The 2016 Saratoga meeting kicks off on Friday with a pair of traditional stakes, the $150,000 Schuylerville (G3) for two-year-old fillies and the $200,000 Lake George (G2) for three-year-old fillies.
The 40-day meeting will run through Labor Day offering top class racing six days a week with Tuesdays dark. The marquee event of the meeting is the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) on August 27 which could include the winners of this spring’s Triple Crown races, Nyquist, Exaggerator and Creator.
Nyquist’s next start will come in the $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park while Exaggerator and Creator are pointing toward the $600,000 Jim Dandy (G2) at the Spa on July 30.
The first Grade 1 race of the meeting is Saturday’s $500,000 Diana (G1) for fillies and males three-year-olds and upward going nine furlongs on turf.
Among those expected to enter are Dacita, recent winner of the New York (G2), Eatontown (G3) winner Isabella Sings and Makers 46 Mile (G1) victor Miss Temple City.
The undefeated Songbird will make an appearance on Sunday at the Spa in the $300,000 Coaching Club of America Oaks (G1) going nine furlongs. She won the Summertime Oaks (G2) at Santa Anita in her last outing and is now perfect in eight career starts.
Todd Pletcher is seeking his 13th training title while his main foe will be Chad Brown, who won the Belmont Park Spring/Summer meeting and has finished second to Pletcher in each of the last five years at Saratoga.
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Pletcher has runners in five races on Friday, while Brown will saddle contenders in three races.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. won the Spa riding title last summer with 57 winners, three more than Javier Castellano. His brother Jose comes into the meeting off a big Belmont Park meeting where he led all jockeys with 78 winners with Irad second with 57 winners.
Castellano won the summer meeting at the Spa in 2013 and 2014 and could be the major threat to the Ortiz brothers.
Another jockey to watch is Florent Geroux, who will be riding full time at the Spa for the first time. He currently leads all jockeys in graded stakes wins in 2016 with 18.
He may spot the Ortiz brothers a lead as he will be traveling to Del Mar on Saturday to ride Belvoir Bay in the San Clemente Handicap (G2). He figures to get plenty of business from trainers Steve Asmssuen and Mark Casse.
Let’s head out to Saratoga for Friday’s featured race of the day:
Saratoga Race 9 The Lake George G2 (Post time 5:40 ET)
#11 Tin Type Gal 8-1
#5 Ancient Secret 7-2
#3 Diamond Fields 6-1
#12 Gone Away 15-1
Analysis: Tin Type Gal makes her second start off an 8 1/2 month layoff here for the Graham Motion barn. Last out in the Wild Applause off the bench she made a mild late run while wide to finish fifth, beaten two lengths for the top spot in a good effort. She won the Ms Grillo (G3) last fall at Belmont Park in her first start against winners before hitting the sidelines.
She put in two more good works at Fair Hill and picks up a new jockey in Jose Ortiz, the top jock at the Belmont Park meeting. She draws a tough post and totes 121 pounds, but looks as if we should get a fair price. She is out of the Grade 1 stakes winner Miss Shop ($1.1 million) who won the 2007 Personal Ensign (G1) over the main track here. Motion won six races here last summer from 57 starters (11%).
Ancient Secret is perfect in three starts for the Chad Brown barn that won this race last year with Mrs McDougal. She stalked the early pace, came with a four wide bid and finished gamely to win the Wild Applause by a head.
She makes her third start off the bench here and picks up five pounds. She still looks as if she has plenty of upside.
Diamond Fields invades from overseas for the Tommy Stack barn. The filly was second in a 21 horse field in the Sandringham Handicap at Ascot back in June. Her lone try in Group company came in the Ballyogan Stakes (G3) two back where she checked in fourth.
She adds lasix here and while she broke her maiden on the all-weather she seems to be just as good on turf and this will be her first start beyond a mile.
WIN: #11 to win at 9-2 or better.
EX: 5,11 / 3,5,11,12
TRI: 5,11 / 3,5,11,12 / 2,3,5,11,12