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Veteran harness racing reinsman Frank Coppola Jr. had a terrific Sunday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel. On the final Sunday race card until September, Coppola piloted four winners on the matinee program. After recording three wins in the day's first four races, Coppola sat behind Surreal Feeling (So Surreal) who drew the rail for her first try in the $15,000 Fillies and Mares Open. Dismissed at odds of 8-1, Surreal Feeling was undaunted and Coppola moved her out to the early lead in the feature for distaffers. The four year old mare posted fast fractions throughout, going a half in 56.1 before clicking off three quarters in 1:23.4. With the favorite, and fellow Yonkers invader, Oceania (Bruce Aldrich Jr) closing in, Surreal Feeling shifted gears once again and powered away from her competition to win in 1:53.1. Longshot Western Stepp (Jay Randall) came on late to be second while Oceania earned the show spot. With Surreal Feeling paying $19.40 to win, the exotics returned big numbers. The exacta paid $110.50 and the triple came back $329.00 in the six-horse Open. The victory by Surreal Feeling gave Coppola four winners on the card. Live racing resumes on Wednesday afternoon at Saratoga with our final matinee card until September. There is a Pick Five carryover of $1,378 on Wednesday with first post time set for 12 Noon.   Mike Sardella

Hudson Phil's (Shanghai Phil) third consecutive Open Pace harness racing victory was recorded in a bit of an unconventional fashion on Saturday evening at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Jackie Greene-trained pacer remained the public's top choice in the wagering despite being assigned post eight for his try in the $15,000 feature. Driver Jay Randall powered Hudson Phil out to the early lead once again but after pacing a half in 56.1, the four year old Open star was overpowered in the backstretch by rival Starznheaven (Shawn Gray) who took over the lead past three quarters in 1:23.2. Starznheaven failed to clear though despite pacing his third quarter in 27 seconds and Hudson Phil rallied back on the rail to re-claim the lead turning for home. All the while, Yonkers invader Stars Align N (Steve Genois) was waiting for the passing lane where he wound up surging in the stretch to prevail in 1:52. The inquiry sign was immediately posted though and Stars Align N wound up being disqualified for causing interference in the first turn of the race and was subsequently placed last. That meant Hudson Phil was the winner for the sixth time in the local Open Pace this year for Greene and Randall. Starznheaven wound up being placed second while Military Master A (Mark Beckwith) ended up third following the DQ. Hudson Phil was the 3-2 betting favorite in the race and led a $17.20 exacta and $148.50 triple. The victory was the tenth this year in the Open Pace for trainer Jackie Greene who has three wins with Artful Way and one from Some Attitude to add to the six Saturday scores from Hudson Phil in the '19 campaign. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with a first post set for 12 Noon. Mike Sardella

Pan Street USA (No Pan Intended) was the fastest winner among the four series finals contested on Wednesday's harness racing card at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Melissa Beckwith trainee finished second in his first two local starts including one in the leg of the series leading up to Wednesday's $20,000 final of the Freedom Pace. Mark Beckwith sat the pocket with Pan Street USA as they tracked the favored In The Huddle (Billy Dobson) through three quarters of a mile. Pan Street USA slid out of the two-hole and cruised by around the final turn before pacing away to score in 1:52.1. The other $20,000 co-feature was won by a first-over Rose Run Speedster (Billy Dobson) who came up second-best in the leg of the Star Spangled Trot but would not be denied in the $20,000 final. The betting favorite for the second consecutive start, the Gary Levine-trained Rose Run Speedster toughed it out to prevail in 1:57.3. The $15,000 final of the Stars and Stripes Pace went to Mach My Point who also scored behind a first-over journey to record his first win of the year, stopping the timer in 1:55 for trainer Lisa Zabielski and driver Jimmy Devaux. The $15,000 final of the Independence Trot went to Howdy Jane who set a new lifetime mark for the second straight start, going coast-to-coast with reinsman Frank Coppola Jr. piloting for conditioner Rachel Beaulieu. Howdy Jane's biggest career win came in 1:58. Live racing resumes on Saturday evening with a 6:45pm first post. Mike Sardella

