By Ken Weingartner
There is no question in Steve Oldford’s mind where Australian-bred import None Bettor ranks among the horses he has owned.
“I’ve had none better, I’ll tell you that,” Oldford said with a laugh. “He’s kind of the real deal.”
None Bettor, owned by Oldford Racing and Joe Pennacchio’s Joe P Racing, has won nine of 11 races since arriving in the U.S. at the beginning of February, with his nine victories coming consecutively since third-place finishes in his first two stateside starts.
On Saturday, None Bettor faces seven rivals — including 2018 Horse of the Year McWicked and O’Brien Award winner Jimmy Freight — in the 11th annual Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial Pace at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The $260,000 invitational also includes Camluck winner The Wall, Levy Memorial champ Western Fame, Ben Franklin winner This Is The Plan, Confederation Cup winner Done Well, and Ideal Jimmy.
None Bettor will start from post five with Joe Bongiorno in the sulky for his sister, trainer Jenn Bongiorno. The Bongiornos won last year’s Gerrity with Evenin Of Pleasure.
“We were hoping for a 2-3-4 post, we ended up with five; we’ll take it,” Oldford said. “It’s certainly better than 6-7-8.
“This is going to test him. The timing isn’t great (with his schedule) but we want to go. I think Joe and Jenn will have him ready. He’s a great horse to be around in the barn, does everything he’s supposed to do. He is relaxed when he’s out there jogging. We’re hoping he stays good and relaxed right up until they say go.”
Oldford and Pennacchio, both known for their award-winning amateur driving exploits, collaborated on None Bettor after Oldford heard about the horse through a network of connections Down Under. Oldford’s success with Australian-bred pacer Stormont Czar, who has earned $84,125 since his purchase last year, played a role in getting None Bettor.
“We watched his video and liked him and brought him over,” Oldford said. “He showed a lot of speed on half-mile tracks and we thought we could make some money with him. I typically buy trotters, but the first one came out well. This one turned out to be a monster. It’s just one of those things. We got him for the upper conditions at Yonkers with the hopes he would make the open. He got real good real fast.”
None Bettor, a son of Bettor’s Delight out of Limerick Star, had 16 wins in 58 races Down Under. His victories in the U.S. include the Battle of Lake Erie and three legs of the Great Northeast Open Series.
“The Bongiornos have done a great job,” Oldford said. “They’ve gone slow with him and brought him along. We really took our time with him and made sure he was ready.
“He’s a nice horse. I’m really impressed with his gritty determination. He can sprint off the gate like there’s no tomorrow. The way it’s been in his recent races, he sets up shop on the front end and just digs in and won’t let anybody by him. He doesn’t want anybody to pass him.”
The Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial was established to honor the former longtime chairman of the board at Saratoga Raceway. Gerrity was involved in nearly every facet of the sport at some point in his career and instrumental in the expansion of the facility at Saratoga and installation of video gaming machines, even funding part of the project himself. Gerrity passed away in 2005.
Racing begins at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Saratoga. Following is the field for the $260,000 Gerrity Memorial, which is race seven on the card.
1-The Wall-Jim Pantaleano-Nick Surick-8/1
2-Western Fame-Dan Dube-Rene Allard-9/5
3-McWicked-Brian Sears-Casie Coleman-9/2
4-This Is The Plan-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-5/1
5-None Bettor A-Joe Bongiorno-Jenn Bongiorno-5/2
6-Jimmy Freight-Scott Zeron-Andrew Harris-10/1
7-Ideal Jimmy-Brent Holland-Erv Miller-15/1
8-Done Well-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-25/1