Rckaroundtheclock N & Greg Merton
Wednesday marked the conclusion of the sixth annual Virginia O’Brien Memorial Pacing Series at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The series for fillies and mares was highlighted by a dominant force as Rckaroundtheclock N (A Rocknroll Dance) brought her sensational win streak to the track as the big favorite in the $32,500 O’Brien Memorial Final. The Amanda Kelley trainee came into the Final with eight wins in nine starts this year since coming over from New Zealand during the offseason. Rckaroundtheclock N’s only defeat came at Yonkers Raceway this spring and not only has the mare not lost a race in about three months but heading into Wednesday, she hadn’t trailed at any quarter pole since suffering her rare defeat. Going coast-to-coast on a weekly basis, the five year old mare competed in her biggest race yet on Wednesday afternoon and she again proved up to the task.
Greg Merton has been the regular driver for Rckaroundtheclock N this year and the veteran reinsman was forced to change tactics with the star distaffer this week. Drawing post position seven in Wednesday’s Series Final, Rckaroundtheclock N again showed her characteristic early speed but with several leavers inside of her was forced to settle in mid-pack in the early going. After leader Clemmie Hanover (Brian Cross) got to the first quarter in 27.2, she backed things down a bit before reaching the half in 57.2. It was at that point when the 2-5 betting favorite made her move. Rckaroundtheclock N surged up first-over and attacked Clemmie Hanover who fended off the favorite for a while before succumbing to the pressure around the final turn. As Rckaroundtheclock N took the lead, though, leg-one winner American Chance (Jimmy Devaux) tipped off her cover and tried to gun the favorite down in the stretch. Those two went toe-to-toe before Rckaroundtheclock N and her “don’t take no for an answer” mentality kicked in and was the deciding factor. She stopped the timer in 1:55.4 to prevail in the $32,500 Final and complete the series’ sweep. American Chance was the runner-up and has now finished first or second in five consecutive starts. Clemmie Hanover, a leg two winner, earned the show spot. Rckaroundtheclock N’s odds of 2-5 were actually the highest she’s had attached to her in almost three months! She paid $2.90 to win and led an exacta and triple that came back $5.30 and $8.80 in the chalky Series Final.
Rckaroundtheclock N, who is owned by the Scheigert Racing Stable of Saratoga Springs, NY, adds her name to the list of previous O’Brien Memorial winners which consists of Karla Art, Shesnobeachboy, Nashurallability, Maggies Way and Reflexionofroyalty. Merton and Kelley became the sixth different driver and trainer, respectively, to win the series in its history.
Live racing takes place every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at Saratoga with first post times set for Noon.
Photo: Melissa Simser-Iovino
Surreal Feeling & Alek Chartrand
In the more than seventy years of harness racing at Saratoga Casino Hotel, there has never been a faster mile by a mare than the one Surreal Feeling (So Surreal) paced on Wednesday afternoon. The Dale Lawton-trained distaffer has been a winning machine over the course of her career as the six year old mare came into Wednesday’s try in the $14,000 Fillies and Mares Open with 25 wins in 74 lifetime tries. Tasked with taking on 1-2 betting favorite Robyn Camden (Greg Merton) who dominated in last week’s Fillies and Mares Open, Surreal Feeling powered out to the early lead on Wednesday. The speedy mare paid a stiff price to get to the front-end as it took a first quarter of 26.4 to secure the top spot. After pacing the half in 56 seconds and with Robyn Camden looming large and closing in, Surreal Feeling just continued to roll along with Alek Chartrand in the sulky. The Lawton trainee proved up to the task and not only prevailed in the feature but actually drew away to win it by better than five lengths. The margin of victory wasn’t the real highlight from the win though. The final time of 1:51.3 was not only eye-popping, it was record-breaking. Or at least, record tying. Surreal Feeling is now the co-record holder for fastest lady pacer in track history as her 1:51.3 in Wednesday’s Open matched the time set by Velocity Vespa in 2016 as the fastest for an aged pacing mare in Saratoga history. Surreal Feeling is owned by Chris Lawton and her trainer Dale Lawton, both of New York. The exacta with the favored Robyn Camden second returned $13.60 while the triple completed by Casie’s Believer (Joe Chindano Jr) paid $30.60. The win was the fifth of the season for Surreal Feeling and her third in a local Open in ’21.
Live racing resumes on Monday afternoon when the $32,900 John Mongeon Sr. Memorial Trotting Series Final highlights a 12-race card. First post time is set for Noon.
Photo: Cheyanne Mandy