By Jarrod Horak
The stakes action just keeps on coming at Saratoga, and the big event this Saturday is the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap, named in honor of The Sultan of Saratoga. I was a fan of the iron horse in the 80’s and 90’s. He captured at least one race at Saratoga from 1987-1994, and his bobblehead figure has been in my office for many years.
Union Avenue Handicap (New York-bred) – August 11 – Race 4 – 6 furlongs dirt
Grannys Connection is the 6-5 morning line favorite and she has never finished out of the exacta. She landed the place in her bow, won her next four starts, and missed by a nose in a similar stakes race at Belmont Park on June 25. She likes to hit the ground running and will take some beating on the front end.
Kant Hurry Love chased from second and nipped Granny’s Connection in the Dancin Renee last time. She figures to be chasing from second once again, and she can take this if she maintains sharp form.
Betsy Blue was listed at 2-1 on the line but ran earlier this week in the Johnstone Mile.
Tempermental, Vallelujah, and Bank On Anna complete the 6-horse field.
Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame – August 11 – Race 8 – One mile inner turf
This race was originally scheduled for Aug. 4 but the latter part of the card was canceled that day due to poor weather conditions. It has been rescheduled for this Friday.
More Than Looks is the morning line favorite and he rates a long look in the stretch if the pace heats up. He is a head away from four straight wins, and proved he could run without lasix in a sharp last-to-first victory in the Grade 3 Manila on July 7. He was helped by a speed duel last time.
Chad Brown has won this race six times since 2011 and he has three runners in this spot. First up is Carl Spackler (IRE) and he was outstanding in his maiden win at one mile on the Gulfstream turf course on Feb 25. He lost lasix and disappointed as the favorite in the American Turf (G2) last time, and sports two local turf bullets for this. Appraise (IRE) is his second runner and he ended 2022 with a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Summer at Woodbine. He dueled and scored by 3/4ths of a length in an entry level allowance affair at seven panels on turf on July 8. Mischievous Angel is his final entrant and he rallied to win his turf sprint bow at six panels on June 17.
Mysterious Night (IRE) shipped to Woodbine and ran away in the Grade 1 Summer Stakes last year. He also won a Group 3 in France last summer but is seemingly off his game after back-to-back drubbings in Group 3 races in Great Britain. He adds blinkers for excellent conditioner Charles Appleby.
General Jim returns to turf for Shug McGaughey. He won two turf routes last year and was a solid third in the Central Park. He has had stakes success on dirt in 2023. He added blinkers and won the Swale (G3) at seven panels on Feb. 4, and returned from a layoff to take the Pat Day Mile (G2) on May 6. He could not keep pace in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens last time, and the surface switch is an interesting move.
Bat Flip won his final two starts as a juvenile including the Central Park Stakes at Aqueduct. Todd Pletcher’s returnee should impact the pace under Javier Castellano.
The 9-horse field is completed by overseas shipper Ocean Vision (IRE) and Penn Mile runner-up Behind Enemy Lines.
Evan Shipman Handicap (New York-bred) – August 11 – Race 9 – One mile dirt
This race is all about Americanrevolution if he is ready to roll in his first start since September 2022. Todd Pletcher’s 5-year-old Constitution horse is a perfect 4-for-4 in the New York-bred ranks and three of those wins were stakes races in 2021. He also won the Grade 1 Cigar Mile that year, and was second in the Stephen Foster (G2) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) last year. He drilled a Saratoga bullet for this on Aug. 5 and should work out a nice ground saving stalking trip under his winning rider Luis Saez. In two previous outings at the Spa, he won the Albany Stakes and completed the exacta in the aforementioned Jockey Club Gold Cup.
If Americanrevolution needs the race, Bankit might be the one to capitalize. The 7-year-old veteran has banked more than $1.4 million in his career. He won the Commentator by a head last time and he enjoys this course and distance.
Dr Ardito won six straight races after finishing second in his career debut. Chad Brown’s gelding has been off his game this year. He was up the track in the Westchester (G3), and showed some late interest when finishing fourth in the Commentator.
Lobsta, Sundaeswithsandy, Barese, Commentator show finisher Sheriff Bianco, and late runner Whittington Park round out the 8-horse field.
Galway – August 12 – Race 7 – 5 1/2 furlongs turf
Love Reigns is the favorite for Wesley Ward. She was supposed to run in the Coronation Cup on opening weekend but that race was moved to dirt and she scratched. She won the Bolton Landing at Saratoga last summer and exits a smart score from off the pace in the Limestone at Keeneland. Joel Rosario got acquainted with her last time and she will probably be patiently handled in a race with pace to chase.
