Stand­out mare shakes brides­maid sta­tus

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - Mike Sardella Mike Sardella writes about har­ness rac­ing Mon­day’s in The Sarato­gian. He can be reached at mike­sardella@ny­

She’s so con­sis­tent. She’s so classy. She’s so tal­ented. She’s... So Nice.

Six year old pacer So Nice has be­come a fix­ture in the Fil­lies and Mares Open at Saratoga Casino Ho­tel in the past few sea­sons. Trained down­state by con­di­tioner Am­ber Buter, So Nice is an out-oftowner by def­i­ni­tion only. In re­al­ity, the speedy distaffer has called Saratoga home for much of the past two years, com­pet­ing pretty con­sis­tently in the Fri­day night Open for the ladies.

Since the be­gin­ning of her ca­reer in 2012, So Nice has sim­ply been ter­rific. As a fresh­man filly, So Nice earned more than $38,000 be­hind one vic­tory in just three sea­sonal starts. It was as a sopho­more, though, that she re­ally emerged pil­ing up her first $100,000 year (and not her last) be­hind four wins in just twelve starts at the age of three. So Nice con­tin­ued to dis­play the con­sis­tency that has been ever present through­out her ca­reer when at age four, she hit the board in 20 of 36 starts en route to an­other strong cam­paign. It was in that sea­son that she de­buted at Saratoga and com­peted a hand­ful of times against the track’s top lady pac­ers.

In 2015, as a five year old, So Nice re­ally made her pres­ence felt in the Fil­lies and Mares Open at the Spa. En­joy­ing suc­cess at each of the sev­eral tracks she vis­ited last year, the no­madic So Nice en­tered the record books at Saratoga with an his­toric per­for­mance when she has set the track record for aged pac­ing mares on the fi­nal week­end of the meet.

The Buter trainee se­cured her first vic­tory in the lo­cal Open in Au­gust af­ter a pair of run­ner up tries in the $18,000 Fri­day fea­ture but it was on a chilly De­cem­ber evening when the durable made mare his­tory. Mark Beck­with sat be­hind So Nice for the first time and af­ter com­ing away fourth in the early go­ing, made a quick and im­pact­ful move to the front end.

Best­ing even­tual 2015 Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year at the Spa Su­per Soph, So Nice blasted away from her ri­vals for a com­mand­ing eight-length vic­tory. In the romp, So Nice stopped the timer in 1:52, the fastest time in track his­tory for an aged pac­ing mare. The win was the sixth of the sea­son for her to go with four sec­onds and seven thirds. As im­pres­sive of a re­sume that So Nice has put to­gether, she wrapped up the 2015 with thir­teen ca­reer vic­to­ries but with fif­teen sec­onds and eigh­teen thirds. As solid and con­sis­tent as So Nice had been through­out her first four years of rac­ing, she had a bit of a ten­dency to come up sec­ond or third best. Though she has done quite a bit of win­ning out of town this year, that trend has con­tin­ued for much of ’16 in her lo­cal starts.

The fi­nal race of last year didn’t ex­actly serve as a pre­cur­sor for what was to come in 2016 for the-now six year old mare. At least not in the early stages of the cam­paign any­ways. So Nice went one for thir­teen to be­gin this year. Could she be re­gress­ing a bit? The an­swer, we now know, is a re­sound­ing no! The mare se­cured a vic­tory in a con­di­tional race at Saratoga in mid May when she dropped and popped. And from there, she took off. So Nice rat­tled off back to back jacks at Po­cono Downs be­fore re­turn­ing to the Spa to com­pete in the Open. She was faced with the task of bat­tling a win­ning ma­chine distaffer named Ve­loc­ity Vespa who, to date, has piled up 29 wins in the last two sea­sons.

On Au­gust 12, So Nice paced 1:52 but it was only good enough to be the run­ner up to Ve­loc­ity Vespa who broke So Nice’s record for aged pac­ing mares. In fact, Ve­loc­ity Vespa be­came the fastest fe­male pacer in the 75 year his­tory of the track af­ter stop­ping the timer in an eye­pop­ping 1:51.3. Fol­low­ing a cou­ple of tries com­ing up shy of Ve­loc­ity Vespa, So Nice shifted to Tioga Downs for a pair of starts where the rock solid mare went two-for-two in the Open.

Fol­low­ing her brief stint in cen­tral NY, So Nice re­turned to town to com­pete in the $16,000 Fil­lies and Mares Open in mid-Septem­ber and was again faced with the tall or­der of tack­ling Ve­loc­ity Vespa. Start­ing from post po­si­tion five, and get­ting a pocket trip in each of her next five starts at the Spa, So Nice piled up sec­ond place fin­ishes. She was the run­ner up in her first four starts af­ter re­turn­ing to town to bring her to­tal to five con­sec­u­tive in the lo­cal Open. In three of those tries, So Nice was de­feated by Ve­loc­ity Vespa who has dom­i­nated and be­come per­haps the one to beat among lo­cal mares in the race to be named Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year. Af­ter five straight sec­onds in the Open, So Nice fin­ished third to Ve­loc­ity Vespa in a blan­ket fin­ish in the start lead­ing up to Fri­day night’s fea­ture.

So Nice was ag­gres­sive in the early go­ing on Fri­day and on this night, driver Mark Beck­with was tak­ing no pris­on­ers with the mare who came into the race with more than $400,000 in life­time earn­ings. Try­ing to shake her re­cent brides­maid sta­tus, So Nice set blis­ter­ing frac­tions on the front end on the chilly au­tumn night and opened up a big lead af­ter pac­ing three quar­ters in 1:23.3. Ve­loc­ity Vespa had the chal­lenge to come from off the pace, al­beit not from far back as she got away third in the five horse field. So Nice built an im­pos­ing lead and she wound up all alone at the wire.

Her fi­nal time of 1:51.4 ac­tu­ally bested the mark she set last De­cem­ber for a track record but was later eclipsed by Ve­loc­ity Vespa.

It was the ninth win of the year for So Nice but just her sec­ond in the lo­cal Open as she fi­nally flipped the script on Ve­loc­ity Vespa mak­ing that one set­tle for sec­ond best. Be­fore Fri­day, in 12 starts this year in the Open, So Nice had five sec­onds and three thirds but just one win. She dou­bled her win to­tal be­hind a dom­i­nant ef­fort which re­sulted in her go­ing past the $100,000 mark for the sea­son. It has been a ca­reer year for the hard-hit­ting mare, who has been a pic­ture of con­sis­tency since com­ing to the Spa a few years back. Af­ter a host of con­sec­u­tive sec­ond place fin­ishes, is a brides­maid no more.

Live rac­ing takes place every Thurs­day be­gin­ning at 4 p.m. and con­tin­ues every Fri­day and Satur­day start­ing at 6:45 p.m. Sun­day mati­nees are carded each week kick­ing off at 12:15 p.m. Un­til next week, I’m Mike Sardella wish­ing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the fin­ish line!

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