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

Alluneedisfaith N & Shawn Gray

Alluneedisfaith N (Art Major) recorded his first local Open victory at Saratoga Casino Hotel on Saturday in what was a huge night for driver Shawn Gray. He was a beaten favorite in his two Spa starts coming into Saturday’s try when he drew post six in the six-horse Open Pace. The 5-2 second-choice in the wagering, Alluneedisfaith N got away last in the $16,000 feature and with fractions nothing close to blistering up front, the chances appeared bleak for the Alicia Gray trainee after the first half went in 56.4.

The favorite was carving out the fractions while confronted by a first-over Optical Illusion N (Billy Dobson). Those two slugged it out as Alluneedisfaith N remained sixth and last at the three-quarter pole. Gray fanned the New Zealand import to the far outside around the final turn and the eight year old made the kind of move rarely seen when racing against top flight competition. The classy veteran powered past his rivals to score in 1:52.3 to register his first win in a local Open highlighted by a final quarter of 27.1.

Alluneedisfaith N paid $7.30 to win and led an exacta with Keystone Dakota (Brett Beckwith) second that returned $35.40. Optical Illusion N finished third and rounded out a $156 triple. Gray’s win behind Alluneedisfaith N, who is owned by Doug Overhiser of Illinois, was one of four consecutive victories and five on the night in total for the veteran reinsman who sits fourth in the driver standings for the season.

Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with first post time set for Noon.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

Just Liv Broadway & Luke Hanners

For the second consecutive Friday night at Saratoga Casino Hotel, the evening belonged to the tandem of driver Luke Hanners and trainer Jaymes McAssey. Just a week removed from an evening which saw Hanners pilot four winners, three for McAssey, the pair pulled off a near carbon copy to last Friday’s performance. McAssey scored another training hat trick on the Friday card with his trainees accounting for three of four winners on the card for the up-and-coming Hanners.

Luke Hanners, who is in his first full season in the sulky at the Spa, currently sits third among local reinsmen on the season while McAssey is also third among Saratoga conditioners in 2022. With no Open on the docket Friday evening, a pair of $11,000 races for trotters served as co-features and it was McAssey and Hanners teaming up for a front-running score in one of them as young filly Just Liv Broadway (E L Titan) went coast-to-coast to record her first victory in what was her fifth local try.

Sophomore filly Dingle recorded her second win in as many local starts when she romped for McAssey and Hanners making good at odds of 1-5 to set a new lifetime mark of 1:58.1. The red-hot pairing’s third Friday score came in one of the pacing events on the card when JK’s Dobbins (JK Endofanera) went wire-to-wire to pull off a mild upset at odds of 5-1. Hanners’ other winner on the program came while piloting the Joel Flanders-trained Takoda Blue Chip who broke his maiden in his Saratoga debut on Friday.

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

Mike Sardella

Photo: Cheyanne Mandy

Probert & Brett Beckwith

Probert (Dali) has enjoyed a massively successful 2022 campaign while racing a handful of different tracks. Despite piling up more than $85,000 in earnings and winning four times on the season, the five year old hadn’t recorded a victory in a couple months when she made her return to Saratoga Casino Hotel on Monday afternoon.

The Melissa Beckwith-trained Probert was back to the Spa to compete in the $16,000 Fillies and Mares Open just three weeks after being a well-beaten favorite in the local feature. Probert finished second or third six times in her previous seven starts heading into Monday’s tilt and wound up being the even money in the ladies’ feature. Brett Beckwith pulled Probert first-over on the leader and eventually ground that one into submission before drawing away to win by two lengths.

Demeter N (Larry Stalbaum) also thrived from off the pace in Monday’s Open and closed to finish second while pocket-sitting Alittlesidehustl N (Billy Dobson) came on to be third. It was the second win in the local Open this year for Probert who scored in the feature back in May. On Monday, she paid $4.30 to win and led an exacta and triple that came back $21.40 and $91, respectively.

The Open score was one of two victories on the day for trainer Melissa Beckwith and driver Bret Beckwith who teamed up for a wire-to-wire score with Seafood Sweetheart (American Ideal) in a low-level conditional race. Probert is owned by Howard Jacobs, Jim Winske and Marcus Kemblowski.

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

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

Perfect Vixen & John Stark Jr.

Perfect Vixen (Muscles Yankee) wins the 2022 New York Sire Stakes at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Saratoga Casino Hotel hosted the 2022 NYSS (New York Sire Stakes) Excelsior Series finals on Sunday afternoon. All 8 finals went for a purse of $50,000.