Stone Silent is one of the runners with early speed. Steve Asmussen’s filly smartly went all the way in an entry level allowance turf sprint at Horseshoe Indianapolis on July 13.
My Sweet Affair gets the services of leading rider Irad Ortiz Jr. She was one of the Coronation Cup defections, and she exits a head defeat in the Blue Sparkler at Monmouth on July 13.
Dream Concert, Blue Sparkler winner Beauty of the Sea, Isabel Alexandra, Love Appeals, Coronation Cup runner-up Anna’s Arabesque, Redifined, and L J’s Emma complete the horses in the main body of the field. Reflexivity and Weekend Rags are the two also-eligibles. Coronation Cup winner Unified Alliance, Obrigada, and Cuz Ur Pretty are entered for main track only purposes.
Grade 2 Saratoga Special – August 12 – Race 8 – 6 1/2 furlongs dirt
Rhyme Schemes is the 4-5 favorite for Norm Casse. He chased and faded from an outer post in his initial start under the Twin Spires. He added blinkers at Ellis Park second time out and set the pace and ran off the screen at 8-1. Ricardo Santana Jr. sticks with the $210k Ghostzapper colt, and he should be all over the pace from the outside post.
Haul was strong in his Belmont Park debut. He pressed outside and pulled away in the stretch as the favorite that day. Irad Ortiz Jr. sticks with Todd Pletcher’s $260k Army Mule colt, and he has been stabled at Saratoga since May.
Edified is a $650k Tapit colt exiting a solid debut victory at Ellis Park. He was 9-1 in his bow and Steve Asmussen’s colt should continue to develop.
The 6-horse field is completed by Lasso, Market Street, and Woodcourt.
Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap – August 12 – Race 9 – One mile inner turf
Casa Creed is the 7-5 morning line favorite and the three-time local winner won the 2022 edition of the Fourstardave and is back to defend his title. He defeated Annapolis by a length in the Grade 3 Kelso at the Spa last time. He packs a nice late kick and must be respected in his current form.
Annapolis is the 8-5 second choice and he is consistent and versatile for Todd Pletcher. He won the Pilgrim (G2) in 2021, and he captured three stakes races last year including the Grade 1 Turf Mile at Keeneland. He returned with a head victory in the Opening Verse on May 4, and was second by a length in the local Kelso on July 15. His regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. figures to sit back and make a late run in a race with pace to chase.
Emmanuel is also trained by Pletcher and he is capable of winning this race at a hint of a price. The fresh colt is a four-time graded winner in turf routes and he should save ground from off the pace under Jose Ortiz.
Full Screen, My Sea Cottage, and So High should all impact the pace, and they will probably set the table for the more highly regarded runners. Ice Chocolat rounds out the field and he was fourth in the Kelso last time.
Mahony – August 13 – Race 10 – 5 1/2 furlongs turf
Uncashed is 5-for-6 with a runner-up finish. He wired the field in his last four starts including a local score as the favorite in the slop in the Quick Call. Irad Ortiz Jr. got to know him last time and he is probably the one to reel in. He has yet to run on turf and his trainer Larry Rivelli would not be upset if this race was transferred to dirt.
No Nay Hudson exits an off the pace tally in the William Walker Stakes at Churchill Downs. That race was contested at 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf and he showed a new closing dimension under his new rider James Graham in that race. Wesley Ward’s colt drilled a half-mile turf bullet at Saratoga on Aug. 6.
Eye Witness is also conditioned by Wesley Ward. He missed by a neck in his turf sprint debut and used a different running style in his last three wins. He wired the field in his maiden win, chased from second and cruised home in the Animal Kingdom, and sat in midpack and won the Paradise Creek by a head. Jose Ortiz knows him now.
Drew’s Gold is an interesting surface switcher for James Chapman. The fleet dirt sprinter won his first four starts and two those were stakes races. He was second behind Arabian Lion in the Woody Stephens (G1), and ran into buzzsaw New York Thunder in a show finish in the Amsterdam (G2). His dam has produced a turf winner and Kendrick Carmouche is his new rider.
Roar Stakes runner-up Harry Time, Palisades hero Gaslight Dancer, Tom Ridge runner-up Closethegame Sugar, two-time turf sprint stakes winner Private Creed, Texas Glitter winner Crispy Cat, and Son of a Birch round out the 10-horse field.
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