It’s that time of year again as Saratoga opens for the 150th season on Friday, with a field of seven fillies lining up in the feature, the $150,000 Schuylerville (G3) at six furlongs on the main track.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out a pair of recent maiden winners with Elena Strikes and Yes Liz coupled as the 5-2 second choice. Pletcher won his third straight Spa training title last summer and was dominant with two-year-olds.
Pletcher won 23 two-year-old races, 21 of them maiden races. The roster of juveniles he sent out last summer was astounding. Among the runners he sent included Charming Kitten, Dreaming of Julia, Kauai Katie, Notacatbutallama, Overanalyze, Shanghai Bobby, Palace Malice, Revolutionary and Violence.
Pletcher will send out a pair of first timers in Friday’s third race, a maiden special weight race for juvenile fillies. John Velazquez is named to ride both Stopchargingmaria and Our Amazing Rose, meaning only one will go to the post.
Pletcher has won the Schuylerville four times, with Georgie’s Angel (2011), Cotton Blossom (2006), Ashado (2003) and Freedom’s Daughter (2002).
Last summer Pletcher won 36 races overall, with Chad Brown second in the standings with 29. Steve Asmussen was a distant third with a dozen winners.
The intriguing race will be for the jockey title. Last year Ramon Dominguez set a record by booting home 68 winners from 288 mounts with earnings of nearly $5 million.
Dominguez retired last month after being unable to fully recover from a spill that occurred back in January at Aqueduct. That is going to leave plenty of live mounts open this summer.
Javier Castellano was second last summer with 51 wins and is coming off a jockey title at the Belmont Park meeting and figures to be the frontrunner for the top jock at this meeting.
His biggest challenger figures to be John Velazquez, who will be riding plenty for Pletcher. Velazquez was fourth last summer with 30 winners, getting started late after an injury forced him to miss the first week of the meeting.
If Pletcher is as dominant with juveniles as he was last year, Velazquez figures to be the leading rider. If Pletcher does not have as strong a meet, it will send the jockey race into a free for all.
Among the other top jockeys competing here this summer include Joel Rosario, Jose Lezcano, Julien Leparoux, Rajiv Maragh, Rosie Napravnik, Cornelio Velasquez and Junior Alvarado.
I will be covering Saratoga six days a week, with the only dark day the next six weeks coming on Tuesdays.
Friday’s opening day card features a pair of supporting stakes. The fourth race is the $100,000 On the Bus for state bred fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf and the eighth race is the $100,000 James Marvin for older runners going seven furlongs on the main track.
Let’s head out to the Spa for the opening day feature:
Saratoga Race 9 The Schuylerville (G3) Post time 5:20 ET
5 Bahnah 7-5
4 Brazen Persuasion 3-1
1 Elena Strikes / 1a Yes Liz 5-2
2 Jonesin for Jerry 12-1
Bahnah ships in from Churchill Downs for the Bret Calhoun barn where the petite filly was a good looking debut winner, drawing off to win by six lengths as the 9-5 favorite. The third place finisher Lady Red Di came back to graduate in her next outing on July 2 at Indiana Downs and the fifth place finisher Street Story was a next out winner against maiden special weight foes at Churchill Downs on June 27. Our top pick owns the top last out speed fig and is in good hands with a solid two-year-old barn. The $62,000 Keeneland purchase has a nice pedigree as well, by Elusive Quality out of the stakes winner Flying Glitter ($597,433). She has come back with a couple of quick works and looks tough.
Brazen Persuasion drifted outward and was bumped at the break, was straightened out and chased a sharp early pace, took over the lead and finished up well to break her maiden in her second career start. She showed good early speed in her debut but could not hold off the winner late in a runner up finish. With an alert start this gal will probably be on the lead. She has a couple of sibs that are winners including stakes winner Behold de Buy, ($158,285). The Asmussen barn has won this race twice.
Yes Liz and her stablemate Elena Strikes are both coming off impressive looking maiden wins. Yes Liz broke her maiden as the chalk at Belmont Park over a wet track and looks the strongest of the pair. Elena Strikes was shipped to Monmouth Park to break her maiden. She is out of the stakes winner Ticket to Houston ($147,450) who has dropped seven other winners including a pair of stakes winners, top earner Runway Model ($725,598). Pletcher has won this race four times.
WIN: Bahnah to win at 8-5 or better.
EXACTA: 4,5 / 1,4,5
TRIFECTA: no play
Michael’s Saratoga Report includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations. Mike has been handicapping the New York Racing circuit on a daily basis for nearly three decades. Get the entire 40-day Saratoga meeting (July 19 to Sept. 2) for one low price of just $129.95!