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Last season, in the abbreviated 2020 campaign, no horse won the Open Trot in successive tries at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Though the Open didn't have nearly the amount of installments as in most years, to not have any horse win back-to-back tries showed the "up for grabs" nature of the group of top-flight trotters at the Spa. This season, a dominant force has emerged and on Monday afternoon that force won for the third consecutive week in the trotting feature. Gruden (Muscles Yankee) was assigned post eight in the $14,000 Open and leading driver Billy Dobson took the star trotter back at the start. Aided by the break of two rivals, Gruden advanced to sixth in the early going and with fast fractions being set in the feature things were shaping up very well for the race's 2-1 second-choice in the wagering. Gruden picked up the cover of Stone In Love (Brian Cross) who was the runner-up to Gruden in last week's Open. That tandem surged past the weary leader around the final turn but in the stretch Gruden proved to be too much for his rivals. The eight year old trotter stopped the timer in 1:57.3 to record his third consecutive win in the Open Trot becoming the first trotter in almost two years to achieve that feat. GRUDEN REPLAY   Stone In Love continues to be the bridesmaid as she has finished second in five of her last six starts while racing very well for trainer-driver Brian Cross. Longshot Lifetime Credit (John Stark Jr) rounded out the triple. The exacta and triple in the feature paid $41 and $326, respectively. Gruden's owner, trainer and driver teamed up for a double for the third straight Monday afternoon as Lazzaro completed the double for owner Rick Dobson of Michigan, trainer Monica Krist and reinsman Billy Dobson. Lazzaro has now won four consecutive races and has the look of a future Open trotter in his own right. Live racing continues on Tuesday afternoon at Saratoga with a matinee beginning at Noon. For full race results, click here. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

Gruden (Muscles Yankee) scored for the second consecutive week in the Open Trot at Saratoga Casino Hotel on Monday afternoon. Harness racing driver Billy Dobson pilots the Monica Krist-trained trotter and wasted no time moving him to the front in this week's $12,000 feature. Enjoying comfortable fractions on the engine, Gruden didn't face much of a threat before powering away to win in 1:57.3 while the favorite at odds of 4-5. Stone In Love (Brian Cross), who finished third in last week's Open, sat the pocket to the winner on Monday and finished second. Local legend Cash Me Out (Phil Fluet) had to settle for the show spot. GRUDEN REPLAY   Gruden, who has been a picture of consistency at the Spa early on in the campaign, has now vaulted himself towards the top of the group of local trotters after his second consecutive score in the Open. For the second straight week, Dobson piloted Krist trainees Gruden and Lazzaro to Monday scores. Both trotters are owned by Rick Dobson of Howell, Michigan. The win completed a natural hat trick for Billy Dobson who piloted three straight winners on the card. Gruden took the bulk of the public's money in the wagering this week despite the fact that Cash Me Out was back in town to compete. The exacta in the six-horse feature paid $9.70 and the triple with Cash Me Out third came back $19.80. Live racing continues on Tuesday afternoon starting at Noon. For full race results, click here. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway

The Monica Krist stable had two horses in on harness racing trotting day at Saratoga Casino Hotel on Monday afternoon. Gruden (Muscles Yankee) led the charge from her stable and was the public's 8-5 betting favorite in the matinee's $12,000 Open Trot. Gruden got the pocket trip behind Gigfy (Alek Chartrand), a razor-sharp trotter who was aggressive in the feature and did prove up to the task. Gigfy cut the mile but was hounded throughout, parking out a rival in a first half that was clocked in 56.2. All the while, Gruden was in behind the dueling leaders and when he got clearance after three quarters in 1:26, popped the pocket and cruised past Gigfy before drawing away in the stretch. Billy Dobson piloted Gruden to the better than four-length victory in the feature. Gruden paid $5.40 to win and led an exacta with Gigfy second that came back $26. Stone In Love (Brian Cross) made a break behind the gate but rallied late to finish third and complete a $69.50 triple. GRUDEN REPLAY   The win for Gruden was one of two on the day for his connections. Owner Rick Dobson, of Howell, MI, had a double as his Lazzaro (Explosive Matter) was a repeat winner earlier in the card in a $6,600 trotting event for Krist with leading driver Billy Dobson in the sulky. Live racing continues on Tuesday afternoon at Saratoga with a first post time set for Noon. For full race results, click here. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

