Saratoga Weekend Stakes Report
Happy Whitney Day!
On frigid winter days when we look out across the frozen Upstate landscape, this is the Saratoga race card we daydream about. Five stakes races – three Grade Is (the Test, the Saratoga Derby, and the Whitney), the Grade II Glens Falls, and the listed Lure Stakes.
The all stakes mandatory payout Pick 5 (races 6-10) should pay nicely given the depth of these fields.
I’ll analyze the Saratoga Derby and the Whitney Stakes.
Race 9 – The Saratoga Derby Invitational – Grade I
One Mile and Three Sixteenths on the Mellon Turf, For Three Year Olds
August 7th, 2021
This $1 million race for three years olds is the second leg of the three race Turf Triple Series. That race series includes last month’s Belmont Derby and the Jockey Club Derby that will be run on September 18th at Belmont Park. The distances of the Turf Triple races match those of the Triple Crown. Since this is the second leg of the series – the one mile and 3/16ths mirrors the distance of the Preakness Stakes.
Four of today’s runner come out of the Belmont Derby including the winner Bolshoi Ballet and third place finisher Cellist. Five European based horses ship in for this race.
1. Soldier Rising: This one has been working for Christophe Clement after transferring from Andre Fabre and shipping stateside in May. Soldier Rising comes off a second place finish in a listed stakes at Longchamp. Sired by Frankel he has won two of four France and now shows up here. Trainer Stat: Clement is 0/10 in graded stakes races with foreign shippers over the past five years. You’ll get a price.
2. Du Jour: Bob Baffert trained this colt when he won the American Turf at Churchill Downs at one mile and a 1/16th with a nice inside trip. The colt was subsequently transferred to Bill Mott and Mott trained the colt in a fourth place finish in the Belmont Derby where he was wide on both turns and outkicked down the stretch. He’s right there with a decent trip. Rosario picks up the mount. Using.
3. Palazzi: This two time winner was bested by numerous competitors today in the Belmont Derby last time and finished behind Cellist and DuJour in the two prior efforts. Needs significant improvement to get a minor share. Passing.
4. Cadillac: This Irish bred ships in for Jessica Harrington off a narrow Group III win in a blanket finish at the Curragh. That was his first three year old start and he earned a 111 Timeform rating. The start before that was in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last fall where he finished fourth after tracking mid-pack and a making a hedge skimming move. Shane Foley comes stateside for the mount as the regular rider. Serious player off of his last outing.
5. Yes This Time: Kelly Breen brings this versatile runner to the Spa after winning the Grade III Kent Stakes at Delaware Park a month ago. He has six wins from eight starts and has an active five race win streak. His best effort puts him close. Gets leading rider Saez in the stirrups. Possible underneath play.
6. Bolshoi Ballet: This Aiden O’Brien trained colt shipped across the pond to win the Belmont Derby last month. He won that day by sitting mid-pack and kicking on in the final sixteenth under urging. His regular jockey Ryan Moore comes to the U.S. again for the mount. This runner has traveled to Ireland and back in a month. Will that affect him? The Belmont Derby was a slow race (slower than the fillies ran in the Belmont Oaks on the same day), so his 86 Beyer isn’t too impressive – but he was running comfortably until he was asked and finished the strongest of all. The price will be short in a competitive field. Win candidate.
7. Secret Protector: Charlie Appleby ships in this Godolphin owned colt from England after finishing a good third in the 10 furlong Hampton Court Stakes (Group III) at Royal Ascot. He was in the rear of the field that day and got blocked by traffic which delayed his move. He has run well in three stakes outings in England. Godolphin aren’t shipping across the Atlantic for fun – they are here to win. Mike Smith comes in for the mount on this live runner. The Pick at a bit of a price.
8. Cellist: This consistent Big Blue Kitten offspring finished third last out in the Belmont Derby after running up close and leading briefly in mid-stretch in his first Graded stakes attempt. Last time he didn’t have the needed kick in the stretch to hold off the stalkers coming from mid-pack and the pace was soft that day. Shortening a bit won’t hurt. Wants to be forwardly placed. Needs another step forward.
9. State of Rest: Joseph O’Brien brings this one from Ireland where his only win from seven starts was in a maiden race in his initial attempt. He’s been close in a couple, including a Group II last September. Has one start this year where he was a close third at the Curragh. He is stretching out today from a mile – maybe looking for firmer ground? Seems a cut below the best here.
10. Flashiest: A later developing colt that didn’t make it to the track until April of his three year old season – but he’s made the most of it winning three of four starts. Last time was a narrow win at a mile in the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar earning an 83 Beyer. Went last to first in that one while running greenly in the stretch and got the better of a four way photo. He’ll be coming late. Others seem better.
11. King Fury: This Ken McPeek trained runner won the Lexington Stakes earlier this year and last out placed in the Ohio Derby behind Jim Dandy third place finisher Masqueparade. Can he reproduce his dirt performances on the turf? Hmmmm. The connections indicate this is a prep for the Travers. Trying the grass for the first time in a Grade I against a large international field. Deck is stacked against.
Race 10 – The Whitney Stakes – Grade I
One Mile and One Furlong On the Dirt, For Four Year Olds and Upward
August 7th, 2021
The 94th renewal of the Whitney Stakes has a small, but high quality field. In a meet where the Kentucky connections have done so well I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that all the trainers in this field are mid-west based.
1. By My Standards: This five year old is off a second place finish in the Met Mile after a determined win in the Oaklawn Mile in his prior race. This stalk and pounce type can get nine furlongs fine (three for six) and finished second in last year’s Whitney. His speed figs are a touch soft to bet this group. A year ago he was right there, but he needs to step forward from his last two outings to best this group.
2. Silver State: He has won six straight races dating back to October 2020 after he returned from an extended break. Benefitted from very nice trips in winning the Met Mile (100 Beyer) and Oaklawn Handicap (101 Beyer) in his last two outings. Likes to stalk and should get a target up front today in the form of Knicks Go while drawing inside. Distance should be no issue and he comes in here working well. In the mix.
3. Swiss Skydiver: She enters here after being unable to run in the Shuvee Stakes due an equine quarantine. She’s been competitive against the boys in the past with a second in the 2020 Blue Grass and the win in the 2020 Preakness. This year she has one win from two and had a subpar performance in her most recent in the Apple Blossom back in April. She’s working well at Saratoga in advance of this start and her 101 Beyer two back puts her right there. Has a win over the track. She ends up here against a super tough group. I think she would have romped in the Shuvee where the winner only earned a 93 Beyer, but she’ll need big effort to win against these. Underneath player.
4. Knicks Go: This speedy colt goes one way – to the front. His speed figs are certainly impressive and earned a 113 Beyer last out while easily handling a subpar field at Prairie Meadows in the Cornhusker Handicap. He also ran a 108 Beyer fig earlier this year in the Pegasus Stakes at Gulfstream. Bested by Silver State two back in the Met Mile. He’ll be in front and two turn races appear to be his preference. He appears to have found his form after two off performances. Knicks Go, to the front. All…The…Way.
5. Maxfield: This colt is seven for eight in his career with his only loss at 10 furlongs in the Santa Anita Handicap. He enters off of a pair of triple digit Beyers in the Stephen F. Foster (103) and Oaklawn Handicap (105). He gets the acid test today. This is a much better group than he has been facing. His average final odds in his last six races were 4/5. He shouldn’t be anywhere near that low today – and that’s an indication of the quality of this field. He’s very good, but this field will not let him have his way. He may have to try and pass all of them to win today, I don’t see that happening. Going elsewhere today.