Saratoga's 2023 Top Performers Honoured

Always Watching
Published: January 28, 2024 03:11 pm EST

The Saratoga Harness Horseperson’s Association (SHHA) hosted its annual banquet on Saturday evening, Jan. 27 to honour the leading performers, both equine and human, in 2023. 

Primo Uomo, owned by Chris and Dale Lawton, won the award for Three-Year-Old Pacer of the Year. Trained by David Dewhurst, the four-year-old Heston Blue Chip-Primadonna gelding had a record of 12-2-1 from 19 starts at the Saratoga Springs oval in 2023, accumulating $90,327 in earnings.

Dewhurst doubled up in awards, winning the Three-Year-Old Trotter of the Year award with City Of Hope. Owned by Philip Hale and Dewhurst, the four-year-old Mets Hall-Doin The City gelding had 19 starts at Saratoga with a record of 10-2-3 and $90,894 earned.

Bungalow Bill N won the Claiming Pacer of the Year award for trainer Lisa Zabielski and owners Ray Lasky, Andrew Harris, Joseph Krong and Zachary Gugliemelli. The 13-year-old gelded son of Bettors Delight-Strawberry Fields made 33 trips to the track over the season and took home six wins, nine seconds and six thirds. His local purse earnings for 2023 amounted to $62,700.

Brett Derue doubled up in hardware with American Tour N (American Ideal-Armainapocket N) as Claiming Mare of the Year for her 12-6-5 record and $120,000 from 40 starts at Saratoga in 2023 for owner Stephen Picarazzi and Derue as well as Mr Cool Seaeyre N (The Pres-Viola Chola) as Claiming Trotter of the Year for his local record of 9-6-3 and $88,269 earned from 26 starts for owners Picarazzi, Derue and Darreyl Bullard.

Uncle Jord A (Rock N Roll Heaven-Serenas Delight) won the Pacer of the Year award for trainer Alicia Gray and owner Douglas Overhiser. The nine-year-old gelding earned a record of 4-6-2 in 22 starts at Saratoga with $67,949 earned. 

Pay Me To Knight won Trotter of the Year with a Saratoga seasonal summary of 11-1-4 from 29 starts and $85,401 earned. Doug Maura trained and drove the six-year-old Conway Hall-Pay Up Now gelding for owner Louis Maura.

Always Watching (pictured above) was awarded as both the Mare of the Year and Horse of the Year. Owned, trained and driven by Jordan Derue, the six-year-old Hes Watching-Ravishmasterpiece mare posted a record of 10-4-5 from 24 local starts with $107,891 banked.

Brett Derue was honoured as Trainer of the Year at the banquet. Leading driver Jim Devaux received his award at the conclusion of the season in the winner's circle.

The Johnny Page Award for driver breakthrough went to Matty Athearn for his 89 wins and $1,006,924 in earnings from 846 starts at Saratoga. Jesse McAssey won the Peerless McGrath Award for trainer breakthrough with 31 wins and $299,462 earned from 202 local starts.

Brett Beckwith and Jim Devaux shared in the Horseman of the Year award while Robyn Mangiardi won the award for Horsewoman of the Year.

Three grooms were awarded as Groom Of The Year: Katie King and Frankie Fragomeni from the Lisa Zabielski Stable and Randi Stark from the Melissa Beckwith Stable.

As part of a new tradition of awards, the SHHA added 16 new categories to honour horsemen and horses for their season's achievements.

Circuit Party won the Rising Star Award, highlighting his five-win streak from July to August for trainer Dan Cappello and regular driver Wally Hennessey.

Cash Me Out won the War Horse award for trainer Kyle Spagnola and owner Michael Traylor.

The Senior Citizen Award was shared by veteran pacer Warrawee Nonsuch, trained and owned by Jaymes McAssey, and veteran trotter Darron Hall, trained and owned by Frank Multari.

Horses that dominated in the "2x5" division, the winners of two not more than five races, were awarded as Kill A Dragon (trained by Jackie Greene) in the pacing division, Makin No Bakin (trained by Phil Fluet) in the trotting division and Mini Rose (trained by Brett Derue) in the mares division.

Trump De Vie won an award for most consecutive wins, winning seven in a row for trainer Jackie Cantine and owners Jeff Cantine and Sandra Shein. American Tour N won for the most wins at Saratoga with 12 wins in one season. Bungalow Bill N won for most number of claims with six claims over the season.

John Stark Jr. won both the Hardest Working Trainer award and the All-In-One Award as owner, trainer and driver. Paul O'Neil won as the Owner Most Dedicated to Saratoga Harness.

Jimble Kimble, trained by John Hallett for owners John and Jessica Hallett, was voted as the Fan Favourite Horse at Saratoga.

Gary Levine was the recipient of the award for Most Eight-Holes in 2023.

Mitchell Cushing won the award for Most Unique Performance by a Driver.

Finally, Jessica Hallett was awarded with the Most Dedicated to Harness Racing award for her contributions to Saratoga as track photographer.

Saratoga Casino Hotel kicks off the 2024 season on Saturday, Feb. 3. Racing at the Spa follows a Saturday through Tuesday schedule with a first post of 5 p.m. on Saturday evenings and 12 p.m. post for Sunday through Tuesday matinee cards.

(Saratoga Harness Horseperson's Association)

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