Saturday’s night race card was the richest program of the year at Saratoga Casino and Raceway. An evening filled with New York Sire Stakes action and three different “Opens” was highlighted by the $260,000 Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial Pace. It was the sixth annual Gerrity Pace and what used to be a multi-week series turned into a one race Invitational Free-for-All Pace last year. Of the nominated horses, the top eight money earners in 2014 were chosen to take part in the “all star” race which honors the memory of the longtime Chairman of the Board at Saratoga Raceway Mr. Joe Gerrity Jr. As has been the annual tradition, there was a t-shirt giveaway in conjunction with the Gerrity Pace but the fans that came out in full force for the biggest night of the racing season at the Spa certainly got more than a t-shirt as a souvenir as they would leave with the memory of a piece of harness racing history.
Some of the top earning horses in North America this year converged on Saratoga Casino and Raceway for the year’s richest race. With many of the top drivers in the sport already planning on being in town to participate in the New York Sire Stakes action, it was a star-studded group of sulky stars who would pilot for some of North America’s top trainers. Ron Burke, the winningest trainer in the sport in the last few years, brought a high-powered entry to town to take part in the Gerrity. Leading the entry was the richest harness horse in history! Foiled Again, who finished third in last year’s Gerrity which saw a world record performance from Bolt The Duer, came into Saturday’s race with career earnings of over $6.3 million. While not having the same kind of year that he had in 2013 when he piled up more than $1.4 million behind eleven wins, Foiled Again is still competing against the top horses in the country and enjoying plenty of success at the age of ten! Though the veteran pacer has hit the board in a few of his most recent races, which included finishing third in the $500,000 Ben Franklin Pace at Pocono Downs in the fastest time he has ever paced (1:47.1), Foiled Again brought a ten race winless streak into Saturday’s Gerrity. He was coupled in the betting with stablemate Clear Vision who was the Gerrity’s second biggest lifetime money earner as he brought a bankroll of just shy of $2 million into the race. While not coming in with the same career resume as Foiled Again, one could argue that Clear Vision was the sharper of the two as he won on Northfield’s half mile track in an eye-popping 149.3 just a few weeks ago. Cleark Vision, who was driven by Brett Miller, had the daunting task of starting from post position eight in his return to the Spa while Foiled Again and reinsman Matt Kakaley drew post five.
The other entry comprised of top pacing talent came from the stable of conditioner PJ Fraley. P H Supercam is that stable’s star and the last time we saw this speedy pacer race at Saratoga, he was competing in the mid-level claiming ranks last year. The now seven year old is certainly in his prime as he had compiled just shy of $450,000 this year heading into his return to the Spa on Saturday. The big victory in P H Supercam’s career came in April at Yonkers in the $567,000 Final of the George M. Levy when he bested a field almost identical to the one he would face in the Gerrity. Over a sloppy Yonkers oval, P H Supercam closed from fifth in the stretch to win as he upset Foiled Again who was the race’s 3-5 favorite. P H Supercam was coupled in the betting on Saturday with stablemate Fat Mans Alley who had Saratoga’s leading driver Billy Dobson in the sulky.
While both entries attracted much consideration in the betting in Saturday’s big race, it was rival Dancin Yankee who wound up being the public’s 4-5 top betting choice in the Gerrity. Dancin Yankee had a lengthy win streak broken in his last start while competing against the top horse in the world right now Sweet Lou in Hoosier Park’s Dan Patch Invitational two weeks ago. The Amber Buter-trained pacer had won six straight and eight of his previous nine starts before running into incredibly stiff competition and a tough trip in his last start. A winner of 14 of 22 races on the year heading into the Gerrity, Dancin Yankee came into Saturday’s tilt as probably as the sharpest horse of the bunch. Tyler Buter piloted Dancin Yankee who started from post three.
Heston Blue Chip drew the rail for Saturday’s $260,000 tilt and like Dancin Yankee was coming out of the Dan Patch last week. The former New York Sire Stakes champ won the Breeders Crown as a three year old last year and had a lifetime record of 34 victories in 62 career starts heading into the Gerrity. Apprentice Hanover and Sapphire City rounded out the talent filled field in the $260,000 richest race of the year at the Spa.
With the large crowd flooding the rail, the race got underway with Dancin Yankee flying out to the early lead in a sizzling 25.4. Tyler Buter didn’t tap the brakes much with the pacer who with a win would become a millionaire. After posting a half mile in 53.4, Dancin Yankee started to feel some pressure from a first over Foiled Again but after checking in at three quarters in 1:21, it was evident that Dancin Yankee might have a real shot at the track record. Buter asked the superstar pacer for his best turning for home and Dancin Yankee put in a magical stretch run while drawing out to a better than three length win in an eye-popping 1:48.4. Heston Blue Chip held second while Foiled Again had to settle for third in the Gerrity for the second consecutive year. The win time not only broke the track record set almost a year ago to the day in the Gerrity but served as a world record for aged pacers on a half mile track. It was a magical moment as the fans roared while Dancin Yankee made his way back to the Saratoga winner’s circle where a presentation was made to him on behalf of Joe Gerrity Jr. who was such a proponent of harness racing throughout his life and no doubt was smiling down as a track and world record performance highlighted the night that honored his memory.
Live racing takes place every Tuesday through Saturday throughout the month of August with first post times set for 7:05pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!