There has been no horse that has enjoyed as much success at Saratoga Casino Hotel in the last five years as Artful Way. The Jackie Greene-trained pacer piled up awards last decade for Pacer of the Year and Horse of the Year while the dominant force in the local Open Pace. Owned by the Kellogg Racing Stables of Queensbury, NY, Artful Way (Artistic Fella) was lightly raced last season after suffering an injury but scored a couple of victories while competing throughout the wintertime at Yonkers Raceway. On Tuesday afternoon, Artful Way was back in town and back into the Open Pace where he drew post three in the six-horse feature. Billy Dobson piloted the nine year old stalwart who was dismissed at odds of 9-1. Dobson sat back patiently in a first half that went in a fast 55.3. The favored Some Waratah A (Greg Merton) came first over approaching the three-quarter pole before powering past the leader in three quarters of 1:24. All the while, Artful Way took up the chase and followed the move of the favorite before gunning him down in the final strides to secure his first Open win of the year in his first try in the $12,000 feature. ARTFUL WAY REPLAY   Paying $21.20 to win is something that would have never happened in previous seasons for Artful Way who led an exacta with Some Waratah A second that returned $59. Invader Kerford Road A (Jay Randall) closed to finish third and rounded out a $261.50 triple. For Artful Way, it was win number 61 in 163 career starts for the Greene stable star. Dobson became the sixth different driver to win an Open in the six installments of features in the young season at the Spa. Live racing continues on Wednesday at Saratoga with first post time set for Noon. For full race results, click here. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

Gruden (Muscles Yankee) was one of the most consistent harness racing trotters at Saratoga Casino Hotel last season. The Monica Krist trainee recorded an Open Trot victory last fall while enjoying a five-win campaign in 2020. Gruden had six second-place finishes to go with the five victories in just 19 starts last year. Now in his eight year old season, Gruden enjoyed a solid stretch at the Meadowlands this winter before finishing second from post eight during opening week at the Spa. On Monday, Gruden was the betting favorite in the $10,000 trotting feature and reinsman Billy Dobson powered the talented high-stepper out to the early lead. Gruden had his way in lap one at Saratoga before being confronted by a first-over Manny L (Jimmy Devaux) approaching three-quarters. The 4-5 public choice rebuffed that challenge before drawing clear in the stretch to win in 1:58.1. Pocket-sitting INXS (Shawn Gray) finished second at odds of 18-1 while Manny L earned the show spot.      Though Gruden paid just $3.80 to win, the exacta and triple in the race came back $29.80 and $99.50, respectively. Gruden is owned by Rick Dobson of Howell, MI. Racing continues on Tuesday afternoon at Saratoga featuring the first installment of the Open Pace on the season. First post time on Tuesday is set for Noon.   by Mike Sardella

The tandem of harness racing trainer Jaymes McAssey and driver Shawn Gray scored a double on closing day at Saratoga Casino Hotel on Tuesday. The young conditioner and the veteran reinsman won the final feature of 2020 with Always Mindy (Always A Virgin) who made her local debut in the $10,000 Fillies and Mares Open. Always Mindy was a $10,000 claim for McAssey at Plainridge back in September and after enjoying some success in Massachusetts this fall, the six year old mare made her Spa debut on Tuesday. In a race filled with early speed, Always Mindy sat back patiently in a first lap that went in 55.2. The big favorite Racine Bell (Jimmy Devaux) was on the engine as she sought her third consecutive win in the local Open. The fractions took their toll on the public's odds-on choice and Always Mindy surged past her in the stretch before stopping the timer in 1:53.4. Racine Bell was second while Come Get The Cash (Jay Randall) finished third.   Always Mindy paid $17.80 in the Open upset and led an exacta and triple that came back $33.20 and $131, respectively. Always Mindy is owned by Greg Gardiner of Sheridan, MI. McAssey and Gray completed their Tuesday double when claiming pacer Gottalovemyshadow (Shadow Play) made her return from Plainridge a winning one going coast-to-coast as the big favorite in her $4,250 race for distaffers. McAssey owns the six year old mare who had another solid year and won for the seventh time in 23 seasonal tries on Tuesday. Gray catch-drove pacer Nagle to victory to trainer Amanda Kelley later in the card to complete his hat trick on closing day. Before the race card began, Billy Dobson and Gary Levine were awarded plaques in the winner's circle in recognition of their achievements as leading driver and trainer, respectively, for the 2020 campaign. For Dobson, it was local driving title number eight while Levine took home the training title for the first time in his career. Racing is set to resume at Saratoga in early March of 2021. Until then, be well! by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway

