Pickup Man Hanover & Luke Hanners

There were three divisions of the first leg of the Gary Kamal Memorial Pacing Series contested on Saturday night at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Pickup Man Hanover (Huntsville) enjoyed a dynamic freshman campaign in 2021 which saw him hit the board in all eight starts en route to more than $110,000 in earnings.

The Simone Noud trainee made just the third start of his sophomore season on Saturday and cut the mile in his $12,500 division of the series. Driver Luke Hanners powered Pickup Man Hanover out to the lead in the early going and despite being tested for the majority of the mile held strong in the stretch to prevail in 1:54 and set a new lifetime mark. After recording leg one’s fastest victory on Saturday, Pickup Man Hanover established himself as perhaps the one to beat in the annual fall series.

The Andy Gardner-trained Special FX (Sportswriter) drew the rail in his division of the series and driver Chris Long got the four year old a pocket trip. The race’s odds-on favorite Wolftrax (Shawn Gray) got parked the mile but fought gamely every step of the way before losing a photo with Special FX at the wire. The Gardner trainee paid $12.60 in the mild upset. Wolftrax, who had to settle for second, will be one to watch in the remainder of the series.

The final division of the first leg of the Kamal Memorial went the way of Skyline Blue Chip (American Ideal). Despite the fact that the Gary Levine trainee came into the series on a two-race win streak, Skyline Blue Chip was dismissed at odds of 10-1 when he got a pocket trip from leading driver Jimmy Devaux. The three year old pacer cruised up the inside to record the upset while matching his lifetime mark while scoring in 1:55.2. Devaux piloted four winners on the Saturday card.

Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon with a first post time set for noon. There will be a Pick Five carryover of $1,995 beginning in the matinee’s first race.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

La Bella Vita N & Shawn Gray

La Bella Vita N (Changeover) stayed red hot on a chilly afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel on Monday. The Alicia Gray-trained distaffer overcame her outside post to win the $16,000 Fillies and Mares Open. Shawn Gray sat behind the seven year old as she won her third consecutive start on Monday.

Bouncing back and forth between Saratoga and Plainridge this summer, La Bella Vita N powered out early from post seven in the seven-horse feature and although she had to work hard to post a 27 second flat first quarter, the New Zealand invader got a big time breather in quarter two before reaching the half in 57 seconds. Probert (Brett Beckwith) wound up first-over on the race’s favorite on Monday and although she tested her in the stretch, the chase proved futile.

La Bella Vita N stopped the timer in 1:53.4 for her second victory in the local Open and her tenth win of the 2022 season. The even-money favorite led an exacta with Probert second that paid $19 while the triple, which was rounded out by Alittlesidehustl N (Billy Dobson), returned $49.60. She is owned by Bowie Racing of Illinois and Michael Goldberg Racing of Massachusetts.

Live racing resumes on Saturday evening at Saratoga with first post time set for 5pm.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

Alluneedisfaith N & Shawn Gray

Alluneedisfaith N (Art Major) has been a force since joining the stable of trainer Alicia Gray this August. On Saturday, the New Zealand invader won the local Open Pace for the second time and extended his streak of finishing first or second to five weeks. Alluneedisfaith N was the 4-5 betting favorite in Saturday’s Open at Saratoga Casino Hotel and driver Shawn Gray marched the public’s choice out to the lead in a first quarter in 28.1.

As if that fraction wasn’t soft enough, the veteran got even more of a breather before clicking off a half in 59.1 and from there the race seemed like it was over. Optical Illusion N (Chris Long) drew post seven in the seven-horse feature and had the daunting task of trying to close in a race with such soft fractions up front. Optical Illusion N drew even with Alluneedisfaith N late in the mile and those two squared off in the stretch before the favorite held strong to prevail in a mile paced in 1:54.3.

Optical Illusion N hit the board for the sixth time in his last seven tries in the Open when he finished second on Saturday to complete a $24 exacta. Keystone Dakota (Brett Beckwith) earned the show spot to round out a $76.50 triple. Alluneedisfaith N now has four wins and two seconds in seven starts since joining the Gray stable. The eight year old is owned by Doug Overhiser of Florida.

Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with a matinee starting at noon. There will be a $1,486 carryover in the Pick Five pool with the Pick Five starting in the afternoon’s first race.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

Justathriller & Brett Beckwith

Justathriller (Cantab Hall) continued his terrific season on Friday night at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Melissa Beckwith-trained trotter made his local debut in June and it didn’t take long for the three year old to make an impact. Finding a home in the winners of two but not more than five class (with an optional claiming tag attached) this season, Justathriller has been a winning machine and on Friday was the public’s 1-5 betting favorite as he looked for his tenth win of the season and eighth since coming to the Spa.

Brett Beckwith is the regular pilot for Justathriller who raced parked in the early going before clearing the lead approaching the quarter pole. The big favorite settled in on the front-end and didn’t face a legitimate challenge until mid-stretch when rival Mass Flow (Chris Long) put in a brief burst towards him. Justathriller prevailed in 1:58 to record his eighth local victory in just over four months.

Mass Flow was the runner-up while Titan On The Rail (Mickey McGivern) closed to be third as he hit the board for the fourth consecutive week. Justathriller, who is owned by William Hartt of Carmel, ME, earned the winner’s share of the $11,700 purse in one of the co-featured races on the card for trotters.

The other co-feature also went the way of a Beckwith trainee. Echo De Meautis FR (Ganymede) made his local debut a winning one as he scored in the evening’s $11,700 finale to complete a double for the Beckwith barn and a driving triple for reinsman Brett Beckwith.

Live racing continues on Saturday evening with a first post time set for 5pm.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

Racine Bell & Jason Bartlett

Racine Bell (So Surreal) has been competing against the top pacing mares in North America in the last few seasons and on Monday afternoon, the Dave Dewhurst-trained distaffer made her return to Saratoga Casino Hotel to compete in the Fillies and Mares Open. Jason Bartlett came to town to drive Racine Bell who was the public’s 1-9 favorite in the wagering despite drawing the outside post in the $17,150 feature.

Bartlett blasted Racine Bell out early but settled in third in the early going as local top-flight mare Sea Shadows (Brett Beckwith) carved out first-half fractions of 27.3 and 56 seconds. Racine Bell came off the rail heading to the three-quarter pole and although Sea Shadows looked to have something left, the Dewhurst trainee paced right by in the stretch to not only secure the Open win but do so in a final time of 1:51.3.

That clocking matched the all-time track record for pacing mares set in 2017 by Velocity Vespa and matched last year by the track’s Horse of the Year Surreal Feeling, who is owned by Racine Bell’s owners Chris and Dale Lawton. Sea Shadows was a super second while Alittlesidehustl N (Billy Dobson) earned the show spot.

The exacta and triple with the big favorite on top paid $11.20 and $36.60, respectively. Racine Bell’s win was her 28th in 68 lifetime starts and leads her closer to the million dollar mark for her career.

Live racing resumes on Friday evening with a 5pm first post.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

Mark Of A Beast & Phil Fluet

Long shot Mark Of A Beast (trained by Andrew Byler) and driver Phil Fluet scored an upset win in today’s open trot. Leaving at the start, Mark Of A Beast went wire to wire in 1:55. The only potential challenger, and heavy favorite, Dewey Arnold (trained by David Dewhurst) made a break after the ¾, leaving Mark Of A Beast to coast away from the rest of the field. The 5 year-old trotter paid $74.50 to win.

Saratoga Casino Hotel

Melissa Simser

Moonshine Kisses & Jay Randall

No trainer has won the Open Pace more times in the last decade at Saratoga Casino Hotel than Jackie Greene. The track’s two-time leading trainer splits her time between Saratoga and Plainridge as she has several top-flight, Open caliber pacers. On Saturday evening, Greene’s Moonshine Kisses (Sunshine Beach) was the 2-5 betting favorite in the local Open Pace as the six year old made his return to town off a victory in the Plainridge Open last week.

