Nuttin But Finesse & Luke Hanners

Nuttin But Finesse and driver Luke Hanners won Saturday night’s open pace in 1:52.2 This was Nuttin But Finesse’s 9th win in 2022. The 4 year-old Art Major is trained by Janice Connor.

Saratoga Casino Hotel | Saratoga Springs, New York

Alluneedisfaith N & Shawn Gray

Alluneedisfaith N (Art Major) has been a force since joining the stable of trainer Alicia Gray this August. On Saturday, the New Zealand invader won the local Open Pace for the second time and extended his streak of finishing first or second to five weeks. Alluneedisfaith N was the 4-5 betting favorite in Saturday’s Open at Saratoga Casino Hotel and driver Shawn Gray marched the public’s choice out to the lead in a first quarter in 28.1.

As if that fraction wasn’t soft enough, the veteran got even more of a breather before clicking off a half in 59.1 and from there the race seemed like it was over. Optical Illusion N (Chris Long) drew post seven in the seven-horse feature and had the daunting task of trying to close in a race with such soft fractions up front. Optical Illusion N drew even with Alluneedisfaith N late in the mile and those two squared off in the stretch before the favorite held strong to prevail in a mile paced in 1:54.3.

Optical Illusion N hit the board for the sixth time in his last seven tries in the Open when he finished second on Saturday to complete a $24 exacta. Keystone Dakota (Brett Beckwith) earned the show spot to round out a $76.50 triple. Alluneedisfaith N now has four wins and two seconds in seven starts since joining the Gray stable. The eight year old is owned by Doug Overhiser of Florida.

Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with a matinee starting at noon. There will be a $1,486 carryover in the Pick Five pool with the Pick Five starting in the afternoon’s first race.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

Moonshine Kisses & Jay Randall

No trainer has won the Open Pace more times in the last decade at Saratoga Casino Hotel than Jackie Greene. The track’s two-time leading trainer splits her time between Saratoga and Plainridge as she has several top-flight, Open caliber pacers. On Saturday evening, Greene’s Moonshine Kisses (Sunshine Beach) was the 2-5 betting favorite in the local Open Pace as the six year old made his return to town off a victory in the Plainridge Open last week.

Driver Jay Randall took back early with the public’s odds-on choice on Saturday but with the first half going in just 57.2, it didn’t necessarily shape up to be a closer’s race. Moonshine Kisses picked up the cover of rival Optical Illusion N (Chris Long) who has become a force in the Open this summer and was coming off a win in last week’s installment of the $16,000 feature. The outer tier thrived and as Optical Illusion N wore down the leader, Moonshine Kisses tipped off his cover and came charging hard in the stretch before stopping the timer in 1:52.4 to record his second local Open win of the year and his sixth victory overall in thirteen seasonal starts.

Optical Illusion N was the runner-up while Patrikthepiranha A (Brett Beckwith) closed to be third. Moonshine Kisses, who is owned by Kellogg Racing Stables of Queensbury, NY, paid $2.90 to win as the big favorite and led an exacta and triple that returned $11.80 and $36, respectively. The victory was the sixth at the Spa this season in the Open Pace for Jackie Greene.

Live racing continues on Sunday with a matinee beginning at noon.

Mike Sardella

Photo: 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

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

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

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

Mach Le More A & Jimmy Devaux

Amanda Kelley has been the winningest trainer in the Open Pace thus far this season at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Her stable came into Saturday night with eight wins in the feature for pacers and added another one to tally. Mach Le More A (Mach Three) prevailed in his previous try in the Open when he set a lifetime mark scoring in 1:52. Following a week off, it was back into the $16,000 feature for the Aussie invader who had leading driver Jimmy Devaux at the controls. Devaux blasted Mach Le More A out at the start and got to the top in a reasonable 28.1 before clicking off a half in 56.4.

The seven year old still appeared strong through three quarters of 1:24.2 and his rivals proved no match for the Kelley trainee in the stretch as he paced away from them to stop the timer in 1:52 to match the lifetime mark he set in his previous start. Nuttin But Finesse (Brett Beckwith) sat the pocket and finished second while Crockets Cullen N (Larry Stalbaum) surged to come on for third. Mach Le More A paid $9.10 to win in recording his third Open score of the season.

Kelley’s Lake Charles (Well Said) is the winningest horse in Opens this year at the Spa and dropped down into Winners Over company on Saturday night. Competing in a $13,750 event for pacers, Lake Charles put in pretty much a carbon copy effort from that of stablemate Mach Le More A as he assumed command from the get-go and went on to wire his field in 1:52.1 at odds of 3-1. Lake Charles, who like Mach Le More A is owned by Scheigert&Alliesracing LLC, was driven to victory by Shawn Gray.

Live racing continues on Sunday evening at Saratoga with a first post set for 6:45pm.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Melissa Simser

Optical Illusion & Chris Long

Optical Illusion N (He’s Watching) came into Saturday night riding a modest win streak at Saratoga Casino Hotel. A winner of two in a row, the New Zealand invader in is the midst of his first season in the U.S. and has found a home in the Lisa Zabielski stable. The six year old had eight wins to his credit in 2022 when he made his debut in the Open Pace on Saturday night.

Assigned the rail following back-to-back jacks down in company, Optical Illusion N was aggressive from the get-go in the $16,000 feature as driver Chris Long would not relinquish the early lead. After being challenged by a parked out rival in a first quarter of 27.3 and a first half of 55.4, the Zabielski trainee didn’t get much of a breather heading to three quarters either as the favored Hudson Phil (Billy Dobson) came knocking on the door of the leader.

Those two sparred around the final turn but Optical Illusion N proved to be tough as nails as he dug in to win in 1:52.3 for a victory in his first ever Open try. Hudson Phil was a strong second while Crockets Cullen N (Larry Stalbaum) earned the show spot. Optical Illusion N paid $10.00 to win in the mild upset and led an exacta and triple that came back $36.20 and $144, respectively.

Optical Illusion N is owned by his trainer Lisa Zabielski in partnership with Kim Zabielski. The score was the first in local Opens this season for both Zabielski and reinsman Chris Long.

Live racing continues on Sunday evening in Saratoga Springs with a first post time set for 6:45pm.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Renée Casavant

Lake Charles & Leon Bailey

On Saturday evening, Lake Charles (Well Said) became the second horse to win as many as five Opens this season at Saratoga Casino Hotel when the Amanda Kelley trainee prevailed in the $16,000 Open Pace. Lake Charles powered out from post position five on Saturday to make the lead but was quickly confronted by the race’s favorite whose attempted quarter move was rebuffed.

The five year old sizzled through a first half in 55.1 before being met with the challenge of Apex Seelster (Jimmy Devaux) who hit the board in all four of his local starts heading into Saturday’s try in the feature. Lake Charles drew clear again in the stretch before hanging on to win in 1:52. Apex Seelster was a strong runner-up while longshot American Zest A (Larry Stalbaum) came on to finish third. Lake Charles paid $8.40 to win and led an exacta and triple that returned $42.20 and $435.50, respectively.

The victory was the fifth in Open company at the Spa this season for Lake Charles who matched pacing mare Chasethecloudsaway as the winningest Open horses in the 2022 campaign. Saturday’s winner is owned by Scheigert&Alliesracing LLC of Saratoga Springs, NY. 

Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon in Saratoga Springs and will feature a Pick 5 carryover of $1,374 with the Pick 5 beginning in the matinee’s first race. Post time is set for Noon.   

Mike Sardella 

Photo: Melissa Simser