News » Race Falls on Significant Date for Aces Mark

September 9, 2010

Fate rarely plays a role in serious handicapping. It may be hard to ignore fate when it comes to assessing the chances of Aces Mark in Saturday’s eighth race at Belmont Park.

Aces Mark is a 6-year-old gelding entered in a first-level New York-bred allowance scheduled for six furlongs on the Widener Turf Course. He is named after two former National Hockey League scouts − Garnet “Ace” Bailey and Mark Bavis − who were killed when their flight, United Airlines 175, originating from Boston, crashed into the World Trade Center as part of the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001. Saturday marks the ninth anniversary of those attacks. This is Aces Mark’s 21st career start, and his first on this date.

Aces Mark is owned by Team Power Play Racing, a stable headed by veteran NHL scout Lew Mongelluzzo − a friend of both Bailey and Bavis − and one that includes a bevy of NHL-related personnel, including Joel Quenneville, coach of the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

“If you knew Ace, he was a gentle, big bear, always had a smile on his face, real generous, very loveable guy,” said Mongelluzzo, a scout for the Ottawa Senators. “Mark was under his wing, was covering amateur scouting for the Los Angeles Kings just learning the game at the scouting level.”

Bailey, who was 53, was a 33-year veteran of the NHL and once was a linemate of Wayne Gretzky in Edmonton. Bavis, who was 31, was a late-round draft pick of the New York Rangers in 1989, though he did not make the team.

Aces Mark, trained by Gary Gullo, ran at Saratoga on Aug. 22, finishing third in a race scheduled for the turf but rained off to the dirt. Mongelluzzo was hoping to run him back on the turf at Saratoga on closing weekend at the Spa, but the race didn’t fill.

“We asked [racing secretary] P.J. Campo to put the race up at the end of the meet at Saratoga, and he did on two occasions it didn’t fill,” Mongelluzzo said. “Little did anybody know, certainly not by design, the race was coming up on the 11th.”

Aces Mark is fortunate to still be racing. He had breathing issues early in his career, and following a routine throat operation known as a myectomy in January 2008, he suffered an infection that kept him away from the races for 14 months. It took four additional surgical procedures performed by noted equine surgeon Dr. Norman Ducharme before the horse’s epiglottis was deemed well enough for Aces Mark to go back into training. Even then, there were no guarantees he would race.

Mongelluzzo, who lives in Philadelphia, gave the horse to Philadelphia Park-based trainer Diane Day in the spring of 2009. In 15 dirt starts from April 27, 2009, through April 12, 2010, the horse won four times.

Dr. David Carr, a Kentucky based veterinarian who Mongelluzzo knew, suggested Aces Mark is bred for the turf. On July 27, Aces Mark ran second to Access Love in a $14,000 claiming race at Philadelphia Park, earning his best Beyer Speed Figure, a 74. Access Love, came back to win an allowance race at Laurel on Aug.7.

“It’s a bittersweet story for us,” said Mongelluzzo, who estimates he and his partners have put $250,000 into Aces Mark over the years. “I think he’ll run well on Saturday. I’m not ashamed to say I feel he’s going to jump up and win. It’s all come full circle; everything we did for all the reasons we did it.”