Opening Day at Saratoga is Thursday with the $150,000 Schuylerville (G3) one of 76 stakes races to be contested over the 40-day meeting.
A field of nine two-year-old fillies will line up to go six furlongs on the main track led by Astoria winner Happy Soul, who is the 8-5 morning line favorite. The Wesley Ward trainee will have her regular rider John Velazquez aboard and will break from the seven post.
“She got beat on the squares there in her first start,” Ward said. “We were ready when she came back, so we were expecting a big effort. Then, the Astoria came up where she would have been the overwhelming favorite going in, so it was hard to pass up, even without a breeze under her belt.”
Her biggest threat may be Pretty Birdie (7-2), a gate to wire winner at Churchill Downs in her debut for trainer Norm Casse. Luis Saez picks up the call and the daughter of Bird Song will break from the rail.
2021 Astoria Won by Happy Soul
The co-feature on the opening day card at Saratoga is the $120,000 Quick Call, a 5 ½ furlong turf test for three-year-olds that drew a field of nine which includes two main track only entrants.
There is rain in the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday but skies are expected to clear for Thursday’s opening day card.
The Ward trained Golden Pal is the 1-2 morning line favorite for the Quick Call. The colt makes his first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) at Keeneland over good ground last November. Irad Ortiz Jr. has the return call on the son of Uncle Mo.
The feature at the Spa on Friday is the $150,000 Forbidden Apple (G3) going a mile on turf. The race drew a field of 10. The Saturday features are the $150,000 Sanford (G3) and the $500,000 Diana (G1).
Let’s head out to Saratoga for Thursday’s featured race of the day:
Saratoga Race 9 The Schuylerville G3 5:39 ET
1 Pretty Birdie 7-2
7 Happy Soul 8-5
2 Mainstay 7-2
8 Eagle Express 10-1
The Casse trainee took the field gate to wire to break her maiden in an impressive debut at Churchill Downs where she was sent off at 9-2 in a field of eight. She set swift fractions of 22.16 and 44.91 and drew clear to win by 3 ¾ lengths. The fourth and sixth place finishes are the only two that have come back to run and they both broke their maidens. She picks up Saez and owns solid early and mid pace numbers. With the rail draw she figures to be sent and speed on the dirt here at six furlongs was very good here for the most part last year. Casse only started one runner here last year, a fourth-place finish.
This gal has won her last two starts by a combined 23 lengths. After a second in her debut in the slop against the boys at Keeneland she graduated second out at Belmont Park taking the field gate to wire to win by 11 ¾ lengths. Of the four she beat in that race only the fifth-place finisher has returned to run and she was seventh. Last out in the Astoria the Ward trainee wired the field and drew clear to win by 11 ½ lengths. Her last pair of speed figs are tops in here but she is going to face more early pace pressure here and has to get another half furlong. The daughter of Runhappy is out of a Stephen Got Even mare that has dropped six other winners including Canada based stakes winner Calgary Caper ($335,895). In graded stakes dating back five years here at the Spa Ward is showing a 0 for 7 mark. David Grenig of the DRF wrote that in his career the trainer is an astounding 0 for 34 in graded stakes at Saratoga. This gal looks like the real deal but is going to be a puny price.
This filly broke her maiden going gate to wire in the slop at Monmouth Park, rolling to a 7 ¾ length victory going 4 ½ furlongs. Four she beat have come back to run with a second and a third the best finishes. She has popped a couple of bullet works at Philly for her stakes debut for the Reid barn. This gal is a half to Vequist ($1.2 million) who Reid trains and she won the Spinaway (G1) here last September off a maiden win at Philly.
WIN: Pretty Birdie to win at 3-1 or better.
EXACTA: 1 / 2,7,8,9 and 1,7 / 1,2,7