It is still to be determined whether or not there will be end of the harness racing season awards given out at Saratoga Casino Hotel this year due to the abbreviated season and the major reduction in Opens contested. If there are awards, you can pretty much lock up Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year for Bontz N (American Ideal). The Gary Levine trainee was dynamic earlier in the season, winning four consecutive installments of the Open for distaffers and on Tuesday afternoon (Oct 13), she added another to her tally. Bontz N came into the $9,350 Fillies and Mares Open off a victory but she had dropped in class to secure that win. Leading driver Billy Dobson was back in the bike on Tuesday as the nine year old mare cruised out to early lead in the feature. Clicking off a first quarter in 27.3 before going a half in 57 seconds over a sloppy track, Bontz N was met with her first challenge approaching three quarters. She rebuffed a first-over rival and held strong in the stretch before reporting home a three-quarters of a length winner in 1:55.1.   The race's 3-5 betting favorite, Bontz N recorded her sixth Open victory of the season besting Racine Bell (Jimmy Devaux) and Pasultimatedelite N (Jay Randall) who first second and third, respectively. The exacta and triple with the favorite on top paid $16.20 and $96. Levine holds a small lead in the trainer standings after a pair of Tuesday victories. Bontz N accounted for one of three wins for her connections as Levine and Dobson teamed up with owner of April Aldrich of Greenfield Center, NY for victories with pacers JK Heaven Sent (Rock N Roll Heaven) and Western Beachboy (Somebeachsomewhere). The latter sizzled through the slop winning in a dazzling 1:52.2 with Dobson in the bike. The meet's leading driver piloted four winners on the card. Live racing takes place every Monday and Tuesday afternoon with first post time set for noon. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway

In what has been another incredible harness racing season in the sulky for him at Saratoga Casino Hotel, driver Billy Dobson had a monster Monday afternoon at the Spa. Well on his way to driving title number nine, Dobson piloted seven winners on the matinee card. The Monica Krist stable had a double as Dobson sat behind a pair of Krist trainees, who are owned by his father Rick, who secured Monday scores. The Open Trot went the way of Gruden (Muscles Yankee). The seven year old high-stepper sat out all of 2019 and is currently in the midst of a strong comeback. After a win last week, it was up into the $8,500 Open Trot for Gruden who got a pocket ride behind the favored Waiting On A Woman (Brett Crawford). That Kyle Spagnola-trained veteran finished first or second in three consecutive installments of the local Open, a race that hasn't been carded in close to two months at the Spa. While Waiting On A Woman cruised through comfortable fractions on Monday, Gruden rode the coattails of the favorite before taking his shot in the passing lane in the stretch. Gruden got up in the final strides to win it by a half length in 1:57.1.   Waiting On A Woman finished second while JNR Express (John Stark Jr) overcame an early break to finish third in the feature. Gruden paid $18.60 to win in the five-horse Open and led an exacta with the favorite second that returned $66. The victory was surprisingly the first for Dobson in the Open Trot this year. The top reinsman has dominated action once again this season but now has just four Open wins to his credit out of the 37 contested on the campaign. Dobson rattled off win after win on a day with a fall feel at the Spa ending up the card with a season-high seven victories! Live racing continues on Tuesday afternoon with first post time set for 12 Noon. by Mike Sardella, for The Spa

Come Get The Cash (Western Terror) has enjoyed plenty of success in her limited time competing at Saratoga Casino Hotel over the last few seasons. As a four year old in 2019, Come Get The Cash hit the board in twelve consecutive starts after making her local debut last summer. Trained at the time by John Macdonald, Come Get The Cash prevailed in her first try in the local Open in '19 and was the runner-up in the feature in four consecutive starts at one point. Upon her return from a lengthy layoff this season, the five year old mare rattled off three consecutive victories while competing at Vernon Downs and Pocono Downs before coming back to the Spa for the first time in 2020 to race in the $8,500 Fillies and Mares Open. Leading driver Billy Dobson picked up the catch-drive behind the now Brandy Wine-trained distaffer on Tuesday and the gutsy grinder toughed out a first-over victory in 1:55.3. Longshot Surreal Feeling (Jimmy Devaux) got the pocket trip in the feature behind Bontz N (Shawn Gray), the winningest of the ladies in the Fillies and Mares Open this season at the Spa, before coming on to finish second.   Come Get The Cash paid $12.80 to win in the mild upset and led an exacta with longshot Surreal Feeling second that returned $130.50. Bontz N earned the show spot to complete a $467.50 triple. Come Get The Cash has now won four straight for her owner-trainer Brandy Wine of Vernon, NY. After enjoying a four-win Monday afternoon, Billy Dobson piloted four more winners (along with three second-place finishers) on the Tuesday program. With no Wednesday evening card this week, live racing will resume next Monday afternoon with a first post time set for 12 Noon. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

