Slugfest, the 2014 Trotter of Year at Saratoga Casino and Raceway, was named the 2015 Trotter and Horse of the Year on Saturday night at the annual end of the season holiday banquet. The Maureen Salino-trained Slugfest started out the year on a tear and while he slowed down a bit in the second half of the season still ended up as the winningest Open horse of the ’15 campaign. Slugfest earned just shy of $120,000 by way of seven wins and nine second place finishes in the Open Trot. Jay Randall was the driver for all of the six year old’s starts in his award winning season. Slugfest is the first trotter to be named Horse of the Year since 2012 when Mymomsablizzard earned top honors and the first to take home the award for Trotter of the Year in back to back years since American Kash did it in 1998-1999.
While Slugfest won the vote for Trotter of the Year in a landslide, the race for Pacer of the Year was much closer. 2014’s Pacer and Horse of the Year Panocchio edged out Spinarama and JK Panache to go back-to-back as the Spa’s Pacer of the Year. Jimmy Mattison trains the five year old son of No Pan Intended who utilized not only his incredible ability but his versatility to thrive on Saturday nights at the Spa winning the $18,000 Open Pace six times, matching the amount won by JK Panache for most by a pacer in the local Opens. Panocchio, while not as dominant in his local starts as he was in 2014, is the first horse to be named Pacer of the Year in two straight years since local Hall of Famer Kelly’s Noah achieved the feat in ’10-’11.
For the last several years, there hasn’t been one dominant force among fillies and mares at the Spa and 2015 was no different. There were flashes of brilliance for several different lady pacers throughout the year but the most consistent mare over the course of the season was Super Soph. The Jackie Rousse-trainee was named Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year on Saturday, winning the vote by a pretty large margin. While she only prevailed three times in the $18,000 Open for distaffers, Super Soph also recorded a few victories in the “winners over”, a slightly lesser level for pacing mares. Frank Coppola Jr. was the regular pilot for Super Soph, as he was for almost all of the Rousse trainees.
Saratoga is the home base of the winningest horse in North America in 2015. Blazin Benny won 23 races in ’15, eighteen of which came at the Spa. The winningest horse of the meet by leaps and bounds won almost all of his starts while a member of the Melissa Beckwith stable. Beckwith, who won the trainers title for the fourth time, took home the awards for $12,500 and up claiming trotter with Blazin Benny and for $12,500 and up pacer with This Is Wyatt. Both horses won their respective votes by a convincing margin. Blazin Benny even garnered some consideration for Trotter of the Year, becoming a rare non-Open horse to gather votes for such honors. The claiming pacer for the $5,000-$7,500 level was Bondy N. An extremely rare horse to display dominance at the age of fourteen, Bondy N won the award by the slimmest of margins. The $5,000-$7,500 claiming trotter award went to Dead Wrong. Dead Wrong was under the guidance of trainer Francis Mahoney Jr. for much of 2015 and it wasn’t the only award that Mahoney took home on Saturday. His Blueridge Jezebel bested her rivals to be named the top Filly and Mare Claiming Pacer at the $5,000-$7,500 level. The top claiming mare for the $12,500 and up was Shortest Distance.
Bruce Aldrich Jr. won his first local driving title in 2015 and subsequently was named not only Driver of the Year but Horseman of the Year for his efforts. Aldrich, who is also the leading driver at Monticello Raceway, was second in the local standings in ’14 but never looked back after vaulting to the top at about the midway point of the year. Aldrich dethroned Billy Dobson who had been the leading driver in the previous five seasons at the Spa. Jackie Rousse, who finished second in the trainer standings in ’15 but who earned the most purses of any local conditioner this year, won the awards for Horsewoman and Trainer of the Year. Phil Fluet, who competed at Saratoga on a full time basis for the first time in ‘15, was named the Johnny Page and Peerless McGrath Award winners for breakthrough driver and trainer, respectively.
Fluet’s Financial Focus was named the track’s top two year old trotter while the Two Year Old Pacer of the Year was Nitro Glistening. For three year olds, Royal Deceptor rode an undefeated local campaign to be named three year old Trotter of the Year while the Three Year Old Pacer was Montera. Congratulations to all of the 2015 winners as well as all of those nominated for awards this year. We will see you back at the track for opening night on March 4 of 2016. Until then, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season and we’ll see YOU in 2016 at the finish line!