Steve’s Hot Rod & Jay Randall

There were two divisions of the second leg of the Charlie Hoffman Pacing Series contested on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Sunday was the last chance for the pacers to earn points towards next Sunday’s Series Final. Each of the $10,000 divisions saw a repeat winner as both Northern Rein (American Ideal) and Steve’s Hot Rod (Voracious Hanover) recorded their second consecutive victory on the matinee card. The Kerin Warner-trained Northern Rein prevailed in leg one despite making an early break in his race. The six year old rallied and powered into the lead at the half before powering away for the decisive score. In Sunday’s second leg, Northern Rein had Leon Bailey at the controls when he left to sit the pocket. Bailey didn’t wait long to pop the pocket and the race’s big favorite proved up to the task. Northern Rein drew away from his rivals to record a four and a half length victory in 1:55.2 and perhaps stamp himself as the favorite for next week’s Series Final.

Steve’s Hot Rod stayed red hot on Sunday as the Andy Gardner trainee went coast-to-coast for the second straight week with Jay Randall at the controls. The seven year old pacer worked hard to get to the top but once he did, it was over. Steve’s Hot Rod became the second horse on the day to sweep the legs of the series leading up to next week’s Final. The 1-2 betting favorite’s win was his seventh of the season. The victory was one of two on the day for Randall who piloted the winner of the $15,000 Open Pace as Rob Harmon’s Macheasy A (Mach Three) swooped the group to record his fifth win in the local Open in 2021.

Live racing continues on Monday afternoon with first post time set for noon.

 

 

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

North Country & Billy Dobson

North Country (Roll With Joe) completed a sweep of the Bunny Lake Pacing Series on Tuesday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Owned by Jeff Nanna of Utica, NY and trained by Monica Krist, North Country set a lifetime mark in the first leg of the series (October 12) when she paced to victory in 1:54.4. Heading into the Final off a win in leg two, North Country wound up as the public’s 3-5 betting favorite following a late scratch of potential favorite Pursuit Of Speed. Distaffer Tsimis (Jimmy Devaux) scored in her division of leg two of the series following a runner-up try to North Country in the first leg and cut the mile in the Tuesday feature which was contested over a sloppy track. Tsimis was game on the lead but when North Country tipped off her cover, it was over. The sophomore filly paced right past the leader before powering away to win by almost three lengths in a mile clocked in 1:56.2. Tsimis held second while longshot Miley Rose (Jay Randall) came on to be third. For North Country, it was victory number seven on the season in a year in which she has now earned over $70,000. Billy Dobson drove the winner to all three of her victories in the series. Paying just $3.30 to win as the odds-on favorite, North Country led an exacta and triple that returned $9.60 and $91.50, respectively.

Live racing resumes on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with a matinee set to kick off at noon.

 

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

North Country & Billy Dobson

Tuesday’s matinee featured two divisions of the second leg of the Bunny Lake Pacing Series at Saratoga Casino Hotel. North Country (Roll With Joe) emerged from leg two as the only repeat winner after Billy Dobson piloted the Monica Krist trainee to her second consecutive pocket-sitting victory. After setting a career-best 1:54.4 victory in leg one, North Country again got a two-hole trip on Tuesday while mirroring the moves of fellow leg one winner Gingerbred Girl (Larry Stalbaum). The race’s favorite, Always Watching (Shawn Gray), who finished third in the race in which North Country set her new lifetime mark, came first-over on Tuesday and slugged it out with Gingerbred Girl. North Country surged up the passing lane and got the best of her rivals while stopping the timer in 1:56.4 to head into next Tuesday’s (October 26) final of the Bunny Lake Pace as the one to beat. Always Watching finished second while Gingerbred Girl had to settle for third.

In the afternoon’s other division, Tsimis (Mach Three) toughed out a first-over victory for trainer Andy Gardner and reinsman Jimmy Devaux. Tsimis, the runner-up to North Country in leg one, had the daunting task of taking on her race’s big favorite Pursuit Of Speed (Larry Stalbum) who recorded the fastest win of the series heading into next week’s Final when she cruised to a 1:54.3 score in leg one. On Tuesday, the Stalbaum trainee was again tough on the lead but succumbed to the pressure late from Tsimis who proved best in 1:55.3 to spring the mild upset at odds of 5-1. The inaugural Bunny Lake Pace Final will go for a purse of upwards of $30,000 and will be the feature on the matinee next Tuesday (October 26).

Live racing resumes on Sunday at Saratoga with a card set to kick off at noon.

 

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser-Iovino

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.

 

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser-Iovino

Unique Beach & Wally Hennessey

Tuesday marked the start of the eighth annual J.P. Morel Memorial Pacing Series at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The $10,000 per division series, which went on hiatus in 2020, saw a dominant force emerge as Unique Beach (Somebeachsomewhere) scored decisively in Tuesday’s first leg. The four year old Melissa Beckwith trainee came into the series off back-to-back victories which came by a total of more than eighteen lengths. Wally Hennessey piloted Unique Beach on Tuesday and moved the 1-9 betting favorite out to the early lead. The rising star never faced an anxious moment before pacing away from his rivals to score by four lengths in 1:55.4. Longshot Hot Joe (Phil Fluet) closed to be second while Thor And Dr Jones (Greg Merton) held on to finish third. Unique Beach, who is owned by William Hartt of Carmel, ME, came into the series as the one to beat and came out of leg one as its dominant force.

The other division of the first leg of the J.P. Morel Memorial Pace went the way of Furious Beach (Somebeachsomewhere) who prevailed for leading trainer Gary Levine and reinsman Shawn Gray. Furious Beach lasted on the lead while hanging on to score in 1:59.2. 65-1 shot The Best Tyme Ever (Alek Chartrand) finished second while King Spencer (Billy Dobson) earned the show spot. The victory was one of four on the card for Gray and two for Levine. There is one more leg of the series set to be contested next Tuesday (May 18th) leading up to the Final which will go for a purse of upwards of $30,000.

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

 

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser-Iovino