Mega Miki & Leon Bailey

On an evening that saw an historic upset in the Kentucky Derby, the featured race at Saratoga Casino Hotel consisted of a shocker of its own. The 2-5 betting favorite in the $31,900 J.P. Morel Memorial Pacing Series Final was JM’s Rockin. This Monticello invader had not only gone eight for eight in the win column this year but hadn’t trailed at any point in a mile this season. Making every pole a winning one en route to put together the incredible win streak, JM’s Rollin was poised to once again cut the mile in the Series Final. Behind the gate though, the race’s big favorite made an untimely and extended break taking him out of the mix at the get go. The Final became wide open at that point and two-leg winner Mega Miki (Leon Bailey) took to the first-over path approaching the half. A closer in each of his consecutive victories heading into Saturday night, Mega Miki posted a career-best matching 1:55 win in leg two of the series when he sprung an upset at odds of 8-1 with Bailey in the bike. In the Final, the four year old Joel Flanders trainee came a back half in under 57 seconds before drawing away from his rivals in the stretch to become the ninth winner in the history of the J.P. Morel Memorial Series. 43-1 shot Lannister Hanover (Wally Hennessey) charged hard late to finish second while leg one winner Pound For Pound (Shawn Gray) closed to be third in a race that was a longshot bettor’s delight. The winner paid a middling $12.80 on top but the exacta and triple returned a bulky $631 and $4,721, respectively. Mega Miki is owned by Joel and Karen Flanders of Argyle, NY.

Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with a first post time set for 12 Noon. There will be a Pick Six Jackpot of $7,619. The Pick Six is a $.20 wager.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

Sammy The Bull & Billy Dobson

Sammy The Bull, trained by Gary Levine, and driver Billy Dobson won Sunday Afternoon’s “Charlie Hoffman Pace” final in 1:55.1.

Melissa Simser
Photo: Cheyanne Mandy

Keystone Dakota & Mark Beckwith

Keystone Dakota (Art Major) is in the midst of his breakout year and the Melissa Beckwith trainee continued his strong spring on Tuesday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The five year old was purchased back in March and moved to the Beckwith stable where he has completely thrived. Just a few weeks removed from a lifetime best win in 1:51.4 at Yonkers Raceway, Keystone Dakota returned to Saratoga where he took part in Tuesday’s $10,250 feature for pacers. Mark Beckwith piloted the rising star and moved him out to the early lead. The 8-5 morning-line favorite went off at odds of 5-2 and wound up making every pole a winning one before stopping the timer in 1:54 in a mile highlighted by a 27.3 final quarter. The victory was Keystone Dakota’s fifth in eight starts since moving to the Beckwith barn. Mr Big Wig (Billy Dobson) made his local debut and sat the pocket to Keystone Dakota before finishing as the runner-up on Tuesday while Sassy Hanover (Shawn Gray) earned the show spot. Keystone Dakota, who is owned by Howard Jacobs of West Orange, NJ, paid $7.20 to win and led an exacta and triple that came back $19.40 and $65.50, respectively.

Live racing continues on Wednesday afternoon with a first post set for Noon.

 

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser-Iovino

Hudson Phil & Billy Dobson

Hudson Phil (Shanghai Phil) was one of the top pacers at Saratoga Casino Hotel over the past couple of seasons. The Jackie Greene trainee was one of the top two winningest horses in the Open Pace in the 2019 and 2020 campaigns. This year, in his six year old season, Hudson Phil has split his time between Saratoga and tracks out of town. On Tuesday, Hudson Phil drew the outside post in the $10,500 feature for pacers one week after he scored an impressive victory in 1:52. Leading driver Billy Dobson sat behind Hudson Phil and took him back early on Tuesday. Getting away last as the race’s 2-1 co-favorite, Hudson Phil reaped the benefits of first half fractions of 26.4 and 56 seconds, the Greene trainee made his move heading to the three-quarter pole as Dobson fanned him to the far outside. The longtime Open star completed his back to back jacks behind a three-wide move which saw him score in 1:53. The victory was his second straight and third on the season. American Zest A (Larry Stalbaum) was the runner-up to Hudson Phil for the second consecutive week while No Ordinary Man (Phil Fluet) closed to finish third. The win for Hudson Phil, who is owned by the Kellogg Racing Stables of Queensbury, NY, was the 30th of his career in just 101 lifetime starts.