Im The Muscle (Muscle Mass) was a decisive harness racing winner in the Open Trot on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Rene Allard trainee drew the rail for his first try in the $15,000 local feature and leading driver Billy Dobson sat behind the four year old trotter. Patient in the early going, Im The Muscle made his move past the half with the track's defending Trotter of the Year Ulster (Jay Randall) on the engine. Ulster began to tire and Im The Muscle surged past and opened up a big lead around the final turn before stopping the timer in a career-best 1:54.3. Longshot Cartier Volo (Frank Coppola Jr) charged hard late to come on for second while Cash Me Out (Mark Beckwith) earned the show spot. After enjoying an eleven-win campaign in 2018, Im The Muscle's Sunday victory was just his second in eleven tries in '19. The race's even money favorite, Im The Muscle led an exacta and triple that paid $29.60 and $166.50. Dobson piloted three winners on Sunday's matinee card. Live racing resumes on Wednesday with a special 5pm first post. It is our annual Independence Day celebration with fireworks at the conclusion of the twelve race card. There are four series finals on Wednesday's program contested for purses of $15,000 and $20,000.   Mike Sardella

Hudson Phil (Shanghai Phil) continued his winning ways in Saturday night's harness racing feature at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Jackie Greene-trained star went coast-to-coast in the $15,000 Open Pace for the second consecutive week. Jay Randall piloted Hudson Phil to his fifth victory of the year in the local Open, a win that came with the four year old as the public's 1-9 betting favorite. In A Single Bound (Billy Dobson) sat the pocket to Hudson Phil and was the runner-up while Panocchio (Gerry Mattison) earned the show spot. Trainer Jackie Greene has taken home the Pacer of the Year award in each of the last three seasons at Saratoga as her Artful Way has been the dominant force in the regular Saturday feature at the Spa. In 2019, though Artful Way does have three victories in the local Open, it is his stablemate Hudson Phil who has the lead among local pacers with five wins in the $15,000 feature. Saturday's win for Hudson Phil came in 1:51.2 which is a full second "slower" than the 1:50.2 clocking he took in April at the Spa which serves as the lifetime mark for local star pacer. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon with a matinee beginning at 12:00 Noon. Mike Sardella

Hudson Phil (Shanghai Phil) became the first harness racing horse at Saratoga Casino Hotel to win the Open Pace four times in 2019 when he went coast-to-coast on Saturday night with Jay Randall in the sulky. Trainer Jackie Greene has taken home three consecutive Pacer of the Year awards with her Artful Way who is again enjoying a strong '19 campaign but on Saturday evening, it was Artful Way's stablemate who took the lead among local Open pacers after recording his fourth victory in the $15,000 feature this year. Assigned the outside post in the field of seven, Hudson Phil powered out to the lead in a first quarter of a snappy 26.4 but really never faced a solid threat before checking in at three quarters in 1:23.4. When the race's pocket-sitter made a break turning for home, the lead became insurmountable for Hudson Phil who opened up before winning by two and a half lengths in 1:52. Kiwi Tintin N (Jimmy Devaux) came on to finish second while veteran pacer Panocchio (Gerry Mattison) earned the show spot. The exacta and triple paid $21.00 and $56.00 led by the race's even money favorite Hudson Phil whose win was the 16th of his career in just his 49th lifetime start. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with a 12 Noon first post.   Mike Sardella

For the second consecutive Thursday afternoon, Osprey Blue Chip (American Ideal) pulled off a harness racing upset in the Fillies and Mares Open at Saratoga Casino Hotel. A recent claim by trainer Lisa Zabielski, Osprey Blue Chip prevailed in last week's (June 13th) installment of the ladies' feature by scoring at odds of 21-1. On Thursday, the five year old mare drew post four in the five-horse feature and was again dismissed by the betting public, this time at odds of 12-1. Brett Crawford again sat behind the new Zabielski stable star and got away last in the $15,000 Open for distaffers. As the favorites slugged it out, Osprey Blue Chip followed the cover of the 3-5 betting choice Betterb Chevron N (Mark Beckwith) before tipping off that cover turning for home. The longshot won the battle in the stretch, coming on to score in 1:53.4 to set a new lifetime mark while pulling off yet another upset. Betterb Chevron N finished second while Spreester (Jimmy Devaux) earned the show spot. For Osprey Blue Chip, it was win number six in twelve starts in 2019 with each of her last three victories coming while sent out at odds of 12-1 or higher. She paid $27.80 to win in her most recent upset score and led an exacta with the favorite second that returned $167.50. Osprey Blue Chip is owned by Bill Reepmeyer LLC of Meredith, NH. Live racing resumes on Saturday evening at Saratoga with a first post time set for 6:45pm.   Mike Sardella

