Sardella’s Column

Claiming Pacer Enjoying Historic Season

          It is a tall order for a horse of any caliber to put together a double digit win season. As any trainer will tell you, there is more than a fair share of luck involved in racing so coupling that with all of the other factors that go into winning a harness race, it is pretty rare for a horse to win as many as ten races in a season. That rarity, though, excludes pacing mare Shortest Distance who is having not only her third double digit victory year in her last six but is having an historic 2014 campaign. 

             Back in 2009 as a four year old, pacing mare Shortest Distance had a breakout season. Racing primarily early in the year at Freehold Raceway in New Jersey before shifting to Yonkers late in the campaign, Shortest Distance won an incredible 21 times in 31 starts. That season, the Jersey-based mare piled up over $72,000 in earnings. For most horses, a year like that one would be unmatchable but not for this hard-hitting pacer. After another solid ‘10 campaign, Shortest Distance came to Saratoga Casino and Raceway for the first time late in 2011.  
             Trainer Jose Godinez came to town with Shortest Distance late in the ’11 season. The six year old competed in the Fillies and Mares Open a few times after winning a race in the $25,000 claimers and setting a lifetime mark of 1:54, a time that still stands as the career best for Shortest Distance. Following three victories in just a handful of starts at the Spa in ’11, Shortest Distance changed connections to join the stable of former leading trainer at Saratoga Jackie Rousse.
             Following just a decent 2012 season, Shortest Distance came out rejuvenated in 2013 as she raced exclusively at Saratoga. In a year in which she was one of the top filly and mare claiming pacers, Shortest Distance put together another double digit win campaign as she scored eleven victories. Within that season, the mare changed hands from trainer Jackie Rousse back to the stable of Jose Godinez who had her during 2011. Shortest Distance fluctuated between the $5,000 and $7,500 claiming levels last year leading to her second double digit win season. 
             The 2014 campaign has been not only another victory-filled one for Shortest Distance but it is on its way to being an historic one. Splitting time between Saratoga and Monticello Raceways, the now-nine year old mare came into Sunday’s first race with twenty-three wins to her credit this year. Bruce Aldrich Jr. has been the regular driver for Shortest Distance in both her local starts and when she’s competed out of town and he sat behind her on Sunday afternoon as the mare looked for victory number twenty four. 
             A mare blessed with incredible early speed, Shortest Distance has done almost all of her winning in front running fashion. On Sunday, the tactics were no different as the race’s 1-9 favorite marched right out to the early lead. It was like an instant replay of her race from the previous Sunday afternoon as the Godinez trainee cruised to yet another wire-to-wire score by open lengths, this one coming in 1:56 as a light rain fell over the Spa oval.  
             The unbelievable victory total of two dozen makes Shortest Distance one of the winningest horses in all of North America in ’14 and moves her career tally to 78 in 242 lifetime starts. The nine year old has now amassed career earnings of just dollars shy of the $400,000 mark. When one looks at the career of Shortest Distance as a whole, it is nothing shy of amazing. For a mare who didn’t appear to be anything special in her early years, Shortest Distance has pumped out six consecutive impressive seasons. Within them, she has earned $65,000 or more four times and won an incredible 70 races! A picture of consistency, Shortest Distance has had seasonal marks of 1:54-1:54.4 in each of the last four years while interestingly clocking her seasonal best time here at Saratoga in all four years. Early gate speed is clearly her best asset on the track but with her unmatched will to win combined with an uncanny durability, Shortest Distance has put together a very unique career. Not only has she won such an unbelievable amount of races over the years but she has managed to do so while spanning the claiming ranks. Though she has had a few starts here and there in Open company, for the last several years Shortest Distance has competed and thrived in classes spanning from the lower level $5,000 claimers all the way up to the $25,000 claiming ranks. While we have no way of pinpointing exactly whose company she may be keeping, it is a safe assumption that very few standardbreds have ever had multiple 20 win seasons while competing in pari-mutuel races in extended meets. Shortest Distance, who won for the fourth consecutive time in the $12,500 claimers at Saratoga on Sunday afternoon, still has more than two months to add to her eye-popping win tally in what has been an historic 2014 campaign for a mare who has made the winner’s circle her home away from home. 
             Live racing takes place every Thursday through Saturday beginning at 6:45pm and on Sunday afternoons with matinees starting at 12:15pm. 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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