Live racing continues on Wednesday afternoon at Saratoga with three year old pacing fillies taking center stage as part of the New York Sire Stakes. First post is set for Noon.

 

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser-Iovino

Bontz N & Shawn Gray

Bontz N (American Ideal) has been the top pacing mare at Saratoga Casino Hotel over the course of the last three seasons. The Gary Levine trainee has been a consistent force in her time at the Spa mostly while competing in the Fillies and Mares Open. The classy ten year old is having another solid campaign in 2021 although she has done most of her damage in sub-Open levels this season. On Wednesday afternoon, Bontz N had Shawn Gray piloting her while competing in a $10,000 conditional race for distaffers. Gray flashed speed with the versatile mare who sat the pocket to longshot Lyons Girlhanover (Larry Stalbaum) who set sizzling fractions on the engine on a hot day in the Spa City. Bontz N popped the pocket heading to the three-quarter pole and though Lyons Girlhanover was tiring a bit, she did fight gamely on despite being bypassed by Bontz N. All the while, the race’s favorite Misty Memory N (Jimmy Devaux) who took back early came from off the pace and proved to be a threat to Bontz N who put away Lyons Girlhanover once and for all around the final turn. Bontz N found another gear in the stretch and proved best stopping the timer in a seasonal best win time of 1:53.4. She paid $8.90 to win. Misty Memory N was the runner-up while Lyons Girlhanover held on to be third. The exacta and triple came back $16 and $76, respectively. Bontz N, who is owned by April Aldrich of Greenfield Center, NY, moved her career bankroll to over the quarter million dollar mark with the earnings from her fourth victory of the season.

Live racing resumes on Monday afternoon at Saratoga with a Memorial Day matinee that is set to kick off at Noon.

 

Mike Sardella

Photo: Cheyanne Mandy

Unique Beach & Wally Hennessey

Unique Beach (Somebeachsomewhere) continued his recent dominance at Saratoga Casino Hotel on Tuesday afternoon. The Melissa Beckwith-trained pacer completed a sweep of the J.P. Morel Memorial Pacing Series as Wally Hennessey guided him to another decisive victory. Unique Beach won for the fifth consecutive week at the Spa and did so at odds of 1-9 as he went coast-to-coast on Tuesday to become the winner of the 8th annual J.P. Morel Memorial Pace. The four year old had his way on the engine before cruising to a three and a half length romp in a seasonal best clocking of 1:54. Leading trainer Gary Levine had the second and third-place finishers in the Final as his Furious Beach (Shawn Gray), who had a win and a second in the two legs of the Series heading into Tuesday, closed up the rail to finish second in the $32,200 Final. King Street (Billy Dobson), a leg two winner for Levine, earned the show spot. Unique Beach was as heavily backed as a horse can be paying $2.10 to win. The exacta with Furious Beach returned $9.60 while the triple came back $53.50. Unique Beach is owned by William Hartt of Carmel, ME. Hennessey piloted three winners on the Tuesday card as he continues to thrive in his two days per week driving at Saratoga.

Live racing continues on Wednesday at Saratoga Casino Hotel with first post time set for Noon.

