Big M: Gaitway Gal looks to continue streak, Lady Rocknrolla A begin new one

Ken Weingartner

Hightstown, NJ — Gaitway Gal ended 2022 with three consecutive wins that included a Delaware Standardbred Breeders Fund championship and opened her 2023 season last week with a victory at The Meadowlands in her first-ever race at the New Jersey oval, as well as first-ever start with 20-year-old driver Brett Beckwith.

On Friday, the 4-year-old female pacer and Beckwith reunite in the hopes of duplicating that success in the eighth race at The Big M, where morning-line favorite Lady Rocknrolla A — who has three wins and a second at The Meadowlands since arriving from Maine — is among eight foes standing in the way.

Gaitway Gal has won 12 of 19 lifetime starts and earned $231,804. Fotowon photo.

Gaitway Gal, a homebred daughter of Delmarvalous-Brussels Hanover owned by Gty Stable, has won 12 of 19 lifetime starts and earned $231,804. She has missed the board only once in her career, when she faced older rivals last year in a conditioned event at Freehold and went off stride at the start.

Since then, Gaitway Gal has posted six wins and two seconds for trainer Jeff Smith. Last week, she raced for the first time since her Dec. 14 DSBF triumph at Bally’s Dover and went gate-to-wire with Beckwith in 1:53.2.

“She was great to drive,” Beckwith said. “Jeff Smith gave me some good information about her, so that helped. She doesn’t do anything wrong in the post parade. She’s got gate speed if you want to leave with her, she can take back if you want to take back; she’s very easy going. She’s a sweetheart.”

Friday’s start in a $10,500 conditioned race for pacing mares will be a slight step up for Gaitway Gal, but Beckwith is looking for another strong effort.

“It’s a little bit of a tougher field, but I still think she’s going to be competitive,” Beckwith said. “She was off about five weeks (prior to last week), so she was due to be a little bit short on the end, and she still won. I think she should still be pretty tough in there.”

Beckwith, who is beginning his third full year as a driver, won 231 races in 2022 and saw his horses earn $2.25 million in purses. Despite being sidelined for nearly three months because of an accident, those numbers more than doubled his totals for 2021, when he recorded 113 victories and $1.03 million in purses.

Brett Beckwith won 231 races in 2022 and saw his horses earn $2.25 million in purses. Melissa Simser photo.

“It was a good year,” Beckwith said. “I’m just extremely grateful and appreciative of all the opportunities I’ve gotten. I just try to keep on taking them when they come and roll with it.”

Beckwith finished fourth in wins (142) among drivers at Saratoga Casino Hotel, where he won 16 percent of his starts. He was ninth in victories (51) at Plainridge Park, where he won at a 20-percent clip, and he landed just outside the top 10 at Freehold.

He plans to keep an active schedule again this year. So far this season, Beckwith has competed at The Meadowlands, Freehold, Dover, Monticello, and Batavia. He will return to Saratoga when it opens Feb. 4 and Plainridge when it opens in April.

“I try to stay busy no matter where it is,” said Beckwith, who also spends time in the mornings jogging horses for various stables. “I tell everyone, you can’t win a race that you’re not in. I’d like to think there are not many who hustle as much as I try to. I don’t care how far I have to drive, where I have to go. I just try to stay very busy.”

Beckwith, the son of driver Mark Beckwith and trainer Melissa Beckwith and grandson of Hall of Famer Jerry Silverman, has won 366 races lifetime. He is nearing 2,900 starts and knows each race is an opportunity to learn and improve.

“I’m very picky,” he said. “I’ll watch replays and see what else I could have done. My main goal for this year is learning how to turn the page a little better. That is easier said than done. I tend to get frustrated with myself after races when I think I should have won.

“You’re going to know more after 5,000 drives, you’re going to know more after 10,000, you’re going to know more after 15,000. It all just comes down to experience at the end of the day.”


After capturing her final two starts in Maine last year, Lady Rocknrolla A rolled into The Meadowlands and won three in a row for owner/trainer Gerald “Butch” MacKenzie Jr. and his wife, Laurie. The 8-year-old mare saw her victory streak end last week with a second-place finish behind Rockn Philly, a past Grand Circuit winner, but will look to return to her winning ways on Friday with David Miller in the sulky.

Lady Rocknrolla A has won 17 of 104 starts and earned $179,645 since arriving in North America. Curtis Salonick photo.

A daughter of A Rocknroll Dance-Educated Lady, Lady Rocknrolla A arrived in North America from Down Under in December 2019. Since then, she has won 17 of 104 starts and earned $179,645. She has been in MacKenzie’s stable since July and won seven of 18 starts while never missing a paycheck.

“She’s better than I thought she was going to be, but we knew she was pretty good,” MacKenzie said. “She’s been a blessing. She’s a nice mare to have around, a real nice mare to work around. My wife does most of the work on her.

“We’ve been very lucky, we’ve gotten Dave Miller, we’ve gotten George Brennan (to drive at The Meadowlands). Those guys know their way around. Everything has worked out.”

MacKenzie’s father bred and raced horses at the Maine fairs and MacKenzie followed in those footsteps in the sport. MacKenzie won more than 1,300 races as a driver and 250 as a trainer before stepping away from racing in 2007 because of health-related issues. The 69-year-old retiree returned as a trainer last year.

“On my days off I was still always at the track,” MacKenzie said about his time away from racing. “When we retired, we bought our own horses. We have four horses in the barn right now. We got lucky and now we’re at The Meadowlands.”

MacKenzie, who resides in Plymouth, Maine, is stabled at Mark Ford’s training center in upstate New York while competing at The Meadowlands. In addition to Lady Rocknrolla A, he has started Adriano Hanover and Infinite Symbol A at The Big M this month. His plan for the immediate future is simple.

“We’d like to stay here until the snow is all gone in Maine and the mud is dried up,” he said with a laugh.

Racing begins at 6:20 p.m. (EST) at The Meadowlands. Free TrackMaster programs for The Big M can be found here.

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