Bruce Aldrich Jr. piloted three winners on the Wednesday harness racing card at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Aldrich, who became a Saratoga regular several years back, continues to drive at several tracks but hasn't been in his strongest stretch over the first few months of the racing season in 2019. The track's leading driver in '15, Aldrich has been one of the top catch-drivers in New York State over the past decade and the 51 year old reinsman had a big day on Wednesday at the Spa. Aldrich swept the early double and went on to drive three winners on the matinee program. Two of Aldrich's victories came with Janice Connor trainees as the out-of-town conditioner saw a pair of her trotters score on the afternoon card. Connor's Yonkers Hanover (Credit Winner) and Dew Can Dew (Deweycheatumnhowe) each broke their maiden on Wednesday with Aldrich at the controls. Yonkers Hanover trotted to victory in 2:02 to record his first career win in just his third lifetime start. Dew Can Dew is a bit more of a veteran and though she was a maiden coming into her Wednesday's try did have career earnings of close to $28,000 led by a strong freshman campaign in New York Sire Stakes Excelsior competition. The sophomore filly made a break after the start on Wednesday but her race's odds-on favorite, Dew Can Dew rallied to prevail in 2:00.4 and lose her maiden status while competing for a purse of $7,250. Comprising the third portion of the Aldrich Wednesday hat trick was freshman pacer Han Solo (Mister Big) who scored in his lifetime debut for trainer Monique Cohen. After two winning qualifiers, Han Solo was impressive prevailing in 1:58.2 in his first career start. Despite a bit of a slow couple of months, Aldrich still sits in sixth in the local driver standings in 2019 and may be poised for a hot streak. Live racing continues on Thursday at Saratoga with a 12:00 Noon first post.   Mike Sardella

On Sunday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel, Mugshots Bro (Jailhouse Jesse) did something he had never done before. The Lisa Zabielski trainee went back-to-back in the $15,000 Open Trot. Mugshots Bro went coast-to-coast last Sunday (June 9th) as he set a new lifetime mark trotting to victory in 1:55 with Jimmy Devaux in the sulky. On a rainy Fathers Day afternoon, the method was different but the results were the same for Mugshots Bro who parlayed a second-over trip to victory. The seven year old high-stepper picked up the cover of rival Cash Me Out and tipped three-wide turning for home. Mugshots Bro charged right past the competition and drew away to win in 1:56 over a track labeled 'sloppy.' The win was the third in Opens in the last eight days for Zabielski as her Osprey Blue Chip (Brett Crawford) scored in Thursday's distaff to add to the pair of Open Trot victories for her recent acquisition Mugshots Bro. On Sunday, he paid $8.40 to win and led an exacta and triple with Cartier Volo (Frank Coppola Jr) second and Dragin The Wagon (Aaron Byron) third that returned $61.50 and $229.50, respectively. The second consecutive score in the Sunday feature for Mugshots Bro marked the third career win in the Open Trot for the rising star. Live racing resumes on Wednesday afternoon at Saratoga with a first post set for 12 Noon. Mike Sardella

