For Fluet it’s a new trotter, same result – Saratogian
It’s been seven years since Phil Fluet came to the Saratoga Casino Hotel to compete full time. The leading rider at Tioga Downs in 2009 and 2010, Fluet moved to Saratoga in ’14 and saw immediate success.
That season, the longtime rider won the Johnny Page and Peerless McGrath Awards at the Spa, as he was recognized as the best rider and revolutionary trainer, respectively, that season. Since then, Fluet has climbed higher and higher in the rankings as a driver and comes out of consecutive campaigns in which he finished sixth among the local reintendents at Spa.
In 2019, Fluet was the regular rider at the start of the season for the chic Cash Me Out trotter. Kyle Spagnola’s trainee finished first or second in six straight segments of the Open Trot in the spring and had Fluet in charge at each of those starts. The now 43-year-old rider guided Cash Me Out to four Open wins in the ’19 campaign before Brett Crawford became the regular rider of the Spagnola-trained trotter who ended up being named Trotter and Horse of the Year at the Spa. this season. Fluet sat behind Cash Me Out just once during the shortened 2020 racing season and in that test guided him to another Open score. Now in its ten year old campaign, Cash Me Out still wins Opens. In fact, he is the most successful horse in the local competition for trotters in the first six months of the season.
In the first part of the Open Trot in 21, Cash Me Out was guided to victory by Fluet. Fast forward to early fall, and the Millionaire Trotter now has 21 local starts under his belt this year and all of them have been held at the Open. In all 21, Fluet was in charge. Sailing from an outside position almost every week in the local trotting function, Cash Me Out has racked up the wins again this season. After winning his seventh Open of the Year in late August, the veteran chic had to overcome post eight on his first start after Labor Day. Fluet asked the millionaire for early speed and the ten-year-old who was making his 250th career debut picked up another victory. Unlike the majority of his runs, Cash Me Out was rejected by the betting public on this try when he overcame post eight to surprise with odds of 9-1. It was the tenth victory of the campaign and incredibly the 67th victory in the illustrious career of the highstepper owned by Mike Traylor. After making a rare breakthrough the following week, Cash Me Out is back on Monday and will be part of a very good group of trotters in the $ 15,000 Open.
With his eight Open scores behind Cash Me Out in 21, Fluet is the leader among the riders when it comes to Open Trot wins this year. Last Monday he had a new trotter to ride in the feature film and it certainly turned out to be live training for the now veteran of the reins. Squee Hanover had been in the Open a few times this season, but last week it was just different. What changed? Well, the young trotter was coming out of Andy Gardner’s scorching stable who had seen his young trotter register his biggest career victory a week before. Fluet first rode Squee Hanover in this one when the five-year-old pulled the bar in the $ 13,000 Winners Over trot. Interestingly, Fluet actually coached Squee Hanover for a very short period of time in 2019, but never sat behind him in a race before his test from the rail on September 13. During that start, the fast trotter went coast to coast and did so in a seasonal best time of 1: 55.2. From there, it was the Open for the Gardner intern who made a few starts in the Monday feature this summer but didn’t do very well.
Fate was very different last week, as Fluet rode Squee Hanover for the second time in its history and was aggressive at first with the razor-sharp highstepper.
A longshot at 10-1 odds in the morning line, Squee Hanover got some backing from the board around the post but still gave his fans a decent 5-1 value. As you might expect when taking on the best trotters on the track, Squee had to work hard on the engine while knocking out fractions of 27.3 and 57.1 in the first lap, but remained strong throughout before stay ahead to win in 1: 55.2. The final time was the same as in his victory the week before, but the victory was even sweeter on his relations. It was the ninth Open score this year for Fluet, placing it just one behind leader Jimmy Devaux for the most in an Open at Spa in 21, and was the first feature score in the career of the coach Andy Gardner in his time here at Saratoga. Although Squee Hanover didn’t have to face Cash Me Out last week, there was a lot of fierce competition for him when he claimed his very first Open win. Race favorite Dewey Arnold was a NY Sire Stakes superstar this summer, earning nearly a quarter of a million dollars over the season and Bridge Works who won the local Open Trot four times in seven weeks this summer.
This Monday, the new Open trotter on the track will face the toughest challenge of his career as he will not only face Dewey Arnold and Bridge Works again, but that group will be joined by superstar Cash Me Out. Oh, and Squee Hanover landed sixth in the six-horsepower feature. Fluet, who has nine open trotting wins this year, will be looking to add another to his tally, but if he does, it will mean Squee’s modest winning streak will come to an end. The reinsman, who again sits sixth among local drivers this season, will pilot Cash Me Out with eight-time frontman Billy Dobson who will be called in to guide Squee Hanover in Monday’s $ 15,000 feature film. It remains to be seen whether Fluet will be able to get Cash Me Out to rally after taking a break from his previous start, but one thing is certain: Phil Fluet has been the King of Open Trot at Spa this season and has played a pivotal role in Squee Hanover’s late-summer push that quickly grows into an open force to be reckoned with for his trainer and award-winning Peerless McGrath Andy Gardner.
Live races take place every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday in Saratoga with the first shift time set for noon.