Deetzy (Jereme's Jet) dropped and popped on Monday afternoon to give the meet's leading driver at Saratoga Casino Hotel one of his four winners on the card. Harness racing driver Billy Dobson has been the dominant driving force at the Spa for over a decade and on Monday, the 36 year old scored a grand slam. With a couple of Saratoga's regulars off their drives for the matinee, Dobson picked up some extras assignments. One of the drives he picked up was behind Deetzy for trainer Jimmy Nickerson. Deetzy has been a participant of the Open Pace for the last few seasons and dropped from that level on Monday into a $5,750 conditional race. The eight year old veteran got a pocket trip behind a fellow class-dropper and shook loose around the final turn as dueling leaders slugged it out. Deetzy powered past his rivals in the stretch before stopping the timer in 1:54.3 to record his second victory of the season.   The win was one of four on the day for Dobson who scored mild upsets behind trotters Amazing Sevens for trainer Margaret Spagnola, who had three winners on the card, and Storming Mist, who prevailed in his first career Spa start. The meet's leading reinsman also guided young trotter Standing Man to a Monday score to keep the three year old Andy Sardella trainee undefeated in his young career. Live racing takes place on Tuesday afternoon at Saratoga with a 12 Noon first post. There will be no Wednesday evening racing this week. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

Franco Tristan N (McArdle) prevailed in his local debut last month at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Amanda Kelley-trained pacer was the 1-9 favorite after drawing the rail in that start in a conditional race. Following a third place finish last week, Franco Tristan N moved up into the Open Pace on Saturday night. Billy Dobson sat behind the eight year old New Zealand invader in the $15,000 as they sat the pocket to the track's defending Pacer of the Year Crockets Cullen N (Larry Stalbaum). Crockets Cullen N has a ten-race local win streak in the Open snapped earlier two weeks ago and didn't factor in last weekend's installment of the Open. Still, the nine year old was the race's 3-5 betting favorite on Saturday in a five-horse field. Franco Tristan N got the perfect trip riding the coattails of the favorite in a first half that went in just 57.3. The Kelley trainee flew up the inside in the stretch before stopping the timer in 1:54.1 to record his first Open win. Betterlatethnnever (Jay Randall) came on to finish second for the second straight week in the Open while Crockets Cullen N had to settle for third. Franco Tristan N paid $8.00 to win and led an exacta that returned $39.20. Franco Tristan N is owned by the Scheigert Racing Stable of Saratoga Springs. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon with a matinee kicking off at noon. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

Robyn Camden (Art Professor) has thrived in her limited starts at Saratoga Casino Hotel over the course of her young career and on Thursday afternoon, the Rene Allard trainee returned to the Spa to compete in the $15,000 Fillies and Mares Open. Assigned post six in the six-horse feature, Robyn Camden cruised out to the front-end in a fast first quarter paced in 27.1. Miss Irish Rose A (Larry Stalbaum), who owned a win and a second in the two installments of the feature for distaffers in 2020 leading up into Thursday's card, had made the top before yielding to Robyn Camden in the early going. Those two drew off from the competition past three quarters and it appeared that the public's top two choices in the wagering were poised for a good battle in the stretch. Robyn Camden put those thoughts to bed pretty quickly as reinsman Billy Dobson asked the 4-5 favorite to crank up the speed around the final turn and the results were instant. Robyn Camden paced away to win decisively in 1:54.2 triumph while Miss Irish Rose A held off longshot Firstup (Shawn Gray) to earn the place spot. Robyn Camden won her previous try at Saratoga when she scored in the local Open during closing week of the 2019 meet, dominating the competition en route to a victory by better than four lengths. On Thursday, the favorite paid $3.80 to win and led an exacta and triple that returned $7.80 and $29, respectively. Robyn Camden is owned by Jason O'Sullivan of Dublin, Ireland. Live racing resumes on Saturday evening with a first post time set for 5pm. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway

Invader Robyn Camden (Art Professor) added one to her already bulky win total for the 2019 harness racing season as she prevailed in the Thursday feature for fillies and mares at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Rene Allard trainee was assigned post position five in the five-horse Open which went for a purse of $18,000. Robyn Camden got away last in the feature but with the grueling pace being set wound up getting a nice trip to come from off-the-pace. Billy Dobson piloted the four year old mare who was the 6-5 second choice in the wagering as she circled the compact field before drawing away in 1:54.1 to record her fourteenth victory of the season. The race's favorite The Charging Moa N (Jay Randall) wound up first-over in a 27.4 third quarter and that trip took its toll on the talented New Zealand invader who wound up finishing third after being passed in the stretch by Bye Bye Felicia (Mark Beckwith). Robyn Camden became the third Allard-trained distaffer to win the Fillies and Mares Open at Saratoga in 2019 as she won the season's final ladies' feature on Thursday. She paid $4.60 to win and led an exacta with Bye Bye Felicia second that returned $36.80. The win in the feature was one of three on the afternoon for Dobson who will own seven driving titles at the Spa at the conclusion of the meet this weekend. Live racing resumes on Saturday evening with a first post time set for 6:45pm. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

