Sea­son reaches the home stretch

Award nom­i­nees of­fi­cially an­nounced

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - Mike Sardella

It’s hard to be­lieve but as we en­ter this week’s ac­tion at Saratoga Casino Ho­tel, there are only three weeks re­main­ing in the 2019 rac­ing sea­son. Time has cer­tainly flown by and with the cam­paign en­ter­ing its home stretch, the award nom­i­nees were named this week for the end of the sea­son hol­i­day ban­quet which will take place on De­cem­ber 21st. The Driver of the Year and Trainer of the Year are all but de­cided as the lead­ing driver and trainer, re­spec­tively, will take home the hon­ors. Billy Dob­son is poised to win his sev­enth driv­ing ti­tle at Saratoga this sea­son and will sub­se­quently take home the award for Driver of the Year. The train­ing ti­tle will be won for the eighth time by Melissa Beck­with who will be named Trainer of the Year for that achieve­ment.

The awards for Horse­man and Horse­woman of the Year are bit more up for grabs as there are sev­eral vi­able can­di­dates this sea­son. Horse­man of the Year fa­vorites are Dob­son, who helps run the Monica Krist sta­ble as well as be­ing the meet’s lead­ing driver, and Mark Beck­with, who will likely fin­ish fifth in the driver stand­ings on top of run­ning the top sta­ble along with wife Melissa. Join­ing Dob­son and Beck­with as Horse­man of the Year nom­i­nees are Jimmy De­vaux and Jay Ran­dall, who sit se­cond and third in the driver stand­ings and Gary Levine, who is in the midst of his best sea­son as a trainer and will likely fin­ish up as the run­ner-up for the train­ing ti­tle. Join­ing Melissa Beck­with as Horse­woman of the Year nom­i­nees are Jackie Greene, Lisa Za­biel­ski, Monica Krist and Michelle Crawford. There is a clear fa­vorite for the Johnny Page Award for top break­through driver as Steeven Genois has put to­gether a ca­reer year in ‘19 sit­ting sev­enth in the stand­ings among lo­cal reins­men. Steve Ry­bka is the other nom­i­nee for the Johnny Page Award as the “rookie” is en­joy­ing a strong fresh­man sea­son at the Spa. Ry­bka is also nom­i­nated for the Peer­less McGrath Award for top break­through trainer but runs into a sta­tis­ti­cal jug­ger­naut as Lisa Za­biel­ski is the clear fa­vorite for the award as she is likely to fin­ish third in the trainer stand­ings in ‘19.

The nom­i­nees for Two Year old awards are, for pac­ers, Chup­pah On, Here­comes­bul­lville, Not­so­plain­jane and Re­peal Or Re­place and for trot­ters, Bropain, C And T’s Credit and It­so­ne­ofthose. Chup­pah On and C And T’s Credit would ap­pear to be fa­vorites to take home the hon­ors which is some­what note­wor­thy be­cause the great ma­jor­ity of the races for awards this sea­son have no clear-cut fa­vorite. Three Year Old Pacer of the Year con­tenders are Chase You, Grey Roots, Lady Elvis and Sweet Deisel while the top sopho­more trot­ters are Cer­tify, Im Tp’s Crazed Bro, It Ain’t The Whisky and Pow­er­scourt. Two year olds are re­quired to have started at least three times at Saratoga to be el­i­gi­ble while three year olds need to have a min­i­mum of ten lo­cal races on their card in the ‘19 cam­paign.

With the re­duced amount of claim­ing races con­tested at the Spa this sea­son, there will be four awards given out to claimers-two for pac­ing colts and geld­ings, one for pac­ing mares and one for trot­ters. The awards for claim­ing pac­ers are di­vided into $7,500-$12,500 and $15,000 and up lev­els. The group of nom­i­nees for lower level claimers is Cool Jack, Gitn Drunk­on­a­plane, Hi Ho Stev­erino and Top Of The Mark. The higher level claimers

are Al­ls­tar En­ergy, How macs black jack, JK No worn ever and North­ern Rebel. Claim­ing Pac­ing Mare of the Year will go to Fade To Gold, Pan­cakes or UF Lana Rae. The Claim­ing Trot­ter of the Year nom­i­nees are Blitz Vic­tory, IM Fish in, New York Chrome, Pis­tols As­pi­ra­tion and Wind­sun Mis­sile.

