick 5 carryover of $3,248 on Friday with the Pick 5 beginning in the first race.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Cheyanne Mandy

ER Sophia & Jimmy Devaux

ER Sophia (Swan For All) won the Open Trot at Saratoga Casino Hotel in July for the first time in her career. The John Mongeon trainee went coast-to-coast with leading driver Jimmy Devaux at the controls to record that victory. Following a third place finish in last week’s trotting feature, it was back into the Open again on Friday night for ER Sophia who drew post seven in the eight-horse feature and thus was the biggest longshot in the race while dismissed at odds of 21-1. Devaux sat patiently in the early going with the mare who was looking to beat the boys in the feature once again.

ER Sophia made her move at the three-quarter pole before swinging wide around the final turn. The six year old came charging home and wound up in a photo finish with millionaire trotter Cash Me Out (Phil Fluet). ER Sophia emerged victorious and paid $45.60 to upset in the $17,150 Open. Cash Me Out was the runner-up while Quadratic Bluechip (Chris Long) earned the show spot.

ER Sophia’s victory was her seventh on the season and second in Open company for owners Brenda Messenger and Scott Woogen. She led an exacta and triple in the feature that returned $301.50 and $2,378, respectively. Devaux piloted four winners on the Friday card.

Live racing continues on Saturday evening at Saratoga with a first post set for 6:45pm.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

Mach Le More A & Jimmy Devaux

Amanda Kelley has been the winningest trainer in the Open Pace thus far this season at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Her stable came into Saturday night with eight wins in the feature for pacers and added another one to tally. Mach Le More A (Mach Three) prevailed in his previous try in the Open when he set a lifetime mark scoring in 1:52. Following a week off, it was back into the $16,000 feature for the Aussie invader who had leading driver Jimmy Devaux at the controls. Devaux blasted Mach Le More A out at the start and got to the top in a reasonable 28.1 before clicking off a half in 56.4.

The seven year old still appeared strong through three quarters of 1:24.2 and his rivals proved no match for the Kelley trainee in the stretch as he paced away from them to stop the timer in 1:52 to match the lifetime mark he set in his previous start. Nuttin But Finesse (Brett Beckwith) sat the pocket and finished second while Crockets Cullen N (Larry Stalbaum) surged to come on for third. Mach Le More A paid $9.10 to win in recording his third Open score of the season.

Kelley’s Lake Charles (Well Said) is the winningest horse in Opens this year at the Spa and dropped down into Winners Over company on Saturday night. Competing in a $13,750 event for pacers, Lake Charles put in pretty much a carbon copy effort from that of stablemate Mach Le More A as he assumed command from the get-go and went on to wire his field in 1:52.1 at odds of 3-1. Lake Charles, who like Mach Le More A is owned by Scheigert&Alliesracing LLC, was driven to victory by Shawn Gray.

Live racing continues on Sunday evening at Saratoga with a first post set for 6:45pm.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

Southeaster & Chris Long

Southeaster (RC Royalty) became the sixth different horse to win the Open Trot in the last six installments of the Friday feature at Saratoga Casino Hotel when he sprung the upset. The John Roach-trained trotter went over the $100,000 mark in career earnings last week in his first start in the local Open. On Friday night, Southeaster drew post five in the eight-horse feature and was put in gear early on by driver Chris Long. Southeaster looped the field into the first turn and cruised unopposed through a first half that went in 56.4.

The race’s favorite never posed much of a threat to the leader who clicked off three quarters in 1:26.1 and had enough in the stretch to hold off the late challenge from Gettin Messi (Shawn Gray) who finished second. The upset-minded ER Sophia (Jimmy Devaux) closed sharply to be third in the $16,000 Open. Southeaster paid $20.40 to win in the upset and led an exacta and triple that returned $122.50 and $502, respectively. The Roach trainee became the fourth trotter in as many weeks to be a first-time Open winner at the Spa. Southeaster is owned by William Miller II of Bluffton, SC.

Live racing continues on Saturday evening at Saratoga with a first post time set for 6:45pm.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Cheyanne Mandy

La Bella Vita N & Shawn Gray

La Bella Vita N (Changeover) drew post position seven in a seven-horse featured field on Sunday evening at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Alicia Gray trainee was making her debut in the Fillies and Mares Open at the Spa following a successful stint at Plainridge Park in Massachusetts. La Bella Vita N advanced a bit in the early going in Sunday’s $16,000 Open as Shawn Gray got her away fourth.

