Every week during the Saratoga meet, we will post early in the week a JUMP START on the Graded Stakes coming up in the next week at “The Spa.” This JUMP START will try to start your week off right when approaching the stakes races at the premiere meet in the United States.
We’ll attempt to not “regurgitate” the Past Performances and go beyond to provide an early analysis of the Graded Stakes fields including: injury and insider news, trainer talk, pace analysis, trip notes from previous races, workout evaluations and links to key replays to evaluate for the big races.
Week 3 Recap: The JUMP START got back to its winning ways starting with tipping the Camelot Kitten over Airoforce exacta in the Hall of Fame Stakes. It wasn’t a reach to tout Frosted as a standout in the Whitney, but we also stated that the inconsistencies of Effinex and Noble Bird made them tough to play underneath in exotics. Paolo Queen’s shocking upset in the Test was tough to predict, but we touted Lightstream as a possible value play instead of Kareena and labeled Lewis Bay as a “play against” at the short 7-furlong distance.
We’ll attempt to keep up the good tips with a look at the key Stakes races from Week 4 at the Spa here:
Sat., Aug. 13, Grade-1 Fourstardave Handicap, 3 years-old & up, 1 Mile (Turf)
The Fourstardave was upgraded to a Grade-1 this year and a few weeks back it looked like it would have one of the strongest turf fields of the year. All-world, Eclipse champion mare Tepin was a possible for the race, but trainer Mark Casse has decided to skip the Fourstardave due to some missed training days at the end of July. Tepin will make her next start in the Woodbine Mile. Top turf miler Ironicus came up with a bruised foot after his strong second in the Grade-1 Manhattan on June 11 and will also skip this race for trainer Shug McGaughey with an eye on entering the Grade-2 Bernard Baruch to end the Saratoga meet. West coast frontrunner Obviously was also a possible after his Grade-3 Poker win at Belmont in June, but will stay out west for trainer Phil D’Amato.
The Fourstardave cast may be lacking a major star, but a select group of top turf horses will enter making it a very good betting race. Trainer David Donk is looking to take advantage of the defections and has decided to enter King Kreesa. As the possible lone speed in the race, King Kreesa may have a tactical advantage on the Saratoga turf course that has been friendly to early speed this meet. That track bias may change, though, as thunderstorms are forecast all week leading up to and through the weekend in Saratoga. King Kreesa used his front-running ways to take the non-graded Forbidden Apple at Belmont on July 16 in his last race. Last year in the Fourstardave, King Kreesa was the pace-setter, but got caught finishing fourth behind Grand Arch.
Looking to defend his Fourstardave title, Grand Arch returns for trainer Brian Lynch for his third start of the year. Not only did Grand Arch win the Fourstardave last year, he finished second by a neck in 2014 in this race, so there is no doubt that he likes the Saratoga grass. The Saratoga turf was listed firm for both of those Fourstardaves, but Grand Arch has proven form over soft, good and yielding courses. His 2016 form will scare away some bettors, as he finished third behind Takeover Target and Ring Weekend in the Grade-2 Dixie at Pimlico in May on a turf course labeled good. He followed that up with a last place sixth in the Grade-3 Poker at Belmont, but Lynch has said he is better around two turns and will get it here in the Fourstardave.
Takeover Target will get the start here for trainer Chad Brown, who has chosen this spot over a trip out to Chicago for the Arlington Million. Brown said that he is looking for a softer turf course for Takeover Target and may get it with rain on its way. Takeover Target has three wins and a second in four lifetime starts over turf courses labeled soft, yielding or good including the aforementioned Dixie.
Also coming out of the Dixie will be Ring Weekend for always dangerous trainer Graham Motion. Ring Weekend looked like he was back to his old self in the Dixie after a long layoff from 2015, in which Ring Weekend dealt with multiple setbacks after winning the 2015 Grade-1 Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita. His 2014 form at Saratoga includes a win in the Grade-3 Saranac and second in the non-graded Sir Cat, so there is evidence he’ll relish the Saratoga turf.
As a perfect segue, the winner of the aforementioned 2014 Sir Cat was Tourist. The Bill Mott trainee has raced in the classiest races on turf since then, but has only won once in eight subsequent starts. His second place finish in his last race was strong behind loose-on-the-lead Midnight Storm in the Grade-1 Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita to start June. He’s been hanging out at Saratoga since the end of June waiting for this start, so the coast-to-coast travel should not be a concern.
Chad Brown will also enter A Lot, stretching back out to the mile from his Jaipur turf sprinting experiment. Last year’s Grade-1 Belmont Derby winner Force the Pass may be “forced to press” the pace here for trainer Alan Goldberg. Reporting Star for trainer Elizabeth Ross won the Grade-3 Appleton over a good Gulfstream turf course in April beating top turfer Divisidero. He beat Force the Pass in that race too, but has been lackluster since and moved over from Brendan Walsh barn before his last race. Blacktype for trainer Christophe Clement comes in off a short two-week turnaround after winning the Grade-3 Oceanport over a soft yielding course at Monmouth. The French-bred rides a two race win streak into the Fourstardave and can be dangerous as a longshot, as he’s stepping up in class. Weekend Hideaway is a Main-Track Only (MTO) entry, if this Grade-1 comes off the turf from tons of rain.
Bottom Line: The turf condition will need to be checked before making any wagers in this race. Grand Arch is a sneaky play here as people will take a look at his races this year and say “he is done.” Don’t be one of those people. There is reason to believe that the back class of the 7-year old will come out here. Grand Arch is the value play to key in all wagers. I am never one to doubt a shrewd move by Chad Brown and will be using Takeover Target in my plays with Grand Arch. As a back-up play in multi-race wagers, King Kreesa should be used based on the possible scenario that he gets away early and wires the field.
