Siegelman Eyes Potomac Pace Repeat with Leonidas A
Meets Seven Including Allywag Hanover
FORT WASHINGTON, MD – Austin Siegelman got the surprise of his driving career last year when Leonidas A pulled off a 15-1 upset victory in the $100,000 Potomac Pace Invitational at Rosecroft Raceway.
“I never expected to win that race last year when I went to Rosecroft. Everything kind of fell into place for us,” said the 29-year-old Pennsylvania native, who is currently splitting his time between Yonkers Raceway and Freehold Raceway. “He’s such a good horse he was able to overcome sitting in the back and come from last and go by Bettor’s Wish, who is a very good horse. I guess we just got a better trip.”
Leonidas A trailed the field early while parked on the outside before taking advantage of a hotly contested early pace to rally past 3-10 favorite Bettor’s Wish and prevail by three-quarters of a length.
“I really didn’t know how to take it, being that I never won a race like that. It was kind of surreal,” Siegelman said. “It was nice to do it at Rosecroft. Everyone was so nice down there, very welcoming.”
Winning Sunday night’s Potomac Pace would be twice as nice for Siegelman. Leonidas A is scheduled to defend his title in a deep field of eight highly accomplished pacers. The Sheena Cohen-trained 6-year-old gelding has won nine times this year and enters the Potomac Pace off a sharp second-place finish in an open pace at Yonkers Nov. 8.
“He went through a spell where he wasn’t very sharp, but he’s as good as he’s ever been right now. His last race at Yonkers he was really great,” said Siegelman, who rallied behind Leonidas A to finished less than a length behind Potomac Pace rival Nandolo N. “I think he would have won the open at Yonkers last time, but he had a little bit of traffic.”
With the likes of Allywag Hanover, who came up a neck short of winning the $600,000 Breeders’ Crown after setting the pace last time out; This Is The Time, who set a world record (1:47.3) for pacers on a half-mile track while winning the Battle of Lake Erie at Northfield on the front end; and other speedsters in the field; the potential exists for a good set-up for a closer like Leonidas A.
“You would think it would kind of benefit my horse, but I’m kind of on the inside. It’s a weird spot. I’m going to try to push him out as much as I can,” Siegelman said. “Any way it shakes out, I think he’s going to be all right.”
The son of a trainer, Siegelman didn’t always want to follow in his father’s footsteps, opting to enroll in Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I did a year of college and then I decided I wanted to do this,” he said. “Why fight it? I’m in class, thinking about jogging horses.”
After driving his first winner at Pocono Downs in 2012, Siegelman moved on to Monticello Raceway in Upstate New York, where he opened some eyes while driving 90 winners in 2013. He has been the dominant driver at Freehold Raceway in New Jersey for several years and is also enjoying a lot of success at Yonkers.
Siegelman, who has driven nearly 2000 winners, is someone who doesn’t look too far ahead into the future.
“I don’t really have any big goals,” Siegelman said. “Win the Potomac Pace again – that’s this month’s goal.”
The Sunday program kicks off with a first race at 7:15 p.m. Along with the Potomac Pace, the 14-race program will also include the $25,000 Henry Sacks Memorial Pace for Maryland sired, bred, foaled, or owned horses. Sacks was a regular at Rosecroft and had been going to the track since the track opened in 1949 before passing away in 2019. Covered Bridge, a winner of two of his last three, is the 3-1 favorite with Yannick Gingras. Artie’s Deal will leave from the rail with Jason Bartlett and is 7-2.