Opening week at Saratoga was a rousing success under just about any measure, with fans back in the grandstand and over $90 million wagered over the four-day opening week.
Last year’s leading trainer Todd Pletcher got off to a tardy start, going 1 for 15. His lone winner came with Wit in the Sanford (G3) on Saturday.
Pletcher lost with six runners that went off at 9-5 or less and another seven that went off at odds between 4-1 and 9-1. He was 0 for 3 with his first time starters. His ROI was a paltry $0.28.
Wit was quite the bright spot for the Pletcher barn. The colt drew away to trounce the field in the Sanford by eight lengths, returning his backers $4.20 and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 90. It was the eighth Sanford win for Pletcher.
“He broke a little better from the gate today, then Irad hustled him away from there, gathered him up and the horse took him there,” said Tristan Barry, assistant to Pletcher. “He probably had to move a little earlier than he wanted just to get to that outside position, and then he flew on by from there. He’s a very nice horse. I loved what he did.”
2021 Sanford Replay
Chad Brown, who was the leading trainer at the Spa in 2016, 2018 and 2019 went 2 for 16 opening week with a ROI of $0.71.
His winners came with first timer Portfolio Company ($4.40) on Saturday and Free Enterprise ($7.10) who won a restricted $50,000 claimer on Sunday. Brown had eight runners go off at 3-1 or less and won with two of them.
Steve Asmussen leads all trainers after the first week of the meeting with four wins from his 14 starters with a ROI of $1.89. Ricardo Santana Jr. was aboard for all four winners, two of which were first time starters.
Brad Cox went 3 for 5 opening week with a ROI of $2.36. He also had a second and a third. He won two maiden special weight races, both with second time starters. He won the off the turf Coronation Cup on Sunday with Goin’ Good. Manny Franco booted home two of his winners, Tyler Gaffilione the other.
The two trainers with the most starters looking to get off the duck this week are David Donk and Mike Maker who were both 0 for 8.
Trainer Charlie Appleby ran one two in Saturday’s $500,000 Diana (G1). It was a repeat of the Just a Game (G1) which was run on June 5 at Belmont Park. Summer Romance set the early fractions and was run down late by her stablemate Althiqa, who earned a Beyer of 101 for her win.
The duo will head back to England but are expected to return to the U.S. this fall for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Del Mar on Nov. 6.
2021 Diana Replay
Ortiz, Saez Lead Jockey Standings
Irad Ortiz. Jr, the leading jockey here in 2018 and 2020 got off to a slow start but rallied over the weekend and has now picked up eight wins from his 39 mounts.
He is tied with Luis Saez who has won eight races from 37 mounts. Third is Jose Ortiz with six winners from 34 mounts. Franco and Santana have four winners each.
John Velazquez went 0 for 18 while Javier Castellano picked up just one win from his 15 rides, and Junior Alvarado has just one with his 16 mounts.
As far as the way the main track played, I had the dirt surface fair on Thursday and Saturday. I thought there was a slight edge to stalkers off the rail on Friday and on Sunday there was an edge to speed with four winners going gate to wire. The best paths on Sunday were 2-4.
There were seven races on the inner turf, with one gate to wire winner. The inner paths seemed best. On the outer turf there were seven races, two wire winners.
On Wednesday the day kicks off with the $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice, a steeplechase at 2 1/16 miles. The $100,000 Rick Violette drew just five state bred two-year-olds that will travel six furlongs on the main track.
On Thursday the $150,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase (G1) gets the afternoon started. A field of six will go 2 1/16 miles led by Gibralfaro and Cite from the Jack Fisher barn.
Chad Brown will send out four runners in Friday’s $150,000 Lake George (G3) at one mile on the inner turf. A field of 10 will line up including Tepin winner Navratilova from the Rusty Arnold barn and Runaway Rumour who pulled off a 13-1 upset in the Wild Applause in her last outing for trainer Jorge Abreu.
Saturday’s feature is the $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) and on Sunday we have the $200,000 Shuvee (G3).