In A Single Bound (Roll With Joe) has begun to establish himself as a harness racing force in the Open Pace at Saratoga Casino Hotel this season and on Saturday night, the Monica Krist trainee scored his third win of the year against the track's top pacers. Leading driver Billy Dobson took In A Single Bound back early as the fractions in the $15,000 feature were sizzling. Following an early speed duel, the race's favorite Deetzy emerged with the lead but after pacing his first half in 54.4, In A Single Bound was right alongside to pressure the favorite heading towards three quarters. In A Single Bound cleared the lead and by the time the other closers shifted gears, they were too late. In A Single Bound recorded his third Open Pace victory this season, stopping the timer in 1:52.3. Lachie Maguire N (Bruce Aldrich Jr) who was involved in the early tussle for the top came flying in the stretch after shaking loose and wound up as the runner-up in the feature. Maxdaddy Blue Chip (Jordan Derue) closed to be third. In A Single Bound paid $7.10 to win and led an exacta and triple that came back $63.50 and $276, respectively. Dobson, who has an overwhelming lead in the driver standings as he seeks his seventh local driving title, piloted three winners on the Saturday card. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with a first post time of 12 Noon.   Mike Sardella

Osprey Blue Chip (American Ideal) is in the midst of her best stretch since coming to Saratoga Casino Hotel a couple seasons ago. A winner of four of her last seven starts leading up to Thursday afternoon's feature at the Spa, Osprey Blue Chip was assigned the rail for her second try in the local Open for fillies and mares. Brett Crawford picked up the catch-drive for trainer Lisa Zabielski in a race in which Osprey Blue Chip was dismissed at odds of 21-1. After getting away third, Osprey Blue Chip stuck to the pylon path and as pocket-sitting Sandy Sue popped the pocket around the final turn, the longshot gobbled up ground on the inside turning for home. Sandy Sue (Billy Dobson), a winner of two consecutive Opens for distaffers heading into Thursday's try in the $15,000 feature, came up second-best as Osprey Blue Chip surged up the passing lane before stopping the timer in 1:54.4. Sandy Sue was the runner-up while the favored Made Of Jewels As (Jay Randall) had to settle for third. Osprey Blue Chip's win price of $45.80 is the largest for an Open winner at Saratoga since back in February when Aberforth pulled off a shocker in the Open Trot and returned $79.00 to win. The exacta paid $227 while the triple returned $1,033 in the six-horse feature for the ladies on Thursday afternoon. Live racing resumes on Saturday evening with a first post time set for 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

Wednesday afternoon's harness racing card at Saratoga Casino Hotel was dominated by red hot reinsman Billy Dobson. The track's defending top driver is having a sensational 2019 campaign and has enjoyed a huge last few weeks of action in the sulky. On Wednesday, the 35 year old piloted four winners including one while sitting behind former Saratoga Trotter of the Year Twisted Pretzel (Crazed). The Scott Mongeon-trained Twisted Pretzel was named the track's top trotter in 2017 and enjoyed a solid '18 campaign as well. The nine year old was the odds-on favorite in his conditional race on Wednesday's afternoon program at the Spa and Dobson picked up the catch-drive behind the longtime Saratoga veteran high-stepper. Twisted Pretzel appeared content to sit the pocket after giving way to a rival approaching the opening quarter but as the trotters made their way to the half, Dobson powered the 3-5 favorite out and cruised past the leader before drawing away to win in 1:56.2 for his first victory of the season. Now approaching $450,000 in lifetime earnings, Twisted Pretzel has spent almost all his career racing right here at Saratoga. As far as Dobson, the beat just goes on. The talented reinsman scored a grand slam on Wednesday adding four more wins to already huge lead in the driver standings as the Michigan native pursues his seventh local driving title in the last decade. Live racing continues on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga with a first post time scheduled for 12:00 Noon.   Mike Sardella

