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Hudson Phil has found his groove

September 18, 2020
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When Hudson Phil started his 2020 campaign with three straight losses in the open handicap pace at Saratoga from June 21 to July 5, longtime owner Wayne Kellogg of Kellogg Racing Stable was afraid the talented pacer had tailed off or that a long 2019 campaign had taken its toll. However, the 5-year-old gelding has since won four of his last six starts, including two Saratoga opens and two Yonkers overnights. Friday night, Hudson Phil will make his first start in the open handicap pace at Yonkers Raceway.

“He’s getting into a groove,” Kellogg said. “It takes a few starts to get in a groove when you’re racing at that higher echelon. He seems to be there now.”

Kellogg Racing acquired Hudson Phil out of the 2018 Harrisburg Mixed Sale. The Shanghai Phil son caught the eye of Janie Kellogg, Wayne’s wife. Hudson Phil had won a leg of the Ontario Sires Stakes and placed in the Battle of Waterloo, the Nassagaweya, and the Champlain at 2 in the barn of Mark Steacy. At 3, Hudson Phil won the Quebec Series Final at Hippodrome 3R and took three legs of the Ontario Grass Roots Series. In his last three starts before the sale, however, Hudson Phil finished no better than sixth.

“The last 10 years, we’ve been buying most of our horses out of Canada. My wife does the research on them. She’s really diligent; she watches the replays, she looks at the equipment, she does a lot of that work and makes the suggestion,” Kellogg said. “She went to Harrisburg. I said, ‘come home with a horse.’ Hudson Phil was her number one pick as far as a pacer.”

Janie kept bidding on Hudson Phil even after trainer Jackie Greene had bowed out. With a final hit at $58,000, Kellogg brought Hudson Phil home.

Hudson Phil began racing at Saratoga for Kellogg and Greene in late November 2018. While he accumulated wins in the overnights and even the open pace, Hudson Phil initially lived in the shadow of Kellogg’s three-time Saratoga Pacer of the Year Artful Way. However, when Hudson Phil recorded a 1:50.2 victory in the Saratoga feature May 25, 2019, Kellogg was impressed.

“It was a pretty big challenge for Hudson Phil to do as well as he did last year,” Kellogg said. “The race secretary said to me one night, ‘who do you think is better, Artful Way or Hudson Phil?’ and I said, ‘Artful Way. There’s no quit in him. He just grinds it out.’ Then Hudson Phil put up a couple pretty big miles. Driver Frank Coppola said, ‘I didn’t think there would ever be another Artful Way, but maybe Hudson Phil is as good.’ ”

Hudson Phil took seven Saratoga opens from March 16 to Aug. 24, 2019, but went just 1-for-13 in his subsequent starts last year for a seasonal tally of 36-11-8-1 with a bankroll of $134,362.

“He had such a good year last year and toward the end of the year, he tailed off,” Kellogg said. “We try to not race them more than 25 or 30 starts. Last year for some reason, we raced him more than normal. Maybe because the stable is smaller than it was. Maybe we’re pushing a little too hard. I always try to do what’s right by the horse. I try to err on the side of the horse all the time.”

After a three-month winter break, Hudson Phil qualified back at Saratoga March 14, just before racing shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. He also returned to the races a gelding, which helped settle him down. Previously as a stallion, Hudson Phil was a handful in the paddock and on the racetrack.

Hudson Phil resumed racing at Saratoga beginning June 21, finishing second in three straight open handicap paces. Hudson Phil earned his first win of the year with a head win on the lead in the Saratoga open July 12. He doubled-up at Yonkers July 24, scoring in a $17,250 overnight off a pocket trip in 1:52.1.

Hudson Phil earned his third win of the season in the Saratoga open Aug. 25, grinding out a first-over victory by a nose, beating rival Crockets Cullen. Last out at Yonkers Sept. 4, Hudson Phil worked out a pocket trip behind Caviart Luca and sprinting through the final quarter in :27.2, rocketed past the pacesetter to post a 1 1/4-length win in 1:52.4. Like the betting public who dismissed him at 13-1, Kellogg was surprised.

“I was hoping to finish second or third. Last week, he really surprised me closing that well. It was very, very, very good. Extremely exciting,” Kellogg said.

His record standing at 4-for-9 this year with another three seconds, Hudson Phil will try the $25,000 open handicap pace for the first time Friday night. He drew post four in the weekly pacing feature and will have Pat Lachance in the sulky. The pair are 7-1 on the morning line.

None Bettor is the 9-5 favorite on the morning line despite post seven. The Andrew Harris trainee finished second in this open Aug. 21 and was fourth in a division of the ‘#SendItIn’ Invitational at Scioto Downs Sept. 6.

Micky Gee beat None Bettor here Aug. 21 with a 1:50.4 score and was also fourth in another division of the ‘#SendItIn’ at Scioto last out. He will start from post eight tonight. Ideal Jimmy returns to the open after finishing first or second in four straight $15,500 overnights locally. He will start from post two.

Mac’s Jackpot will make his third start of the season and his second start off a February layoff after qualifying at Pocono Sept. 2 and finishing sixth here from post eight last out Sept. 12. The Jeffrey Smith trainee will start from post three tonight. Heaven’s Gait and Shnitzledosomethin complete the lineup.

“I don’t know what to expect Friday night. It’s a pretty big jump up from last week,” Kellogg said. “I’m just going to keep my fingers crossed and hope he gets a good trip. Based on the way he finished last week, I’m hoping he’ll be right there.” (SOANY)

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