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Excelsior Series Wraps Up With Approval

Published: September 22, 2012 4:51 pm ET

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Driver Jim Morrill Jr.’s five consecutive victories at Saratoga Raceway Friday night included the first three of four $45,000 New York Sire Stakes Excelsior Series finals for two-year-olds with odds-on favourites.

Morrill captured the Two-Year-Old Colt & Gelding Trot with Ronny Bugatti for trainer and co-owner Tommy Haughton; the Two-Year-Old Filly Pace with Mollie Mile and the Two-Year-Old Filly Trot with Americash Express.

Morrill didn’t have a drive in the Two-Year-Old Colt & Gelding Trot, which was won by yet another odds-on favourite, Imwideawake.

Ronny Bugatti, a son of Art Major, scored easily wire-to-wire by three and a quarter lengths from the seven post in 1:55. The win was his fourth in seven starts this year.

Ribbonships’ Mollie Mile, a daughter of American Ideal trained by Steve Elliott, also won on the front end, holding off Sir Leigh Z Tam, who was racing for purse money only, by half a length in 1:56.

Morrill changed tactics in the third final, sitting the pocket with Americash Express, a daughter of Cash Hall, as Maggie O cut out the mile from the rail. Waiting until the top of the stretch, Morrill swung Americash Express to the outside and she wore down Maggie O to win by a length and a half in 1:59.3.

In the last final, Jim Devaux drove Roy Dobbins’ Imwideawake to a dominating score over Ashes Cash, in 2:00. Andrew Byler trains the winner, who dealt Ashes Cash just his second defeat in 12 races.

Friday’s Excelsior finals, which followed four Excelsior finals for three-year-olds at Monticello Raceway Wednesday, closed the book on the Excelsior Series, which replaced last year’s New York Sire Stakes Late Closer.

Unlike last year’s late closer, the legs of the Excelsior Series were held on the same night as the New York Sire Stakes, allowing horsemen to ship horses once instead of twice. Because many horsemen participated in the Excelsior Series, there were less divisions of each New York Sire Stakes race, meaning higher purses.

“Every horseman is happy about the new program,” said Peter Arrigenna, trainer and co-owner of three-year-old NYSS standout Archangel and vice-president of the Harness Horse Breeders of New York State. “It’s a great thing for the New York Sire Stakes, probably the best thing we’ve done in the last 20 years.”

Archangel, who won the Yonkers Trot earlier this year, races in Saturday's $225,000 NYSS Three-Year-Old Colt & Gelding Trot Final in the Night of Champions at Yonkers.

Ken Jacobs, who sends out Heston Blue Chip and Doctor Butch in the Night of Champions $225,000 Finals for three-year-old and two-year-old pacers, respectively, is also a big fan of the Excelsior Series.

“It’s the best thing we’ve done," he said. "It gives everybody a shot at the money. There’s nothing like it. Now they don’t have to go against the good ones. This, they can compete in.”

(Harness Horse Breeders of New York State)

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