Sat., Aug. 13, Grade-2 Adirondack, 2 year old fillies, 6½ Furlongs (Dirt)
Squeezed in between the opening day Grade-3 Schuylerville and closing weekend Grade-1 Spinaway, the Adirondack is sometimes lost on the Saratoga schedule as a premiere juvenile fillies stakes races. This will be the 100th running of the Adirondack, so it is a prestigious race with past winners including Hall-of-Famers Busher and Sky Beauty. More recently, multiple Graded stakes winner Cavorting won the Adirondack in 2014.
Speaking of Hall of Famers, trainer D. Wayne Lukas will attempt to win the Adirondack for a seventh time as he in entering Dial Me this year. Dial Me is known mostly as one of the horses owned by the Churchill Downs Racing Club, a group of racing fans that were able to buy into ownership of the horse for only $500 each! Dial Me had trouble in her debut race at Churchill on June 24 finishing fifth. She returned to break her maiden at Ellis Park on July 23 making a late move to best top prospect Truthful in the stretch.
Silvertoni, a daughter of top sire Tapit, looks like one of the top fillies entered in the Adirondack, but will need to perform after shipping back from England’s Royal Ascot in mid-June. She didn’t like the soggy turf course in England and will get back to dirt, where she is an undefeated 2 for 2 lifetime. After her maiden breaker in April at Keeneland for trainer Wesley Ward, she beat the males at Churchill in the Kentucky Juvenile on May 5. She beat next out winner Thirst for Life and Tremont second-place finisher Hey Mike in that spot, so there is no doubt she is one of the most precocious juveniles in this crop.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will look to pull off the Monmouth to Saratoga trick as he is entering Nonna Mela off a 7¼ length win on July 2 at Monmouth in her second career start. Sweet Loretta won the Grade-3 Schuylerville off an impressive win at Monmouth for the same owners St. Elias Stables, so the connections are hoping lighting strikes twice!
Olive Branch is definitely one to watch in the paddock. She looked like one of the top choices entered in the Astoria at Belmont at the beginning of June, but was scratched in the paddock when she decided that it would be a good idea to bust through the paddock portable rail! She returned in the Grade-3 Schuylerville at Saratoga on opening day and did it again! She acted up in the paddock (see photo below) and threw her shoe, but they were able to settle her down and she ran an uninspiring fifth after chasing a fast pace early. What will she do for an encore is anyone’s guess!
Other entires in this short field of six are Ever So Clever (7 ¼ length debut winner at Churchill on July 1 for trainer Steve Asmussen) and Libby’s Tail (debut winner at Belmont on July 2 for trainer Rudy Rodriguez).
Bottom Line: A total unknown here is how these fillies will run on a muddy or sloppy course, so track conditions should play into how much you are willing to wager here. Still, this may not be the place to get tricky and just lean on Silvertoni in multi-race wagers and on top in exotic plays. The only question is her wear after shipping from England to Keeneland and now to Saratoga. Any doubts from the travel may have been quelled by her second best of 87 four-furlong workout over the Saratoga main track on August 5 denoting that she is ready for this spot.
Sun., Aug. 14, Grade-2 Saratoga Special, 2 year olds, 6 ½ Furlongs (Dirt)
When Exaggerator won the Saratoga Special last year as a juvenile, he showed courage splitting horses and bulling his way to a gritty win. I turned from the rail that day and yelled to the crowd, “That’s my Derby horse!” I say that almost every year after a big two-year old wins at Saratoga and this year I was almost right when he showed the same knifing, fearless style to close for second in the Kentucky Derby. His Grade-1 Preakness and Haskell wins supported my notions that day, but it should be noted that Exaggerator’s last win on a fast track was that Saratoga Special a year ago!
Anyway, we probably won’t see the 2017 Preakness winner this Saturday at Saratoga, but who knows! Topping the list of this year’s entries is Recruiting Ready for trainer Horacio DePaz. Recruiting Ready sprung from the gate in the Grade-3 Bashford Manor at Churchill on July 2 blazing fast fractions. He led the whole way until the final strides when he was nailed at the wire by top prospect Classic Empire. The rest of the field was far behind by 9 lengths. Recruiting Ready will look to bounce back only stretching out a half furlong more in this spot.
Tip Tap Tapizar was one of those horses that was 9 lengths behind Recruiting Ready in the Bashford Manor and finished third. After attending the pace early, he tired quickly in the stretch and will need to improve greatly to be a threat here.
Trainer Todd Pletcher’s Sonic Mule will make his graded stakes debut after breaking his maiden last out at Monmouth at 5 ½ furlongs on July 15. Gunnevera broke his maiden in his third lifetime start at Gulfstream on July 16 and is a likely entry for trainer Antonio Sano. Get Lit N Get Wild, a maiden after four lifetime starts on synthetics at Presque Isle, is possible to enter and try dirt for the first time for trainer Kevin Rice.
Bottom Line: Recruiting Ready was a major hype horse after his debut romp at Pimlico by 10 ¼ lengths on May 28. He showed his blazing speed against top competition in the Bashford Manor and if he can settle just a little bit in this race, he will be very tough to beat. I’ll hope that Sonic Mule takes some money for Pletcher and keeps the price on Recruiting Ready playable.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @SaratogaSlim for coverage of the Saratoga meet. Here’s one more photo of Olive Branch for your viewing pleasure (the look on jockey Jose Ortiz’s face is priceless!):