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Aaron previews the 2023 Fourstardave Handicap (G1) from Saratoga, then gives his top picks & long shots. The defending race champion Casa Creed leads the field of 7 entered in this “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Can the Bill Mott trainee continue his love affair with The Spa & earn his 5th career win at the track? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
LRE Racing and JEH Racing Stable’s Casa Creed will take on a pair of multiple graded stakes winners in Annapolis and Emmanuel as he attempts to protect his title in Saturday’s 39th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap going one mile over the Saratoga Race Course inner turf.
The Fourstardave is a “Win And You’re In” qualifier, offering an automatic entry into the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile in November at Santa Anita Park.
It will go off as Race 9 on Saturday’s 11-race program, which also includes the $150,000 Galway in Race 7 and the Grade 2, $200,000 Herb Moelis Saratoga Special in Race 8. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.
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Casa Creed, who sports field-high earnings of $2,185,308, boasts a 5-3-0-2 record over the Spa turf. The 7-year-old Jimmy Creed bay’s winning form at Saratoga includes triumphs in the 2019 Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame as well as the Grade 3 Kelso last out on July 15, where he raced to the outside of Annapolis down the backstretch before launching his bid around the far turn en route to a one-length victory. In last year’s Fourstardave, Casa Creed bested eventual Champion Female Turf Horse Regal Glory by 1 1/2 lengths after finishing third in the prior two runnings.
A win in the Fourstardave would give Casa Creed a pair of dual victories in a Grade 1 on the NYRA circuit. He captured back-to-back editions of the Grade 1 Jaipur going six furlongs at Belmont Park in 2021-22 before finishing third to reigning Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Caravel in this year’s renewal on June 10.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said Casa Creed, who finished a close second in the Group 3 1351 Turf Sprint in February at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Saudi Arabia, continues to train with vigor.
“He hasn’t missed any days. He’s been to the track, he’s had a couple of nice works. We’re just hoping for good weather,” Mott said. “He’s one of those horses that really takes good care of himself. He’s just in a good cycle. I guess he likes this time of year.”
Bred in Kentucky by Silver Springs Stud, Casa Creed was a $105,000 purchase at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He is out of the unraced Bellamy Road mare Achalaya, whose New York-bred yearling filly by Authentic sold for $725,000 to Live Oak Plantation at Day 2 of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sale.
Luis Saez will pilot Casa Creed, who will carry 125 pounds, from post 6.
Bass Racing’s Kentucky homebred Annapolis will attempt to turn the tables on Casa Creed as one of two Fourstardave aspirants for Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher.
The 4-year-old son of War Front raced to the inside of Casa Creed and fanned 4-to-5 wide around the far turn but could not reel in the winner in deep stretch. He entered the Kelso from a triumphant seasonal debut when defeating stakes-winner Churchtown by a head in the May 4 Opening Verse at Churchill Downs.
Annapolis enjoyed a prosperous sophomore campaign, which included a victory against elders in the Grade 1 Coolmore Turf Mile in October at Keeneland, defeating Grade 1 winner Ivar and 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Order of Australia. He won the Grade 3 Saranac prior to the Coolmore Turf Mile and was second to multiple Grade/Group 1 winner Nations Pride in last year’s Grade 1 Saratoga Derby Invitational.
Pletcher expressed hope that Annapolis can work out a more favorable trip when attempting his second Grade 1 conquest.
“We just didn’t get away great. We got bottled up in the first turn and Casa Creed got the jump on us,” Pletcher said. “We were able to get to him late. This time, we’d like to get free a little bit sooner.”
Annapolis is full-brother to stakes-placed Nevisian Sunrise and is out of the Grade 1-placed dual surface star My Miss Sophia, whose half-brother Materiality won the Grade 1 Florida Derby in 2015.
Pletcher will also saddle WinStar Farm and Siena Farm’s Emmanuel, who enters from two month’s rest after winning the Grade 3 Poker on June 10 at Belmont Park and earned a career-high 100 Beyer Speed Figure. The dual surface winning son of More Than Ready was previously a close third in the Grade 3 Dinner Party on May 21 at Pimlico Race Course.
The bay colt sports a consistent 5-3-0-1 record this season, which kicked off with victories in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay in February and the Grade 3 Canadian Turf in March at Gulfstream Park. His only off-the-board effort this year took place when a distant seventh in the Grade 1 Marker’s Mark Mile in April at Keeneland.
“He’s doing well. We ran him back in three weeks following the Pimlico race, so we wanted to give him a little freshening for this race,” Pletcher said. “He’s pretty versatile in his running style so we’ll see how the field shapes up.”
Emmanuel initially contested dirt, winning his first two career starts and finishing third in the Grade 1 Blue Grass last April at Keeneland behind Zandon and Smile Happy before capturing his turf debut in last year’s Grade 2 Pennine Ridge at Belmont Park.
Emmanuel, a $350,000 purchase at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, is out of the unraced Hard Spun mare Hard Cloth – a half-sister to multiple Group 1 winner Hawkbill and Free Drop Billy, a Grade 1 winner on dirt.
Current meet leading rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. will pilot Annapolis [124 pounds] from post 4, while Emmanuel [121 pounds] will leave from post 1 in rein to Jose Ortiz.
Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse captured nonconsecutive runnings of the Fourstardave with multiple Grade 1-winning distaffer Got Stormy [2019, 2021] and will saddle three contenders for this year’s running.
Gary Barber, Adam Wachtel and Peter Deutsch’s Ice Chocolat [post 7, Joel Rosario, 118 pounds] brags the most graded stakes form of the Casse bunch and enters from a fourth in the Kelso. The Brazilian-bred Goldikovic 5-year-old was a close second in the Grade 3 Jacques Cartier on May 14 over the all-weather surface at Woodbine Racetrack three starts back and was runner-up in the Grade 2 Kennedy Road on November 27 over the same course.
Gary Barber’s My Sea Cottage [post 3, Dylan Davis, 114 pounds] will see a boost in class, entering from a local starter allowance score on July 13 going the Fourstardave distance. The Irish-bred Shalaa 5-year-old has yet to contest a graded stake, but has finished no worse than third in his previous seven starts.
Pantofel Stable, Wachtel Stable and Gary Barber’s Full Screen [post 2, Manny Franco, 115 pounds] will race with blinkers off in his second start for Casse, arriving from a fifth in a local one-mile allowance optional claimer on July 20. The Ontario-bred Big Screen dark bay won Woodbine’s Elgin last August and Lake Ontario in November for his previous conditioner Julie Belhumeur.
Rounding out the field is the Naipaul Chatterpaul owned and trained So High [post 5, Ruben Silvera, 116 pounds], who races with cheek pieces off following a seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 United Nations on July 22 at Monmouth Park.
The Fourstardave honors the “Sultan of Saratoga” who was best known for winning at least one race at the Spa every year from 1987-1994 in a racing career that featured 100 starts.
Trained by Leo O’Brien and owned by Richard Bomze and Bernard Connaughton, Fourstardave was a 10-time winner at Saratoga, with five of those races taking place on the turf, including two editions of the West Point and back-to-back editions of his namesake race in 1990-91, which at the time was run as the Grade 3 Daryl’s Joy.
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