While Jimmy Nickerson’s name is a somewhat new addition to the harness racing race programs at Saratoga Casino Hotel, the veteran trainer is certainly not new to the sport of harness racing. A native of Maine, the avid golf enthusiast came to New York a little over a decade ago when he and his current wife Heidi Rohr relocated their stable to a farm in Middletown. From that farm, Nickerson and Rohr’s horses competed at a host of tracks and the Rohr trainees could regularly be found racing at Yonkers with others making the trek to Pennsylvania or the much closer trip to Monticello. Though they raced members of their stable at several tracks, Rohr and Nickerson often came to Saratoga Casino Hotel and have always enjoyed success here. In fact, back in 2009, Rohr was named the Peerless McGrath Award winner at Saratoga, an award that recognizes the track’s top breakthrough trainer for that season. That wouldn’t be the last honor bestowed to Rohr either. After a move to Saratoga and a few more solid local seasons, Rohr was ready to take over the top spot. In 2013, she was named Trainer of the Year just one season before winning her first training title at Saratoga. Rohr finished up the ’14 campaign with the most wins among local conditioners despite still racing at multiple tracks in the northeast. Rohr was named Horsewoman of the Year in ’13 and ’14 as well after establishing herself as a force at the Spa. Rohr and Nickerson managed their stable together for more than a decade before Rohr backed out of the day-to-day activities of the barn following the birth of their daughter Emery. At that point, Nickerson officially took over the reins and has continued to enjoy success. After finishing last season in a tie for eighth place among local trainers, Nickerson is having a terrific 2019 campaign thus far. Heidi Rohr Despite the fact that he brings numerous trainees to Massachusetts to compete at Plainridge during the week, Nickerson came into last week’s action at the Spa in a tie for second among local trainers in ’19. Thriving with a stable that is notably pacer-heavy, Nickerson has done his damage this season despite not necessarily having one or two standouts do the majority of his barn’s winning. One level where we have seen Nickerson and Rohr trainees thrive in their now decade-plus at Saratoga is in the Opens, mostly for pacers. Rohr’s Bell On Wheels was named Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year back in 2013 and ever since then, the husband-wife led stable has featured numerous top distaffers who have thrived against the track’s top lady pacers throughout the years. The most recent Nickerson trainee to compete and thrive in the Fillies and Mares Open is Sandy Sue. The four year old mare came to town last month out of the stable of the top trainer in North America. Ron Burke has been the winningest trainer in harness racing the last several years and sent Sandy Sue to Nickerson following a stint in the Midwest. In her local debut, Sandy Sue finished second after getting a pocket trip in the $15,000 Open for the ladies. After two straight ho-hum tries, she started from the rail in final feature in the month of May. Leading driver Billy Dobson, who has sat behind the speedy mare in each of her local starts, secured a journey on the front end in that race. Sandy Sue went coast-to-coast and added her name to the lengthy list of distaffers to score Open wins for Nickerson and Rohr in the last decade at Saratoga. Last Thursday afternoon, the up-and-comer was assigned the outside post in a field of seven in the Fillies and Mares Open as she looked to prove her first feature victory was no fluke. Dobson was again aggressive in the early going and Sandy Sue overcame her outside post to settle in on the lead in a fast first quarter paced in 27 seconds flat. While racing with odds of 5-1 attached to her, Sandy Sue led every step of the way on Thursday and held off late surges in the stretch by two rivals before stopping the timer in 1:53.3. The win was one of three on the afternoon for Nickerson-trained mares each of which had Dobson piloting. The three-win afternoon for Nickerson was enough to vault him into second in the trainer standings and while his stable has thrived with mares this year, Jimmy has enjoyed plenty of success in the Saturday Open Pace as well. In 2017, Rohr and Nickerson won the regular Saturday feature five times with four different horses. Veteran pacer Deetzy was the only two-time winner out of the stable in the Open, scoring once in a lifetime best 1:50 flat and subsequently was a nominee for Pacer of the Year in ’17. And it wasn’t the last we’d see Deetzy thrive among the track’s top pacers. Last season, Deetzy accounted for three of the four Open Pace wins for Nickerson at Saratoga as the then six year old utilized a blend of early speed and closing ability to put together another six-figure campaign, his second straight. Still one of his stable’s top stars in ‘19, the well-traveled Deetzy returned to the Spa to compete in the final Open Pace in the month of May. He finished third in a 1:50.2 mile and thus was the favorite in the $15,000 feature contested the following week. Driver Shawn Gray powered the seven year old out to the early lead, a lead the classy pacer would never relinquish before stopping the timer in 1:51.3. It was just another win in an Open for Nickerson who has rattled off such victories for more than the last decade at the Spa. Though his stable does send out some trotters from time to time, the barn seems to be very pacer-heavy spanning the levels from occasionally the bottom to more commonly the top. And though his stable splits its starts between Saratoga and other tracks, with Open Pacers like Sandy Sue and Deetzy leading the way, Jimmy Nickerson could well wind up back at the top of the trainer standings at the Spa just as his wife Heidi Rohr was just a few years ago. Live racing takes place every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday starting at 12 Noon and on Saturday evening beginning at 6:45pm. By Mike Sardella Special to the Saratogian Reprinted with permission of The Record

