In Part One of the 2007 Saratoga Preview I looked at the graded stakes races for two- and three-year-olds. In Part Two, we’ll take a look at the graded stakes races for older horses.
Graded Stakes - Dirt Sprints for Older Horses
|7/28||Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap||6f||II||m|
|8/03||Honorable Miss Handicap||6f||II||f|
The males and females each get a grade 1 and a grade 2 during the meet. Last year’s winners were War Front, Stormy Kiss, Dubai Escapade and Pomeroy. The sprint division is a little weaker this year with the retirements of stars Bordonaro and Songster. Fearless Predictions: Diabolical, Any Limit, Ginger Punch and High Finance.
Graded Stakes - Dirt Routes for Older Horses
|7/28||Go For Wand Handicap||9f||I||f|
|8/24||Personal Ensign Stakes||10f||I||f|
These are the big ones. Two grade 1’s each for the males and females, starting with the Go For Wand and Whitney on the first Saturday of the meet and the Personal Ensign and Woodward towards the end of the meet. Last year’s winners were Spun Sugar, Invasor, Fleet Indian and Premium Tap, respectively. Unfortunately, retirements have thinned the handicap division a bit. That’s good, in a way, in that these races should come up very competitive. Fearless Predictions: Teammate, Brass Hat, Indian Vale and Discreet Cat.
Graded Stakes - Turf Routes for Older Horses
|8/11||Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes||12f||I||m|
|8/23||Ballston Spa BC Handicap||8.5f||II||f|
|8/25||Bernard Baruch Handicap||9f||II||m|
|9/03||Glens Falls Handicap||11f||III||f|
Assuming the weather cooperates, there will be plenty of great racing on Saratoga’s two turf courses. As in the other divisions, the six graded stakes on the schedule are split evenly between the males and females. Last year, the races for fillies and mares were won by Angara, My Typhoon and Noble Stella. Fearless Predictions: My Typhoon, Wait A While and Makderah. The races for males last year were won by Remarkable News, Go Deputy and Ashkal Way. (To be accurate, the races I’ve listed for males are actually open to all runners, male or female and it’s not unusually for top female runners to take on the males). Fearless Predictions: Remarkable News, Better Talk Now and Einstein.
Saratoga Race Course opens it’s 139th season on Wednesday with the first of 31 Graded Stakes races. It promises to be another spectacular meet with every Breeders’ Cup division getting their share of the spotlight. Let’s take a look at each division and make a few fearless predictions.
I’ll look at the graded stakes for two-year-olds and three-year-olds today and races for the older horses tomorrow.
Graded Stakes for 2-Year-Olds
|8/16||Saratoga Special BC Stakes||6f||II||m|
In many ways, the two-year-olds are the heart of the Saratoga meet. It’s where tomorrow’s superstars first begin to shine. With three well-spaced graded stakes each for the males and females, there are opportunities early for the most precocious two-year-olds and later on for those who will make their career debut in the opening weeks of the meet.
Many of last year’s two-year-old graded stakes winners have gone on to have great careers. The three races for colts and geldings were won by Scat Daddy, Chase City and Circular Quay and the three filly races were won by Cotton Blossom, Octave and Appealing Zophie. Expect to see similar talent again this year.
Last year, trainer Todd Pletcher won four of the six races and Steve Asmussen assistant Scott Blasi won the other two. Fearless predictions: Pletcher will once again win four of the six graded stakes races for two-year-olds and Asmussen will win at least one.
Graded Stakes for 3-Year-Olds on Dirt
|7/29||Jim Dandy Stakes||9f||II||m|
|8/25||Victory Ride Stakes||6f||III||f|
|8/25||King's Bishop Stakes||7f||I||m|
There are two graded sprint stakes each for both the males and fillies, including a grade one apiece. Fearless Predictions: Most Distinguished in the Amsterdam, Dream Rush in the Test Stakes, Appealing Zophie in the Victory Ride and Teuflesberg in the King’s Bishop.
There are two graded route stakes for three-year-old colts and geldings, the Jim Dandy opening weekend and the centerpiece of the meet, the 138th running of the Travers Stakes. Also known as the Midsummer Derby, the Travers will once again bring together the best three-year-olds in the country for the first time since the Triple Crown. Bernardini swept both races last year. Fearless Prediction: Street Sense will sweep both this year.
There is only one graded route stakes for three-year-old fillies, but the grade 1 Alabama Stakes will be one of the highlights of the meet. Belmont Stakes winner Rags To Riches will be making her first start since beating the boys in the final leg of the Triple Crown and should face multiple grade 1 winner (and stablemate) Octave, winner of the Adirondack Stake here last year. Fearless Prediction: Rags To Riches. I doubt they’ll all run, but if Cottom Blossom runs too Pletcher would probably finish 1-2-3.
Graded Stakes for 3-Year-Olds on Turf
|7/27||Lake George Stakes||8.5f||III||f|
|8/06||National Museum of Racing BC Stakes||9f||II||m|
|8/17||Lake Placid Stakes||9f||II||f|
There are two graded stakes on the turf apiece for the three-year-old colts and fillies. Fearless Prediction: Marcavelly in the National Museum of Racing, Summer Doldrums in the Saranac, Rutherienne in the Lake George and Panty Raid in the Lake Placid.
Following on the heels of the Ellis Park Pick-4 takeout reduction, Laurel Park has announced they will be lowering their takeout on all wagers during their upcoming summer meet to an effective 11.4%. Although the meet only lasts for 10 days, this is a significant development in that the reduction applies to all wagers: Win/Place/Show, Exactas, Triple, etc.
Once again, this is an opportunity for horseplayers to show they care about lower takeout rates. Unfortunately, the early results from Ellis Park are not encouraging. While handle is up for the pick-4 wager, it is not up enough to offset the takeout reduction.
Hopefully horseplayers will get the message soon and support wagers that can help improve their bottom line.