Live thoroughbred racing will return to Saratoga Race Course on Friday, July 21 for its 40-day summer meet. The 2017 meet includes 69 stakes worth a record $18.775 million in purses, and will run from Friday, July 21, through Labor Day, Monday, September 4. After opening weekend, racing will be conducted six days a week, Wednesdays through Mondays.
The opening weekend features several graded stakes races showcasing some of the best fillies and mares in the country. Opening Day gets underway with gates opening at 11 a.m. on Friday, July 21 and first post time at 1 p.m. The Grade 3, $150,000 Schuylerville for 2-year-old fillies and the Grade 3, $150,000 Lake George for 3-year-old turf fillies headline the day.
On Saturday, the focal point is the 80th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. The Grade 3, $150,000 Sanford, a six-furlong race for 2-year-olds, will also be run on Saturday. Sunday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies caps the star-studded weekend.
The 90th running of the Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney highlights an amazing day of racing on Saturday, August 5. The 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up attracts some of the best older horses in the country. The day also includes the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Test for 3-year-old fillies, as well as three other stakes.
Featuring six Grade 1 stakes races and one Grade 2 race, Travers Day on August 26 is one of the most exciting days of racing in North America. The 148th running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers caps the star-studded day. The “Mid-Summer Derby” annually features some of the best 3-year-olds in the world running 1 1/4 miles, and this year Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, Preakness winner Cloud Computing and Belmont Stakes champion Tapwrit are all probable competitors.
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Also on Travers Day, there are four Breeder’s Cup “Win and You’re In” races: the Grade 1, $1 million Sword Dancer for 3-year-olds and up on the turf at 1 1/16 miles offering an all-fees-paid berth into the Longines Breeder’s Cup Turf; the Grade 1, $700,000 Personal Ensign for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles for a spot in the Longines Distaff; Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina over seven furlongs for fillies and mares for the Filly & Mare Sprint; and the Grade 1, $600,000 Forego Stakes at seven furlongs for an entry into the Las Vegas Dirt Mile.
The day also features the Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial, formerly known as the King’s Bishop, a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds, and the Grade 2, $400,000 Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa for fillies and mares over 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
In 2016, trainer Chad Brown set a Saratoga meet record with 40 wins in securing his first leading trainer title at Saratoga. The previous record of 38 wins was held by 12-time top Saratoga trainer Todd Pletcher, who finished second in 2016’s rankings with 31 wins. The two will likely compete for top honors in the 2017 meet.
The competition for top jockey could once again be a duel of brothers. Jose Ortiz took honors in 2016 with 65 wins, eight more than his brother, 2015 Saratoga leader Irad Ortiz, Jr. with 57 wins. Top riders Joel Rosario and Hall of Famer John Velazquez and 2017 Hall of Fame inductee Javier Castellano are also likely to contend for the title.
On Wednesday, August 9 and Thursday, August 10, there will be two separate handicapping contests with prizes including $10,000 in cash, an entry into the 2018 Belmont Stakes Handicapping contest and two seats to the 2017 National Handicapping Contest in Las Vegas. Entry fee is $1,000, of which $500 will go to the prize pool and $500 will be used as live money. Online registration closes on Sunday, August 6 at 5 p.m. EDT.
The 2017 meet also features expanded television broadcast coverage of NYRA’s flagship TV show “Saratoga Live,” presented by Claiborne Farm. It will be available in 75 million households nationally through FOX Sports 2 and regionally through MSG+, FOX Sports Prime Ticket, FOX Sports San Diego, FOX Sports Ohio and the Altitude Sports Network.
NBC Sports Network will once again be broadcasting live from Saratoga Race Course on several occasions during the meet. On August 5, the network will broadcast the Whitney and the Longines Test from 5 to 6 p.m. EST. On August 26, NBC will broadcast the Travers, the Sword Dancer and other races from 4 to 6 p.m. EST. And on September 2 it will broadcast the Woodward and Spinaway from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. EST.
Beginning on July 21, “Saratoga Live” will be broadcast nearly every day of the meet from 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and features a broadcast team that includes host Greg Wolf, handicapper Andy Serling, analyst Paul Lo Duca, paddock analyst Maggie Wolfendale, trainer Tom Amoss, and analyst Gabby Gaudet.
Get Michael’s Best Plays Report each Saturday which will include all of the U.S. based Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” races from now to October and Michael Dempsey’s 2-Day Breeders’ Cup Report.
Michael’s two-day Breeders’ Cup Report includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for every race on the two-day championship event from Del Mar on Nov. 3-4.