 

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser-Iovino

Robyn Camden & Greg Merton

The $14,000 Fillies and Mares Open was the feature on a Wednesday afternoon card at Saratoga Casino Hotel that was marred by an ugly accident. Greg Merton picked up the catch-drive behind the Rob Harmon-trained Robyn Camden in the feature for distaffers after scheduled pilot Jay Randall was injured in a race two wreck. Robyn Camden always thrives when she comes to town and the invading mare continued that trend as the race’s 1-5 betting favorite on Wednesday. Merton took Robyn Camden back early and she sat patiently in a first half that went in 57 seconds. The six year old swung first-over past the half and unleashed an attack on the race’s front-running longshot before drawing away to win in 1:53.4. Surreal Feeling (Alek Chartrand) brought a three-race local win streak into the Open and made a late move after getting away last in the six-horse feature. Behind a strong final quarter, Surreal Feeling finished as the runner-up to Robyn Camden. Thats Incredible (Brett Crawford) earned the show spot. Robyn Camden is now two-for-two in the local Open this season for her owner Jason Osullivan of Dublin, Ireland.

Our thoughts and well wishes go out to all of those involved in the race two accident, especially driver Jay Randall. The horses involved all eventually walked away from the incident. Since the race was declared a no contest, the Virginia O’Brien Memorial Pacing Series has now been postponed for two weeks and will start anew on May 26th with the first of two legs that will lead up to the Final which will go for a purse of more than $30,000. Live racing resumes at Saratoga on Monday afternoon with first post set for Noon.

 

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser-Iovino

Misty Memory N & Jim Devaux

With no Fillies and Mares Open on the docket on Wednesday afternoon, a $10,000 conditional event for the ladies served as the feature at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Misty Memory N (Real Desire) took her shot in the Open last week and despite getting some support from the bettors never factored much in the big race for distaffers. On Wednesday, the Brett Derue trainee drew the rail off the class drop and wound up as the 8-5 public choice in the wagering. Jimmy Devaux piloted Misty Memory N and the meet’s second leading driver was aggressive from the get-go in the feature powering out to the early lead. The eight year old New Zealand invader never faced a legit challenge before pouring it on late to prevail by five and a half lengths in 1:55. Hereslooknatyou N (Phil Fluet) raced parked throughout the majority of the mile but still held strong to finish second while Glenferrie Blade A (Billy Dobson) came on to be third. Misty Memory N paid $5.40 to win and led an exacta and triple that returned $17.40 and $83.50, respectively. The victory was the second of the season for Misty Memory N who has hit the board in nine of her twelve starts in 2021 for owners Picarazzi, Petillo and Derue, all of NY.

Live racing resumes on Monday afternoon starting at Noon.

 

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser-Iovino

Racine Bell & Brian Cross

Racine Bell (So Surreal) has been a winning machine over the course of her young career. The Dave Dewhurst trainee was a New York Sire Stakes star in her first two racing seasons, amassing over $285,000 in earnings in her two and three-year-old campaigns. The talented mare made her 2021 debut at Saratoga Casino Hotel last Wednesday (March 3) in the Fillies and Mares Open and finished a solid third. This week, Racine Bell was the public’s even money favorite in the $10,000 Winners Over for distaffers and reinsman Brian Cross moved the talented mare right out to the early lead in the five-horse feature. Racine Bell clicked off a first half in 57.2 before powering away from her rivals behind a 27.4 third quarter to open up an insurmountable lead. The four year old stopped the timer in 1:54 for her first victory of the year and her 11th in 27 lifetime starts. Pammy Jo (Shawn Gray), the runner-up in last week’s Open, came up second-best once again. Bontz N (Billy Dobson) finished third. Racine Bell accounted for one of two wins on the card for her owners Chris and Dale Lawton of New York and trainer Dave Dewhurst who also teamed up for a victory with young trotter Me Three (Chapter Seven) who broke her maiden on Wednesday with Jimmy Devaux in the sulky.

Live racing resumes next Monday afternoon with jackpots continuing to build in the Jackpot Pick 6 and Jackpot Super High 5. The Pick 6 jackpot currently sits at $2,569 while the Super High 5 jackpot is at $3,068.

 

 

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser-Iovino