Sardella’s Column

No Sophomore Slump For Siegelman


Last year, in his first season driving at Saratoga Casino and Raceway, Austin Siegelman broke through with authority. It’s not easy for a driver in his early 20’s to make as big of an impact as Siegelman did in 2014 but the young reinsman finished eighth in the local driver standings en route to winning the Johnny Page Award for the Spa’s top up-and-coming driver. A fixture at Monticello Raceway in the past couple of years, Siegelman has become a regular at Saratoga and is certainly proving that his breakout ’14 campaign was no fluke.
             The 23 year old Siegelman has started out his “sophomore season” at the Spa on a tear. After a solid first couple weeks of the year, SIegelman had a monster weekend last weekend piling up enough wins to boost him all the way up into second in the local driver standings. While Billy Dobson, who also broke through at the Spa in his mid-twenties, has jumped out to a solid lead again this season seeking his sixth consecutive driving title, Siegelman is now right behind him after a weekend that saw him pile up nine wins.
             The twilight racing program started at 4pm on Thursday and from about 4:05pm on, the evening belonged to Austin Siegelman. Siegelman piloted the coincidentally named DW’s Austin to the young pacer’s second consecutive victory in Thursday’s opener and it served as the first win in what would be a grand slam for the young reinsman. Siegelman guided big favorite Mister Skitter to a front running score before securing his third front end win of the day with pacer Wicked Business. Later in the card, Siegelman proved he was no one trick pony as he sat behind Rei Rogers. After scoring his first three Thursday wins in front running fashion, Siegelman had the daunting task of trying to overcome post position eight in a nine horse field with Rei Rogers. Austin advanced the veteran pacer out early and found a seat mid pack with him before making his move on the outside. It was perfect piloting as Rei Rogers completed the four-bagger for Siegelman.
             On Friday night, Siegelman picked up right where he left off on Thursday as he swept the early daily double and piloted three winners in total on the card. The seven victories in two nights were enough to propel the young driver into second in the 2015 standings. Siegelman has made his run up the driver standings primarily while piloting for trainers Don Sherman and Chris Marino. Sherman, the Peerless McGrath Award winner last year for the top up-and-coming trainer, is also off to a big start to the season at the Spa and Siegelman is his regular driver. Sherman has been winning at close to a 50% rate in the past couple of weeks and he and Siegelman had their picture taken three times last weekend including once with claiming pacer Bathing Beauty, who is owned by Austin’s dad James Siegelman. Pacing mare La Reata won her sixth consecutive race on Friday night, prevailing in 1:57.2 in her return to the Spa following five straight victories at Monticello for Siegelman and Sherman. Both Bathing Beauty and La Reata will take the track on Friday night looking to extend their win streaks. Keep an eye on the Siegelman-Sherman tandem this season at the Spa as they have certainly proven that their success last year was no fluke and there is certainly no sophomore slump for either of these two of the Spa’s top rising stars.
             This week will feature the debut of a bit of a different racing format than we have ever seen at Saratoga before. On Friday night’s program, there are three divisions of the ‘Lucky 13’ Mini-Series. While there are several series’ contested every year at the Spa, this Mini-Series format is new and unique to us. The three divisions of the Lucky 13 are for conditional trotters that are non-winners of $2000 in their last five starts. That classification is a regular one at the track but now, horses at that level will race for a slightly higher purse and will have a bit of a pot of gold at the end to aim for. The top three finishers in each of the three divisions of the Mini-Series will square off the following Friday night in the “Final”. The Lucky 13 name comes in to play because the Final will go for a purse of $13,000, a much higher total than the majority of the horses in that class would normally compete for. This new Mini-Series format is likely to be used moving forward at random times for several different classes, potentially including claimers.
             The live racing schedule for this week is a bit different since there will be no racing on Sunday because of Palm Sunday. Thursday’s first post time will be 4:00pm while Friday and Saturday night racing begins at 6:45pm. 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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