Pictured here is the winner of the 3 year old filly trot final, Perfect Vixen, conditioned by local trainer Scott Mongeon and driven to the win by local driver John Stark Jr.
She left and settled into the 2 hole, but inherited the lead by the first quarter. After gaining the front she never looked back, and coasted to an easy win in 1:56, trotting her last quarter in 28.3.
– Melissa Simser

Talking Tom & Chris Long

Talking Tom (Artspeak) won the Open Pace at Saratoga Casino Hotel for the first time in his career on Saturday night doing so in upset fashion. The Perry Simser-trained pacer drew the rail just one week removed from a strong-closing third place finish in the $16,000 feature. Driver Chris Long powered out from the rail on Saturday with Talking Tom who was dismissed at odds of 12-1.

As the five year old approached the half-mile pole, rival Velocity Smoke (Phil Fluet) came powering up to his outside and cleared in a half that went in 57.1. Talking Tom then rode the leader’s coattails as the pacesetter was confronted by the race’s 2-5 betting favorite Moonshine Kisses (Jay Randall). Velocity Smoke was holding firm until mid-stretch when his two rivals got the better of him.

Talking Tom charged hard in the passing lane as Moonshine Kisses gave one last surge towards the wire but it was the Simser trainee who emerged victorious in a mile clocked in 1:53, a win time that serves as a new lifetime mark for him. Moonshine Kisses finished second to complete a $55 exacta while Velocity Smoke earned the show spot and rounded out a $194 triple.

Talking Tom, who moved over the $100,000 mark in career earnings with the win, is owned by his trainer Perry Simser in partnership with Dennis Nye of Saratoga Springs.

Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with eight NY Sire Stakes Excelsior Finals each going for a purse of $50,000. First post time is set for noon.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

Dingle & Luke Hanners

Trainer Jaymes McAssey surged into third place in the trainer standings at Saratoga Casino Hotel when on Friday night, the young conditioner scored three victories. McAssey, who was named the Peerless McGrath Award winner for up-and-coming trainers in 2017, had seven horses in on a trotting-heavy card on Friday night. The conditioner wasted little time making a trip to the winner’s circle when his American Soul (American Ideal) prevailed in the evening’s first race in a rare pacing event on the card.

Luke Hanners, who piloted American Soul to victory, sat behind the Jaymes McAssey-trained Dingle who debuted out of a new barn on Friday night after just being acquired by McAssey this week. That filly had little difficulty going coast-to-coast in her first start out of her new stable to win by more than eight lengths in a mile clocked in 1:59.1.

From there Hanners and McAssey teamed up once again with trotter Out Of The Blue who pocket-pulled on the race’s favorite approaching the three-quarter pole before rolling to an upset win at odds of 8-1 and secure a hat trick for her connections. In the evening’s nightcap, it was that team again as McAssey’s Explosive Ridge went off as the 8-5 second choice in the wagering and proved up to the task when Hanners guided Explosive Ridge to the front-end and never looked back.

The veteran trotter held firm in the stretch to prevail for second time on the season and complete a grand slam for Luke Hanners and Jaymes McAssey. Hanners sits firmly in the third spot among local trainers in 2022 while McAssey has surged into fourth after his huge night on Friday.

Live racing continues on Saturday evening at Saratoga with action beginning at 5PM.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

Sea Shadows & Brett Beckwith

Sea Shadows (Shadow Play) became the second distaffer to win the Fillies and Mares Open five times in 2022 when on Sunday evening she went coast-to-coast in the $16,000 feature. The Melissa Beckwith trainee drew post seven in the seven-horse Open but driver Brett Beckwith was undaunted by the post draw and marched the classy mare out to the early lead.

The seven year old paid a stiff price to get to the engine, posting a first quarter in 27.4 before reaching the half in 56.2 while traveling unopposed once she got to the front-end. Sea Shadows saw very little pressure before turning for home with a commanding lead. Pocket-sitter Demeter N (Larry Stalbaum) put in a solid effort to be second but was no match for the favored Sea Shadows who paced away to stop the timer in 1:53.2 for her second consecutive win in the Fillies and Mares Open and fifth score since coming to town in early June.

The race’s longshot Unstoppable Hall (Steve Rybka) earned the show spot. For Sea Shadows and her owner Paul O’Neil of Saratoga Springs, it was victory number twelve on the season which put her over the $100,000 mark in earnings on the ’22 campaign. The exacta with the 3-5 betting favorite on top paid $7.60 while the triple came back $64.50. Sea Shadows’ five Open wins ties her with Chasethecloudsaway for most among fillies and mares.

Live racing resumes on Friday evening in Saratoga with a first post time set for 5PM. The post-Labor day schedule for the month of September will include Friday and Saturday evening racing at 5PM at Saratoga Casino Hotel while Sunday and Monday matinees begin at Noon.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Cheyanne Mandy