Hol­i­day meets sig­nal the end of the ‘19 sea­son

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - By Mike Sardella Spe­cial to the Sarato­gian Mike Sardella

There were two se­ries’ that got un­der­way last week at Saratoga Casino Ho­tel that sig­nify that the end of the meet is near.

Start­ing in 2016, the track has fea­tured two end-of-sea­son se­ries’ for horses who haven’t recorded sig­nif­i­cant earn­ings in the year. The Hol­i­day Trot and Hol­i­day Pace are two-leg se­ries’ each con­clud­ing with a fi­nal that goes for a purse, in many cases, higher than any that its par­tic­i­pants have raced for over the course of the year. Some of the trot­ters and pac­ers that compete in the se­ries may have had a great sea­son the year be­fore. Oth­ers may have recorded a sig­nif­i­cantly lesser num­ber of starts than in sea­sons past and oth­ers yet may sim­ply be lower-level com­peti­tors who race against lesser horses than those that ac­crue sig­nif­i­cant earn­ings over the course of the year. What­ever the in­di­vid­ual case may be, there were 21 horses set to compete in leg one of the Hol­i­day Trot con­tested on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon and af­ter two would-be par­tic­i­pants were scratched, nine­teen trot­ters com­prised three di­vi­sions of the first leg, each of which went for a purse of $7,500.

By the time the first leg of the Hol­i­day Trot was in the books at the con­clu­sion of Wed­nes­day’s Thanks­giv­ing Eve race card, though there was no clock­ing that popped off the tele­timer, there was one dom­i­nant ef­fort from a trot­ter that stamped him as the se­ries’ one to beat. And while only one fa­vorite would emerge vic­to­ri­ous in leg one, there wasn’t a re­sult that could be con­sid­ered an up­set ei­ther. The first di­vi­sion of the fourth an­nual se­ries for trot­ters that were non-win­ners of two races or $15,000 in 2019 (as of Oc­to­ber 27) that had made a min­i­mum of twenty starts fea­tured just a field of five af­ter two scratches and ac­cord­ing to the bet­ting public ap­peared to be a two-horse race be­tween JS Trot­ting Bob and Sch­war­ber. The for­mer went off at odds of 6-5 and with life­time earn­ings nearly more than the en­tire rest of the field com­bined had back­class on his side and was the win­ningest among the mem­bers of the field with three vic­to­ries un­der his belt in 2019. Sch­war­ber was the odds-on fa­vorite de­spite draw­ing the out­side post in the race. Those two fa­vorites drew away from their ri­vals and traded strides in the stretch be­fore Sch­war­ber surged by to win in a mile clocked in 2:00. JS Trot­ting Bob had to set­tle for sec­ond. Brian Cross pi­loted the Mar­garet Spag­nola-trained Sch­war­ber who won for the third time this sea­son for owner Gary Fisher of Glens Falls. Though Sch­war­ber dis­played a strong clos­ing move on Wed­nes­day, he would wind up be­ing the slow­est of the three leg one win­ners.

Jay Ran­dall opted to pilot Awol Hanover in the sec­ond di­vi­sion and it proved to be the right choice as the Jimmy Nick­er­son-trained trot­ter put forth an ef­fort that was so dom­i­nant that he emerged as the Hol­i­day Trot Se­ries’ one to beat. Awol Hanover cruised to the front-end on Wed­nes­day and sim­ply over­pow­ered his ri­vals in the sec­ond half be­fore draw­ing away to win by nine lengths as by far the most de­ci­sive win­ner of the se­ries’ first leg. Though the fi­nal time of 1:59.2 would be a full sec­ond slower than the win­ner of the fi­nal di­vi­sion con­tested on the day, Awol Hanover ap­peared to have plenty left in the tank and was “un­der Ran­dall wraps” in the stretch to ce­ment his place as the se­ries’ one to beat. The run­nerup to Awol Hanover was Col­lec­tor Clas­sic who fin­ished sec­ond de­spite mak­ing a break af­ter the start as the even money fa­vorite. The Vern Beachy trainee will be one to watch in the com­ing weeks

as well.

The fi­nal di­vi­sion of the day went to Phil Fluet’s Barn Star who came into the se­ries with just one win this sea­son fol­low­ing a ‘18 cam­paign in which he won nine times. Barn Star closed sharply on Wed­nes­day and came on to win in 1:58.2, a fi­nal clock­ing that was the fastest of leg one. Fluet drove and trained three win­ners on the af­ter­noon pro­gram in­clud­ing Barn Star who cer­tainly tossed his hat into the ring as a po­ten­tial star in the se­ries whose sec­ond leg will take place this Wed­nes­day (De­cem­ber 4th) and will con­clude on De­cem­ber 11th with a fi­nal that will go for a purse of $20,000.

The Hol­i­day Pac­ing Se­ries, that had the same cre­den­tials for par­tic­i­pants as did its trot­ting coun­ter­part, got un­der­way on Satur­day night with three six-horse di­vi­sions that each went for a purse of $7,500. Bob Uhl’s Babinga Wood was the Claimer of the Year at Saratoga two sea­sons ago but fit the se­ries af­ter hav­ing a sub­par 2019 cam­paign. On Satur­day night, young reins­man Mitch Cush­ing found some early speed from reg­u­lar closer Babinga Wood who cut the mile as his di­vi­sion’s 6-5 bet­ting fa­vorite. De­spite a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent ri­vals putting in strong bids, Babinga Wood held firm and toughed out a vic­tory in 1:56.2, a time that wound up be­ing the fastest among leg one win­ners. Of the eigh­teen par­tic­i­pants in the Hol­i­day Pace on Satur­day only three were mares. One of the ladies proved up to the task as Tim

Miller Jr’s One Hand Keg Stand sprung the up­set in leg one be­hind a last-to-first ef­fort. Frank Cop­pola Jr. sat be­hind One Hand Keg Stand who, though she has of­ten been a fac­tor in her lo­cal starts, had only two wins on the sea­son head­ing into the se­ries. Her vic­tory in 1:56.3 came at odds of 7-1. Though One Hand Keg Stand pulled off a bit of a sur­prise on Satur­day, her win wouldn’t be the big­gest sur­prise in the Hol­i­day Pace’s first leg. In the evening’s fi­nal di­vi­sion, four­teen year old Din­ner Guest recorded his 77th ca­reer vic­tory as he scored first-over at odds of 11-1. Dan Cap­pello Jr. pi­loted the old vet­eran who was named Claimer of the Year in 2018, just one sea­son af­ter Babinga Wood earned the same honor. On Satur­day, Din­ner Guest rolled first-over and over­whelmed his race’s fa­vorite who was the fron­tend. The four­teen year old, who is owned and trained by Frank Mul­tari of Saratoga Springs, stopped the timer in 1:57 in what could well be his fi­nal life­time vic­tory with just a cou­ple of weeks re­main­ing in what has been an il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer. With a pair of up­sets in its first leg, the fourth an­nual in­stall­ment of the Hol­i­day Pace seems up for grabs and could turn out to be a great one. Leg two is set for Satur­day De­cem­ber 7th with the $20,000 Fi­nal sched­uled for De­cem­ber 14th on clos­ing week­end of the 2019 sea­son.

Live racing takes place on Wed­nes­day, Thurs­day and Sun­day af­ter­noon start­ing at 12 Noon and on Satur­day evening with first post time set for 6:45pm. Only two weeks re­main un­til the con­clu­sion of the ‘19 sea­son at the Spa.

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