Lady Dela Renta A (Well Said) brought her two-for-two local record back to Saratoga Casino Hotel to compete in Thursday's Fillies and Mares Open. The Jose Godinez-trained mare had little difficulty rattling off back-to-back wins in the $18,000 Open when she came to town in October. On Thursday, Lady Dela Renta A returned to the Spa looking to stay undefeated against the track's top distaffers. The race's 3-5 betting favorite drew inside her major danger The Charging Moa N (Jay Randall) in the five-horse feature but unlike in her previous pair of local tries, Lady Dela Renta A took back in the early going and opted to come from off the pace. Leading driver Billy Dobson sat patiently with the five year old mare as the first lap went in 57 seconds. Lady Dela Renta A made her move just past the half and powered-up first over to overtake the leader past three quarters in 1:25 but in the meantime towed The Charging Moa N into contention as that one drafted behind the cover of the favorite. Those two drew off from their rivals in the stretch before Lady Dela Renta A held off the charge from The Charging Moa N and reported home in 1:54.2 to move her record at the Spa to three-for-three. The Charging Moa N was a strong second to complete a $5.20 exacta. Bye Bye Felicia (Mark Beckwith) earned the show spot. The victory in the feature was one of three on the card for Dobson. Lady Dela Renta A's win was her eleventh of the season and moved her '19 bankroll to over the $150,000 mark. Godinez won the previous two installments of the local Open for pacing mares with his Dibaba N who scored impressively in her pair of Saratoga starts. With Thursday's victory, Godinez now has nine wins in the Fillies and Mares Open at the Spa in the 2019 campaign. Live racing resumes on Saturday evening with a first post time set for 6:45pm. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

The Fillies and Mares Open was contested as the feature on Wednesday's program at Saratoga Casino Hotel. After a scratch, the field was reduced to five members but what a strong group of distaffers it was. Dibaba N (Shadow Play) made her local debut a winning one last Thursday (November 21) and was the public's even money favorite on Wednesday as she looked to go back-to-back in the $18,000 Fillies and Mares Open. Driver Billy Dobson flashed speed with the Jose Godinez trainee who wound up yielding to fellow invader Tequila Monday (Mark Beckwith) to get a pocket trip. Those two mares squared off just two weeks ago at Dover Downs in Delaware with Dibaba N pacing past Tequila Monday in the final strides to secure the victory. The rematch wound up as a near carbon copy of the first battle between them as Dibaba N pounced out of the pocket and rolled past Tequila Monday to secure her third win in a row. Now two-for-two at Saratoga, Dibaba N stopped the timer in 1:52.4 in what was her seventh victory of the campaign. Tequila Monday was the runner-up and completed a $9.50 exacta. Miss Irish Rose A (Larry Stalbaum) finished third. Dibaba N is owned by the Blindswitch, Robert Cooper, VIP Internet and J&T Silva Stables. Live racing resumes on Saturday evening and will feature a Pick Five carryover of $3,819. The Pick Five is a 50 cent minimum wager and starts in the evening's first race. First post time is set for 6:45pm. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

Dibaba N (Shadow Play) made her local harness racing debut a winning one in Thursday's feature at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The five year old mare was making her first start out of the Jose Godinez stable when she went off as the public's 1-9 betting favorite in the $18,000 Fillies and Mares Open on a pleasant Thursday afternoon in the Spa City. Dibaba N got away last in the field of five distaffers but when leading driver Billy Dobson called on the talented New Zealand invader, she appeared every bit up to the task. Going first-over against the pacesetting leader Brontz N (Jimmy Devaux), Dibaba N had little difficulty pacing past the leader in a third quarter that went in 27.3 before drawing away to win by open daylight in 1:54.3. Bontz N held strong for second to continue her breakout season at Saratoga while longshot Hilaria (Brett Crawford) earned the show spot. With the victory, Dibaba N becomes the fifth different lady pacer to win the Fillies and Mares Open for Godinez this season at Saratoga. Live racing resumes on Saturday evening with a first post time set for 6:45pm. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

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