Like La Bella Vita N, Always Watching (Jordan Derue) was in the local Open for the first time in her young career and drew the rail for Sunday’s try. That longshot was aggressive from the get-go and the 11-1 shot carved out first half fractions of 27.1 and 56.4 before rebuffing a first-over bid from the race’s favorite. All the while, La Bella Vita N drafted behind the cover of the favorite before fanning three-wide around the final turn.

The seven year old New Zealand invader surged in the stretch and completed her swoop of the group to score in 1:53.1 in her first ever Open win at Saratoga. Always Watching finished a strong second while Birch Island Betty (Billy Dobson) came on to be third. La Bella Vita N, who is owned by Bowie Racing and Michael Goldberg Racing, paid $10.20 to win in the mild upset.

The exacta returned $83 while the triple came back $364. The victory in the Open was one of two on the card for Alicia Gray and Shawn Gray whose Spicytuna Bluechip (Roll With Joe) scored earlier in the night.

Live racing will resume on Friday night at Saratoga with a 6:45pm first post time. There will be a Pick Five carryover of $2,326 starting in the evening’s first race.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Renée Casavant

Optical Illusion & Chris Long

Optical Illusion N (He’s Watching) came into Saturday night riding a modest win streak at Saratoga Casino Hotel. A winner of two in a row, the New Zealand invader in is the midst of his first season in the U.S. and has found a home in the Lisa Zabielski stable. The six year old had eight wins to his credit in 2022 when he made his debut in the Open Pace on Saturday night.

Assigned the rail following back-to-back jacks down in company, Optical Illusion N was aggressive from the get-go in the $16,000 feature as driver Chris Long would not relinquish the early lead. After being challenged by a parked out rival in a first quarter of 27.3 and a first half of 55.4, the Zabielski trainee didn’t get much of a breather heading to three quarters either as the favored Hudson Phil (Billy Dobson) came knocking on the door of the leader.

Those two sparred around the final turn but Optical Illusion N proved to be tough as nails as he dug in to win in 1:52.3 for a victory in his first ever Open try. Hudson Phil was a strong second while Crockets Cullen N (Larry Stalbaum) earned the show spot. Optical Illusion N paid $10.00 to win in the mild upset and led an exacta and triple that came back $36.20 and $144, respectively.

Optical Illusion N is owned by his trainer Lisa Zabielski in partnership with Kim Zabielski. The score was the first in local Opens this season for both Zabielski and reinsman Chris Long.

Live racing continues on Sunday evening in Saratoga Springs with a first post time set for 6:45pm.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Renée Casavant

Kele Kele & Wally Hennessey

A pair of New York Sire Stakes races for three year old pacing fillies served as features on the Friday night card at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Two fields of five were featured and each went for a purse of $82,500. John Mc Dermott’s Kele Kele (So Surreal) is in the midst of a strong sophomore season that saw her hit the board in each of her ten starts on the year heading into Friday’s try.

Wally Hennessey catch-drove Kele Kele and powered the filly out to the early lead. After favorable fractions in lap one, Kele Kele had plenty in reserve for the final half and prevailed by almost two lengths in 1:53.3. The Mc Dermott trainee paid $6.10 to win in what was her third victory of the season. Kele Kele is owned by Garofalo, Hurrikane Racing LLC and Jonathan Klee Racing.

The other $82,500 division of the NY Sire Stakes also saw a wire-to-wire winner as Just Divine (Huntsville) recorded her first victory of her 2022 campaign. The runner-up in the Sire Stakes Final as a two year old last season, the Ron Burke-trained Just Divine drew the rail on Friday night with Jordan Stratton at the controls.

The sophomore enjoyed comfortable fractions on the lead while traveling unopposed through a half in 58.3. From there, Just Divine had to hold off pocket-sitting favorite Valar Dohaeris (Mark Macdonald) and did so to secure her first score of the season, stopping the timer in 1:53.4. Just Divine paid $5.40 to win as her race’s second choice in the wagering.

Valar Dohaeris finished a strong second to lengthen her “on the board” streak as she has now finished in the top three in all seven starts in ’22. Just Divine is owned in partnership by Donovan, Sbrocco, Henderson and Purnell&Libby.

Live racing continues on Saturday night at Saratoga Springs. There will be a Pick 5 carryover of $1,967. The Pick 5 begins in the evening’s first race which is set for 6:45pm.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser