Learn And Earn Series Concludes

The Finals for the Learn and Earn Series’ took place on Sunday evening at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The series’ for two year olds were implemented this season to give freshmen horses a chance to compete against other freshmen with an opportunity to “earn while they learn.” There were four legs of each series leading up to Sunday’s Finals. The Learn and Earn Pace Final saw a bit of unique circumstances as the horse that hit the wire third wound up being placed first following a double disqualification. The favorite in the $13,400 Final was Sand Dollar (Jimmy Devaux) who was on the front-end and battling with rival Kissapotamus (Dustin Miller) around the final turn. Kissapotamus interfered with Sand Dollar causing him to leave the course while on a break. In the meantime, Diamonds Choice (Dan Daley), the longest shot in the wagering, came charging hard in the stretch. When the dust settled, Kissapotamus hit the line first while Sand Dollar came back onto the course to edge Diamonds Choice. Kissapotamus was subsequently disqualified for the interference but Sand Dollar was deemed to have gained ground while on the break and thus had to be placed behind Diamonds Choice. Dan Daley trains and drives Diamonds Choice who, when all was said and done, emerged victorious to spring the upset at odds of 21-1. Sand Dollar wound up being placed second while Kissapotamus was placed third. Diamonds Choice is owned by Ann-Mari Daley and Bukers Stable.

The Learn and Earn Trotting Series Final saw an early speed duel between the top two betting choices. The $12,700 Final of the four-leg Series saw the favored Wow Love (Dan Daley) get parked the mile by two-leg winner Miss Chip Away (John Stark Jr). As those two sparred, Family Riches (Met’s Hall) got her cue to tip three-wide from driver Billy Dobson and the freshman filly trotted into a commanding lead around the last turn. Family Riches, who is trained by Chip Zombick Jr for owner Mike Pozefsky, stopped the timer in 2:00.2, a career-best clocking for the two year old. Miss Chip Away held second while Wow Love salvaged the show spot.

Live racing resumes on Saturday evening with a 5pm first post.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Jessica Hallett

Saratoga Casino Hotel | Saratoga Springs, New York

HS Shauna Tops Sunday Card

HS Shauna (Up Front Charlie) has established herself as one of the top claiming pacing mares at Saratoga Casino Hotel this summer and on Sunday, she won her biggest race of the season to date. The eight year old mare was claimed out of the $10,000 claimers last month by owner Mark Rowland for trainer Kyle Spagnola.

HS Shauna had been thriving in the ten claimers but after switching connections stepped up in class. The veteran distaffer scored in the fifteen claimers before moving up in company once again. After a second and a third-place finish upon stepping up again, HS Shauna drew the rail for Sunday’s try in the optional twenty thousand dollar claimer and drew the rail.

Driver Shawn Gray was content to sit the pocket in Sunday’s $12,500 race which saw first-half fractions of 26.4 and 56 seconds. The leader, favored Rockabillycockshut (Luke Hanners), continued to roll along unopposed through three quarters in 1:23.4 and held the lead until the final strides when HS Shauna surged up the passing lane to come on and win by a head.

Rockabillycockshut finished second while longshot Tipperary Hill (Jim Devaux) earned the show spot. HS Shauna paid $10.60 to win and led an exacta and triple that returned $23.40 and $106.50, respectively. The victory, which was number eight on the season for HS Shauna, came in a seasonal best 1:52.4.

Live racing resumes on Friday evening at Saratoga with a 6:45pm first post.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Jessica Hallett

Saratoga Casino Hotel | Saratoga Springs, New York

Brett Derue Wins Four

Trainer Brett Derue is in the midst of the biggest season of his career at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Derue has been in a near dead-heat with Melissa Beckwith atop the trainer standings at the Spa for most of the 2023 campaign and on Sunday, the young conditioner enjoyed his biggest night of the year. Derue had six horses entered over the course of the thirteen race card on Sunday and all of his trainees appeared to have at worst a decent shot to prevail in their respective races. By the time the evening came to an end, Derue did in fact add four wins to his bulky total for the ’23 season. Love Yourself (Rock N Roll Heaven) concluded the big night for Derue when he outclosed his rivals in a $10,700 claiming pace to complete a natural hat trick (three consecutive winners on the card) while recording win number four on the evening for his trainer. Wally Hennessey piloted Love Yourself to the victory when the eight year old shifted gears late in the mile to swoop the group. Love Yourself paid $13.80 in the mild upset. His owners, Steve Picarazzi, Brett Derue and Darreyl Bullard also saw their Hot Joe (Brett Beckwith) score a first-over victory on Sunday while their Okie From Muskogee went coast-to-coast with Shawn Gray in the sulky. Picarazzi and Derue teamed up with Hennessey once again for a win when their American Tour N held on to secure her seventh victory of the season. Derue surged back in a small lead in the training standings with his Sunday grand slam.

Live racing resumes on Friday evening with action starting at 6:45pm. There will be a pick five carryover of $4,220 in the early pick five which start in Friday’s first race.     

Mike Sardella

Photo: Jessica Hallett

Saratoga Casino Hotel | Saratoga Springs, New York

Sea Shadows & Brett Beckwith

Sea Shadows (Shadow Play) became the second distaffer to win the Fillies and Mares Open five times in 2022 when on Sunday evening she went coast-to-coast in the $16,000 feature. The Melissa Beckwith trainee drew post seven in the seven-horse Open but driver Brett Beckwith was undaunted by the post draw and marched the classy mare out to the early lead.

The seven year old paid a stiff price to get to the engine, posting a first quarter in 27.4 before reaching the half in 56.2 while traveling unopposed once she got to the front-end. Sea Shadows saw very little pressure before turning for home with a commanding lead. Pocket-sitter Demeter N (Larry Stalbaum) put in a solid effort to be second but was no match for the favored Sea Shadows who paced away to stop the timer in 1:53.2 for her second consecutive win in the Fillies and Mares Open and fifth score since coming to town in early June.

The race’s longshot Unstoppable Hall (Steve Rybka) earned the show spot. For Sea Shadows and her owner Paul O’Neil of Saratoga Springs, it was victory number twelve on the season which put her over the $100,000 mark in earnings on the ’22 campaign. The exacta with the 3-5 betting favorite on top paid $7.60 while the triple came back $64.50. Sea Shadows’ five Open wins ties her with Chasethecloudsaway for most among fillies and mares.

Live racing resumes on Friday evening in Saratoga with a first post time set for 5PM. The post-Labor day schedule for the month of September will include Friday and Saturday evening racing at 5PM at Saratoga Casino Hotel while Sunday and Monday matinees begin at Noon.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Cheyanne Mandy

Birch Island Betty & Luke Hanners

Birch Island Betty (Big Jim) won the Fillies and Mares Open for the fourth time of the season at Saratoga Casino Hotel when the Eve Bergeron-trained pacer went coast-to-coast on Sunday night. They powered out to the early lead and driver Luke Hanners rated the mile well, getting a half in 57.2 before clicking off three-quarters in 1:25.4.

The seven year old distaffer got tested in the stretch when last week’s Open winner Demeter N (Larry Stalbaum) tried to complete a last-to-first move to repeat in the ladies’ feature. They held off that late bid and stopped the timer in 1:54.2 to record her fifth victory of the season and fourth in Open company. Demeter N finished second while Luck B Mine (Jimmy Devaux) earned the show spot in the $16,000 feature.

Birch Island Betty, who paid $11.80 to win in the mild upset, is owned by Dany Grenier of Quebec, Canada. The exacta and triple in the race came back $51 and $313, respectively. With the win, Birch Island Betty moved her career bankroll to over the quarter million dollar mark.

Live racing resumes on Friday evening at Saratoga with a first post time of 6:45pm. There will be Pick 5 carryover of $3,248 on Friday with the Pick 5 beginning in the first race.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Cheyanne Mandy

La Bella Vita N & Shawn Gray

La Bella Vita N (Changeover) drew post position seven in a seven-horse featured field on Sunday evening at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Alicia Gray trainee was making her debut in the Fillies and Mares Open at the Spa following a successful stint at Plainridge Park in Massachusetts. La Bella Vita N advanced a bit in the early going in Sunday’s $16,000 Open as Shawn Gray got her away fourth.

Like La Bella Vita N, Always Watching (Jordan Derue) was in the local Open for the first time in her young career and drew the rail for Sunday’s try. That longshot was aggressive from the get-go and the 11-1 shot carved out first half fractions of 27.1 and 56.4 before rebuffing a first-over bid from the race’s favorite. All the while, La Bella Vita N drafted behind the cover of the favorite before fanning three-wide around the final turn.

The seven year old New Zealand invader surged in the stretch and completed her swoop of the group to score in 1:53.1 in her first ever Open win at Saratoga. Always Watching finished a strong second while Birch Island Betty (Billy Dobson) came on to be third. La Bella Vita N, who is owned by Bowie Racing and Michael Goldberg Racing, paid $10.20 to win in the mild upset.

The exacta returned $83 while the triple came back $364. The victory in the Open was one of two on the card for Alicia Gray and Shawn Gray whose Spicytuna Bluechip (Roll With Joe) scored earlier in the night.

Live racing will resume on Friday night at Saratoga with a 6:45pm first post time. There will be a Pick Five carryover of $2,326 starting in the evening’s first race.

Mike Sardella

Photo: Renée Casavant

Birch Island Betty & Billy Dobson

Birch Island Betty, driven by Billy Dobson, won tonight’s open filly & mare pace in 1:54. Birch Island Betty is trained by Eve Bergeron and this was her 3rd open win this year at The Spa.

Live racing will continue at Saratoga Casino Hotel, Saratoga Springs, NY.

Melissa Simser