Driver Jay Randall took back early with the public’s odds-on choice on Saturday but with the first half going in just 57.2, it didn’t necessarily shape up to be a closer’s race. Moonshine Kisses picked up the cover of rival Optical Illusion N (Chris Long) who has become a force in the Open this summer and was coming off a win in last week’s installment of the $16,000 feature. The outer tier thrived and as Optical Illusion N wore down the leader, Moonshine Kisses tipped off his cover and came charging hard in the stretch before stopping the timer in 1:52.4 to record his second local Open win of the year and his sixth victory overall in thirteen seasonal starts.

Optical Illusion N was the runner-up while Patrikthepiranha A (Brett Beckwith) closed to be third. Moonshine Kisses, who is owned by Kellogg Racing Stables of Queensbury, NY, paid $2.90 to win as the big favorite and led an exacta and triple that returned $11.80 and $36, respectively. The victory was the sixth at the Spa this season in the Open Pace for Jackie Greene.

Live racing continues on Sunday with a matinee beginning at noon.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

Somiki & Wally Hennessey

Trainer Gary Levine enjoyed a big month of September at Saratoga Casino Hotel and on Friday night, the veteran conditioner wrapped up the month in style. The 40 year old former leading trainer at the Spa scoring a training double on the Friday card as his Somiki (Always B Miki) made his local debut a winning one in a dominant effort to kick off the evening’s program. Somiki was the public’s 1-5 top choice in the wagering in the $8,700 Friday opener and raced just like an overwhelming favorite should. Hall of Famer Wally Hennessey brushed Somiki to the lead heading to the quarter pole and once he got there, it was over.

The three year old opened up daylight approaching three quarters before reporting home an eleven length winner in 1:55.4. Late in the card, Skyline Blue Chip (American Ideal) was making just his second start out of the Levine stable when he, like his stablemate earlier in the evening, was backed to the tune of 1-5 in the betting. Despite being the big favorite, the three year old Skyline Blue Chip sat patiently in the early stages of his try in a $9,500 race for young pacers.

Reinsman Billy Dobson pulled the right line and the sophomore pacer charged up and past the leaders before stopping the timer in a career-best 1:55.2 to complete a training double for Levine who has vaulted into third in the trainer standings behind what was a monster month of September for him at the Spa.

Live racing continues on Saturday at Saratoga with a first post time set for 5pm. There is a Pick Six Jackpot that sits at $14,269. The Pick Six begins in Saturday’s sixth race.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Cheyanne Mandy

La Bella Vita N & Shawn Gray

It’s been a hot stretch at Saratoga Casino Hotel for trainer Alicia Gray and driver Shawn Gray and on Monday, the tandem teamed up for their second Open Pace win in the last three days at the Spa. Their Alluneedisfaith N won the Open Pace on Saturday night on an evening that saw Shawn Gray pilot five winners. In Monday’s matinee, the Alicia Gray-trained La Bella Vita N (Changeover) was the public’s overwhelming favorite in the wagering after the would-be favored Sea Shadows got scratched.

Gray took the 1-5 shot La Bella Vita N back in the early going in what was a field of five in the $16,000 Fillies and Mares Open. The big favorite sat patiently in a first half that went in 56.3. Gray picked up cover with his seven year old distaffer and in a matter of just a few strides, she put the swoop to the group pacing away from her rivals to score in 1:52.2. For La Bella Vita N, it was victory number nine on the season and her second in the local Fillies and Mares Open. With the earnings from Monday’s score, La Bella Vita N went over the $100,000 mark for the ’22 campaign. The New Zealand invader is owned by Bowie Racing of Shorewood IL and Michael Goldberg RacingLLC of Massachusetts.

Live racing resumes on Friday evening at Saratoga with will feature some intriguing carryovers. The Pick Five, which begins in race 1, has a carryover of $2,453. The Jackpot in the Pick Six has climbed to $10,071 while the Super High Five Jackpot in the evening’s finale will carry $3,611.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

Big Box Hanover & Larry Stalbaum

Big Box Hanover, and trainer/driver Larry Stalbaum coasted to an easy open win for the second week in a row Sunday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel, Saratoga Springs, New York.

After getting away fourth, Larry Stalbaum pulled first up at the half mile marker with Big Box Hanover and took the lead, winning by 3 lengths in 1:56.

Melissa Simser