by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228
SARATOGA SPRINGS—Every track has it signature day and Saratoga Hotel Casino is no exception as all eyes were on a stellar field of eight that gathered for the $260,000 Joe Gerrity Memorial Pace. This was the ninth edition and this collection of eight older horses could have been the best the event has seen.
Sintra came in as the favorite. The 4-year-old was coming off a blistering effort at the Meadowlands and with the comfortable four post, things—on paper—made the race his for the taking. But, as we know, this is harness racing and things can and do happen.
It was a good start for all; Keystone Velocity, breaking from the eight post, tried to leave, but was thwarted by Boston Red Rocks who broke from the one post, but it was a contentious start and quickly turned into an early speed duel. All Bets Off put immediate pressure on Boston Red Rocks but was turned away as they hit the quarter in a blazing 26.4.
After sitting coolly in third Yonkers invader Somewhere in LA decided he needed the lead and took it briefly only to yield it to the favorite, Sintra, who led the field through the half in a fast and furious 54.4. Many, including track announcer Mike Sardella were thinking that Sintra might take control, but the other horses would not let him breathe with Somewhere in LA recapturing the lead with a 26.4 third panel and a three-quarters split of 1:21.2, which for a half-mile track is something rarely seen.
That time might have taken the starch out of both Sintra and Somewhere in LA and in some ways, Boston Red Rocks who was always close to lead and would finish a game third. On that final turn was Bit of a Legend N, who, in May won the $150,000 Molson Pace at Western Fair Raceway in London, Ontario. Content to let the others blaze away, “The Legend,” decided to make his move, going four-wide in the final turn. The extra distance didn’t bother him as he roared down the stretch much the fresher—and best—to win in a more than impressive time of 1:50.3. Mach It So also finished strongly picking up a second place check ($65,000) while Boston Red Rocks held on for third ($31,200). Despite being winless in 2017, Boston Red Rocks continues to cash checks; a hard luck horse to say the least. Somewhere in LA was fourth and Sintra tired, finishing last.
Bit of Legend (15-1) rewarded his supporters, paying $32.20, $14.20 and $7.90. Mach it So paid $13.20 and $10.00 and Boston Red Rocks returned $3.20 to show. The exacta paid $1,037.00 and the trifecta a nice $5,295.00
It will be interesting to see where these horses race next. Hambletonian Day is in less than two weeks and there are some excellent pacing races on the mega card August 5. But, the Gerrity certainly was a race that lived up to its billing.
There were also two open races; one pace and one trot and they didn’t disappoint either. In the $25,000 open pace, all eyes were on Dr. J Hanover, who despite his Canadian soil of record of 1:46.4 did not have enough in earnings to make the Gerrity field. But, he was outdone by Luck Be Withyou who went to the front and romped home in the fastest time of the year at Saratoga, a head shaking 1:49.2.
In the open trot, Gural Hanover also turned in the fastest trot of the Saratoga season, winning in 1:54. The 14 race card handled over $423,000 and a nice crowd was on hand to see it.
With the flat track in session, there are some changes at Saratoga Hotel Casino. Thursday afternoon racing has been replaced by Tuesday night racing and through September 2, the track will race on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Thursday afternoon racing will return on September 7.