The races for Pacer, Trot­ter and Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year have never been closer than they are this sea­son. With­out a horse whose stats just over­whelm, the vot­ing is likely to be close once again this year in the three cat­e­gories. Pacer of the Year seemed like a shoo-in a cou­ple months ago as the Jackie Greene-trained Hud­son Phil won the Open Pace eight times in a span from March through Au­gust. Greene has trained the Pacer of the Year in the last three years as her Art­ful Way has three­p­eated and this sea­son she has a chance for another award with Hud­son Phil. What seemed to be a fore­gone con­clu­sion this sum­mer has be­come a bat­tle in re­cent months as Larry Stal­baum’s Crock­ets Cullen N has done some­thing that has maybe never been done be­fore at Saratoga. On Satur­day night, Crock­ets Cullen N won his eighth con­sec­u­tive Open Pace at the Spa though only the first six of those vic­to­ries will be con­sid­ered by the vot­ers as the sta­tis­tics closed a cou­ple weeks back for the awards so that vot­ers have suf­fi­cient time to make their se­lec­tions. Join­ing those two Open stal­warts for Pacer of the Year con­sid­er­a­tion are In A Sin­gle Bound, who ac­tu­ally has more money earned in his lo­cal starts than any of his com­peti­tors, and Cen­tury En­deavor, who broke out this sea­son and joined the ranks of the elite pac­ers at the track. The bat­tle for Pacer of the Year will cer­tainly be one to watch.

The Trot­ter of the Year com­pe­ti­tion is also fierce as two horses who rose to the Open ranks join a Spa new­bie and a classy vet­eran as nom­i­nees for the track’s top award for high-step­pers. Mugshots Bro won the Open four times this year and for a time was the one to beat among top-flight trot­ters. Cartier Volo is a rare trot­ting mare to be nom­i­nated for top hon­ors as though she recorded just two Open wins, the Spa reg­u­lar did earn the se­cond most money of any trot­ter at the track this sea­son at the time that the sta­tis­tics closed for vot­ing. Mis­ter Mus­cle has be­come a force out of the Beck­with barn after de­but­ing at Saratoga this sum­mer. He has the third high­est earn­ings of any trot­ter de­spite hav­ing raced just 16 times at the time nom­i­nees were com­piled. The fa­vorite for the award is a horse very fa­mil­iar to lo­cal rac­ing fans. Vet­eran Cash Me Out was the Two and Three Year Old Trot­ter of the Year at the Spa sev­eral years back and now at age eight, with more than $1 mil­lion in life­time earn­ings, is still rac­ing at a top level. Be­hind six Open vic­to­ries in ‘19, Cash Me Out has amassed more earn­ings than any other trot­ter this year and thus is the likely fa­vorite for the award. Three lady pac­ers that will bat­tle for the Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year award are Bontz N, Happy Heart and Spreester. Spreester is look­ing to go back-to-back among lo­cal distaffers and if she were to win would be the first horse to take home an award four dif­fer­ent times as she was named Two and Three Year Old Pacer of the Year in 2013 and 2014, re­spec­tively, mir­ror­ing the ac­com­plish­ments of Cash Me Out. The races for al­most all of th­ese awards will likely be very close and will be an­nounced at the an­nual hol­i­day ban­quet which takes place this year on Satur­day De­cem­ber 21st at the Em­bassy Suites in Saratoga Springs.

Live rac­ing takes place on Wed­nes­day and Sun­day af­ter­noon this week be­gin­ning at noon and on Satur­day evening start­ing at 6:45pm. There will only be three race cards con­tested this week as Thurs­day is a dark day at the track as we cel­e­brate the Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day.

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