The James Iselin trained Willet is the 2-1 morning line favorite for Thursday’s $100,000 Union Avenue, a state bred race that drew a field of 10 fillies and mares that will go 6 ½ furlongs on the main track.
Willet has not been seen since winning the Interborough on Jan. 17 at Aqueduct. The seven-year-old mare won the Union Avenue in 2013 and ran second in the race in 2012. The mare has landed in the exacta in five of her six trips over the Spa main track in her career.
She takes on nine foes including last year’s winner Uncle Southern (30-1), who took the field gate to wire last year at 7-1 but has lost her last four starts including a well-beaten seventh in the state bred Dancing Renee in her last outing on June 28.
Four runners are exiting the Dancing Renee, which was won by La Verdad, who came out of the race to win the Honorable Miss Handicap (G2) in her next outing on July 29 here at the Spa.
The value of the race may end up being Sister Margaret, who makes her stakes debut. She checked in ninth last out against open first level allowance foes but it was her first start off the layoff and she showed some talent last year passing her first two state bred allowance conditions.
Let’s head out to the Spa for Thursday’s featured race of the day:
Saratoga Race 9 The Union Avenue (5:26 ET)
9 Sister Margaret 8-1
7 Willet 2-1
10 Tricky Zippy 6-1
6 Atlantic’s Smile 6-1
Analysis: Sister Margaret showed some talent last year winning three of her first four starts including a sharp win in the mud against state bred Alw-2 optional claimers where she drew away to win by six lengths. She hit the shelf, came back last out in a new barn with Gary Gullo, and after saving ground early she weakened to finish ninth against open Alw-1 foes in her first start off an eight-month layoff. She figures to be tighter second off the shelf and should get a good tracking trip sitting just off the pace. Decent value if she goes off near her 8-1 morning line.
Willet is making her first start since winning the Interborough on the inner track at the Big A back in January. The mare ran second in this race in ’12 and then won it in ’13. She has done some of her best running over the Spa main track (6-2-3-1). She has worked quickly for her return race for the James Iselin barn that is showing a 1 for 9 mark with runners coming back off a +180 day layoff dating back five years. She ran well last year at Belmont Park in a runner up finish in the state bred Dancing Renee off a seven month layoff. She popped a bullet work on Aug 6. The main knock is going to be the light price.
Tricky Zippy is coming off a sharp win against state bred Alw-2 optional claimers and now makes her first start since landing with Jimmy Jerkens who is 17% winners with newcomers to the barn. She has won three of her last four starts and owns solid early and mid pace numbers. With the outside draw, she should get a good spot early in a race that could see a sharp early pace.
WIN: #9 to win at 9-2 or better.
EX: 7,9 / 6,7,9,10
TRI: 7,9 / 6,7,9,10 / 2,6,7,9,10
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