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

Velocity Smoke & Phil Fluet

Saturday’s card at Saratoga Casino Hotel was highlighted by a rare double feature. A pair of $16,000 Opens for pacers served as co-features and while each field was comprised of just six horses, both races resulted in some impressive efforts. An Open first-timer stole the show as Bob Uhl’s Velocity Smoke came into Saturday night as a winner of two straight in the conditional ranks but having never raced against top-flight competition in his career.

Coming into the try off back-to-back wins from off the pace that each came in 1:53.1, Velocity Smoke once again was a closer on Saturday as reinsman Phil Fluet got a cover trip for the Uhl trainee who fanned off the cover at the head of the stretch. When he did, he was all business and Velocity Smoke powered past the favored Lake Charles (Luke Hanners) to prevail in a seasonal best 1:52.2.

The Open first timer paid $9.70 to win in the mild upset and led an exacta with Lake Charles second that returned $28. Talking Tom (Chris Long) rounded out a $60 triple. Velocity Smoke is co-owned by his trainer Bob Uhl of Ballston Spa and Steve Delligan of Schenectady.

Unlike the winner of the other co-feature, Moonshine Kisses (Sunshine Beach) is no stranger to the Open Pace. The Jackie Greene-trained stalwart made his return to the Spa on Saturday and was heavily endorsed by the betting public. Bet down to odds of 1-5, Moonshine Kisses took back in the early going as the tempo was hot.

Former Spa Pacer of the Year Crockets Cullen N (Larry Stalbaum) was looking to repeat on the lead but the backfield got into motion late in the mile and driver Jay Randall fanned to the far outside turning for home with Moonshine Kisses. The Greene-trained pacer made a sweeping move in the stretch before stopping the timer in 1:52 in what was the first local Open Pace victory of the season for the talented six year old. Moonshine Kisses is owned by the Kellogg Racing Stables of Queensbury, NY.

Live racing continues in Saratoga on Sunday evening beginning at 6:45pm. There is a Pick 5 carryover of $1,131 with the Pick 5 starting in the first race.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

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