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
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.
Photo: Melissa Simser-Iovino