The local restaurants will not be packed, there will be no fans in the stands, but the Saratoga meeting gets underway on Thursday for 40 days of top class racing.
Despite no betting windows open on track, the betting handle and pools will be large, with horseplayers wagering at home, and we have seen throughout this pandemic, we are sending it in enthusiastically.
This meeting we have 39 graded stakes including 18 Grade 1 races with over $14 million. After this week racing will be conducted from Wednesday through Sunday, with closing day coming on Monday, Sept. 7.
The highlight of the meeting is the $1 million Travers (G1) on Aug. 8. The race will serve as a Road to the Kentucky Derby points race.
Whitney Day on Saturday, August 1, will feature three Grade 1 events, led by the Whitney, a handicap at 1 1/8 miles with an automatic berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) on November 7 at Keeneland up for grabs.
Also on the card is the $500,000 Personal Ensign (G1), a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) and the $300,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) for three-year-olds at seven furlongs.
Let’s take a look at some of the trainers to watch for the upcoming meeting:
Brown was the leading trainer the past two summers and it was not even close. Last year he won 41 races from 178 starters (23%) with a ROI of $1.50. Todd Pletcher was a distant second with 21 winners. In 2018 Brown won 46 of 171 starters (27%) while Pletcher was second with 19 winners. Pletcher got the best of Brown in 2017, winning the title with 40 winners with Brown second with 39 winners.
Last summer Brown was 13 for 61 (21%) on the main track and 28 for 117 (24%) on turf. A total of 24 of his winners were the betting favorite. He was 9 for 30 with first timers with a ROI of $2.47. Seven of his nine winners with debut runners were on the turf. He was 2 for 12 on dirt with debut runners with a ROI of $0.85. Irad Ortiz Jr. and Javier Castellano each rode four debut winners for Brown, Jose Ortiz the other. Brown was 9 for 42 (21%) in graded stakes with a ROI of $1.58.
Brown won the recently concluded Belmont Park meeting with 24 winners from 95 starters (24%) with 63% landing in the money. His ROI overall was $1.35. He won with 2 of 9 first timers with a ROI of $1.44.
Pletcher went 21 for 116 (18%) here last summer with a ROI of $1.68. He was 8 for 33 (24%) with first time starters with a ROI of $2.65. Most of those were juveniles as he was 7 for 31 (23%) with a ROI of $2.07. John Velazquez rode three of his juvie winners. Irad Ortiz Jr. was aboard for two.
Nine of his wins came on turf from 49 starters (18%) with a ROI of $1.64. He was just 1 for 15 in graded stakes with a ROI of $1.94. That win came with Channel Cat in the Bowling Green (G2).
Pletcher’s recent juveniles have been live. He has sent out nine so far this year with four winning for a ROI of $2.36. Three of the four came at Gulfstream Park. He comes into the meeting having won at a 25% clip the past 30 days with a ROI of $1.95.
Asmussen finished third in the trainer standings with 15 winners from 76 starters and is a barn to watch with his juveniles this season. He has sent out 23 two-year-old first timers this season and has won with 11 of them for a ROI of $2.59. Last year here he was 4 for 14 (29%) with juvenile first timers with a ROI of $1.27.
The trainer was 0 for 21 on turf here last summer. He was 3 for 21 in graded stakes with a ROI of $0.82. A dozen of his 15 winners here last summer were booted home by Ricardo Santana Jr. The barn was 8 for 15 (53%) with betting favorites with a ROI of $2.48.
Clement won 13 races here last year from 65 starters (20%) with a ROI of $1.77. nine of his winners came on turf. On dirt the trainer was 4 for 21 (19% with a ROI of $1.44. Three of those four dirt winners were with first time starters. He was 3 for 9 on dirt with firsters with a ROI of $2.65. On turf with first timers he was 0 for 6.
Clement was 0 for 6 in graded stakes and 1 for 13 in non-graded stakes here last year. He won at a 16% clip in route races with a ROI of $1.04 and in sprints overall was 24% with a ROI of $2.44. Seven of his 13 winners were ridden by Joel Rosario.
Rice won the Spa training title back in 2009 and is always a conditioner to keep an eye on. Last year she finished in a tie for seventh in the standings with 11 winners from 71 starters (15%) with a ROI of $1.62. She is best known for turf sprinters and last season hit with 4 of 22 (18%) with a ROI of $2.02.
Last year she went 0 for 10 with first time starters, five of those coming on turf and three others in races carded for turf but moved to the main track. She went 1 for 11 in two-year-old races with a ROI of $0.40.
The barn won at just a 12% clip at the Belmont Park meeting and dating back four months has hit at just a 11% clip, on the low side by her standards.
Mott went 11 for 85 (13%) here last summer for a ROI of $1.47 but looks likely to improve on those numbers this year. The barn had a good Belmont Park meeting with 10 winners from 58 starters (17%) and over the past three months has hit at a 19% clip overall. Mott won 13 races here in both ’17 and ’18.
Four of his wins last year here came on turf from 42 starters (10%) with a ROI of $0.62. He was 7 for 43 (16%) with a ROI of $2.30 on dirt. Mott was 2 for 23 (9%) with first timers with a ROI of $2.08. His wins were both in dirt sprints and they went off at 9-1 and 12-1.
Mott was 2 for 17 (12%) with a ROI of $0.85 in graded stakes, 0 for 6 in non-graded stakes races.
Gargan had a good meeting here last year, winning with 11 of his 41 starters (27%) but his ROI of $1.83 came up light. He was 4 of 17 on turf with a ROI of $1.87 and 7 for 24 with a ROI of $1.80 on dirt. Kendrick Carmouche was aboard for six of his wins. Eight of his wins were in claiming or maiden claiming races.
Ward won just five races here last year from 38 starters (13%) with a ROI of $0.86. He had nine runners check in second. Ward was just 1 for 9 with first time starters with a $0.65.
The barn has been very live this season with his juveniles. He has won with 11 of 37 (30%) with a ROI of $2.13. With the Keeneland meeting pushed back and abbreviated, expect to see a few live juveniles from the barn this year.
A few trainers that had a rough time of it at the Spa last summer include Randi Persaud (0 for 20), Edmund Davis (0 for 22), Nick Zito (1 for 26), Mark Hennig (2 for 40), David Donk (3 for 51) and Rob Atras (2 for 34).