By Arthur Gonick
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Saratoga Casino and Raceway (SCR) is set to welcome some of America’s finest standardbred performers, with lifetime earnings totaling over $8 million dollars, during the running of the seventh annual Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial Free for All (FFA) Pace on Saturday, July 25. The first post time is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. that evening. This year’s memorial pace boasts a $260,000 purse, and over $500,000 in total purses throughout the course of the evening, including seven races in which 3-year old New York bred pacing colts will compete in their division of the New York Sire Stakes (see page 47).
The quality of the Gerrity field is evidenced by the fact that for the last two consecutive years, the track record has been broken in this race. Last year’s record-setter (at 1:48.4), Dancin Yankee, with $1.2 million in lifetime earnings, is back to defend his title from PP 2. “We are very excited to have such a balanced field going to post in this year¹s edition of our marquee race, Dancin Yankee figures to be a slight favorite to repeat as champion,” said Race Secretary Peter Iovino.
He will, by no means, have it easy. Entered in the race are five other pacers who have cracked the $1 million earnings mark. “There are horses with trainers that have won prestigious races such as The Hambletonian. You really can make a case for most, if not all of the entrants,” Iovino said. “Along with the New York Site Stakes and a few quality handicap races, it should be a great night of fun and excitement.”
“This is the marquee night of our summer racing season,” noted SCR’s Director of Racing Operations John Matarazzo. “It’s also an opportunity to give back to give back to our fans.”
To that end, the evening will kick off with the singing of the National Anthem by Saratoga Springs High School student, Alexandra Koshigarian. New York Racing Association announcing legend Tom Durkin will be on hand to sign autographs and meet with guests by the Winner’s Circle from 7 to 9 p.m. An autographed commemorative photo of Mr. Durkin will be given away to the first 500 race fans. Mr. Sam Grossman, AKA “Sam The Bugler” will also be present and interacting with guests in attendance, in between calling all the pacers and trotters to the post throughout the evening race card.
“Along with several of the top standardbred pacers in the Northeast, we’re pleased to welcome two of Saratoga’s most prominent racing personalities to the 2015 Gerrity Night,” said Matarazzo.
Racing fans in attendance will also receive a coupon for a free commemorative 2015 ‘Gerrity Night’ t-shirt with the purchase of a $2 race program, while supplies last. Additionally, free Stewart’s Ice Cream cones will be given out to the first 500 guests in attendance starting at 6:30. The Agriculture & New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund sponsors this giveaway.
The Memorial was created in 2009 as a pacing series honoring the memory of Joe Gerrity, Jr. and his many contributions. “He oversaw our transition to a full-service entertainment facility,” Matarazzo said.
A highly respected leader, inspiration and an icon for the horse racing industry, he was a breeder of horses in Loudonville, a licensed harness driver and became Chairman of the Board of Saratoga Harness Racing, Inc. (now Saratoga Casino and Raceway) on April 1, 1987. Mr. Gerrity later oversaw the installation of video gaming machines, funding the project in part himself. He also served as a Director for the Harness Horse Breeders of New York State for 20 years, and also acted as Treasurer for much of that time. Mr. Gerrity passed away in October of 2005.