Some Attitude (Somebeachsomewhere) last won the local harness racing Open Pace at Saratoga Casino Hotel in October of 2017. That is, before Saturday night. The Jackie Greene-trained pacer drew the rail in the $15,000 Open Pace and driver Frank Coppola Jr was aggressive in the early going with the five year old who was dismissed at odds of 12-1. Some Attitude, who won an installment of the Open Pace at Plainridge last month, proved up to the task on Saturday after leading every step of the way. Things got dicey for Some Attitude heading to three quarters but he dug in, turning back the late bid from pocket-sitting In A Single Bound (Billy Dobson) in the stretch to prevail in 1:52.3. In A Single Bound came up second-best while longshot Kiwi Tintin N (Jimmy Devaux) earned the show spot. Some Attitude paid $27.40 in the upset win and led an exacta and triple that returned $133 and $418, respectively. Overall, it was the third win in twelve seasonal tries for the Greene trainee who is owned by the Kellogg Racing Stables of Queensbury, NY. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with a matinee starting at 12 Noon. New York Sire Stakes will take center stage as three year old trotting fillies are featured. Mike Sardella

Saratoga Springs, NY-- Brett "the Teenage Wonder" Beckwith has a good harness racing future ahead of him. The 16-year old youngster won a Billings race tonight at Saratoga Raceway, which is his second amateur driving victory having won a NAADA trot earlier this season at Yonkers Raceway. Up behind Dark Pool from the seven hole, Beckwith sent his charge out in search of a good position and fell into the three -hole as "Yankee Joe" Lee and The Royal Harry showed to the way by the first quarter in a swift :28.3. Lee tried to slow the pace once he gained command but still The Royal Harry led his competition by the halfway point in :56.2. Up the backside Beckwith moved Dark Pool out to challenge and they rambled alongside the leader and were a head to the good as they approached the sweeping Saratoga turn. After putting away Lee's trotter, Dark Pool braced for Tony "The Capo" Verruso's Winter Mint, who had the better part of a two-hole journey throughout. But in the lane there was no catching Dark Pool as he crossed the finish line a length in front of Winter Mint. Despite of going off-stride after the start Revrac Harbour, driven by Tony "Shifty" Ciuffetelli, Jr., rallied for the show dough Dark Pool, a 6-year-old Cantab Hall gelding is owned by Vincent Ginsberg and trained by Paul Fusco. by John Manzi for the Billings Series    

Sandy Sue (Shark Gesture) scored her first win in the local Open for fillies and mares at Saratoga Casino Hotel last week for harness racing trainer Jimmy Nickerson and driver Billy Dobson. The four year old mare had one try as the runner-up in the $15,000 Thursday feature before recording the Open win last Thursday. Sandy Sue was assigned the outside post in this week's installment of the Fillies and Mares Open and was thus a 5-1 shot in the wagering despite coming off of the win. Dobson, who holds a huge lead already this year in the driver standings at the Spa, guided the Nickerson trainee out to the front end where she paced a first lap in 56 seconds. After checking in at three quarters in 1:24.3, it appeared Sandy Sue might have had enough but she proved otherwise in the stretch, digging in to hold off pocket-sitting Barynya A (Frank Coppola Jr) and first-over rival Freeze Out (Phil Fluet) to record her second consecutive Open victory. Barynya A was the runner-up while Freeze Out had to settle for third in the mile clocked in 1:53.3. Sandy Sue paid $12.80 to win and led an exacta and triple that came back $86.00 and $311.50, respectively. The win in the Open was one of five on the afternoon for Dobson just one day after piloting four winners on Wednesday's card. Live racing resumes on Saturday evening at Saratoga with a 7:05pm first post.   Mike Sardella Photo: Melissa Simser-Iovino

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