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2023 Schuylerville Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Sugar Treat Tries Dirt In Saratoga Opening Day Feature
Sugar Treat (Coglianese Photos)

2023 Schuylerville Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Sugar Treat Tries Dirt In Saratoga Opening Day Feature

Aaron previews the 2023 Schuylerville Stakes (G3) from Saratoga, then gives his top picks & long shots from the annual feature race on Opening Day. The Mark Casse-trained Sugar Treat tries dirt for the 1st time after rallying to break her maiden on debut over the Gulfstream Park synthetic surface; will she find similar success on the switch? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The press release:

Douglas Scharbauer’s stakes-winning Texas homebred Closing Act will look to preserve her undefeated record for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen in Thursday’s Grade 3, $175,000 Schuylerville, a six-furlong sprint for juvenile fillies, at Saratoga Race Course.

The Schuylerville, slated for Race 9 on Thursday’s 10-race card, kicks off stakes action on Opening Day of the 40-day summer meet at Saratoga, which features 71 stakes worth $20.8 million. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

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Closing Act, a chestnut daughter of Munnings, arrives as the lone stakes-winner in the field of 11, boasting a last-out romp in the 5 1/2-furlong Astoria on June 11 at Belmont Park. There, she engaged in a three-way battle for the lead into through the first three-eighths under Irad Ortiz, Jr. and kicked clear at the top of the lane to coast home a 3 1/4-length winner in a final time of 1:06.59.

The Astoria was Closing Act’s first test against winners after graduating on debut by a neck in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden tilt in May at Churchill Downs. She is out of the stakes-placed Master Command mare Evening Show and is from the family of multiple graded stakes-winners Mea Domina and Greek Sun.

Tyler Gaffalione picks up the mount from post 6.

Trainer Butch Reid, Jr. has entered a talented pair of contenders in debut maiden winners Carmelina [post 1, Jose Ortiz] and Kiss for Luck [post 8, Kendrick Carmouche.

Cash is King and LC Racing’s Carmelina leads the Reid, Jr.-trained duo off a dominant 5 3/4-length debut graduation on June 18 at Parx Racing. The daughter of Maximus Mischief led at every point of call in the 4 1/2-furlong sprint under Mychel Sanchez to draw off easily down the lane and post the victory in a final time of 53.77 seconds. She garnered a 70 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.

“She had shown signs as she was training along. She trained very well and reminded me a lot of her daddy,” said Reid, Jr., who trained Maximus Mischief to a victory in the 2018 Grade 2 Remsen. “She was a very forward filly and did everything we asked of her and she put in a performance to match it.”

Reid, Jr. added Carmelina has shown enough professionalism in her training to be competitive either on or off the lead.

“She’s got a very good head on her shoulders,” Reid, Jr. said. “We breezed her in company and put her behind horses and let her eat a little dirt. She handled everything very well. Nothing seems to faze her too much. We think she’ll give a good effort.”

Carmelina was a $44,000 purchase as a weanling at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December Mixed Sale. Bred in Pennsylvania by Lillith E. Boucher, she is the first foal produced from the stakes-winning St Averil mare Complete St.

Swilcan Stables’ Kentucky homebred Kiss for Luck also graduated on debut in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden at Parx, landing a 1 3/4-length triumph on May 23. The Accelerate bay broke fifth-of-6 from post 5, but recovered well to take command early and notch the frontrunning score under Paco Lopez in a final time of 54.95, garnering a 36 Beyer for the effort.

“For a first timer, she didn’t get away real clean,” Reid, Jr. said. “She ducked in behind horses and looked around a little bit. I thought it was a solid effort for a first-time starter. I was thinking it would be way too short for her – she’s a natural route horse. So, to get the money in there was a little bit of a bonus and, for me, the numbers aren’t all that significant on 2-year-olds. I look more for style and how they do it rather than what kind of number they throw. I think her best game will be when they really stretch it out in the fall. The six furlongs will not be a problem.”

Kiss for Luck, who Reid, Jr. said schooled successfully at the gate in preparation for her stakes debut, is out the Mineshaft mare Vero Amore – runner-up in the 2014 Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico Race Course. She is a half-sister to the 2020 Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Vequist, who Swilcan Stables co-owned and Reid, Jr. trained to a pair of Grade 1 scores in Saratoga’s Spinaway and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland.

Vero Amore proved to be an astute acquisition for Reid, Jr., who bought her for $15,000 as a 2-year-old at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale.

“It’s been a solid family. Unfortunately, this is the last one in the line as she passed away a couple of years ago,” said Reid, Jr. “She was a godsend from when we found her for $15,000. She’s been quite a producer for us all the way along. One thing she did was throw a lot of fillies, so we can perpetuate it. That pedigree will be around for a while.”

Manor Stable’s Dancing Diana [post 9, John Velazquez] was a visually impressive winner of her June 17 debut sprinting five furlongs at Delaware Park for conditioner James Lawrence, II. She emerged from the inside post in the field of four and held a slim lead over Ursuline down the backstretch before drawing off in the turn and powering home a 7 1/2-length winner. She was awarded a 66 Beyer for the victory.

“We were very pleased with how this filly trained up to the race and her professionalism, and she carried that through her race,” said Lawrence. “She broke well and listened to the rider – whenever he wanted to ask her to go, she responded. If she can do that Thursday, she should be well placed. She’s a very intelligent filly.”

Dancing Diana has had one work since her win, posting a five-furlong breeze in 1:03 on July 1 at Delaware.

“I’ve been extremely happy with her in the morning,” Lawrence said. “She seems to be eating well and she’s enthusiastic in her training. We’re hoping to ship up to Saratoga on Monday and as long as all goes well, we’re looking forward to a big race on Thursday.”

The Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Bolt d’Oro was purchased for $100,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling Sale and is the first foal out of the dual-winning Scat Daddy mare Oh Scatty Oh. She is a direct maternal descendant of the 1958 Champion 2-Year-Old Filly and influential broodmare Quill.

MKW Racing’s Wine On Tap [post 7, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] boasts a field-best 76 Beyer for a debut maiden victory on June 18 at Belmont for Hall of Fame conditioner Todd Pletcher. The Tapit grey pounced from just off the pace in the five-furlong sprint to draw clear down the stretch and cross the wire three lengths in front.

Out of the graded stakes-winning Quality Road mare Princess La Quinta, Wine On Tap was a $600,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Completing the field are:

  • The Gary Contessa-trained first-time starter Becky’s Joker [post 2, Javier Castellano], whose second dam is multiple stakes-winner Vertical Vision
  • Astoria runner-up Union Suit [post 3, Manny Franco] for conditioner Graham Motion
  • Status Seeker [post 4, Joel Rosario], a determined winner on debut for trainer Rudy Rodriguez
  • The D. Wayne Lukas-trained Saratoga Secret [post 5, Luis Saez], whose dam is a half-sister to the multiple graded stakes-placed millionaire Lookin At Lee
  • Mila Junes [post 10, Jose Gomez], a half-length winner from off the pace in her June 16 debut for trainer Kent Sweezey
  • Sugar Treat [post 11, Flavien Prat], a half-sister to graded stakes-placed Absolute Grit for Hall of Fame conditioner Mark Casse