There is no doubt who the star of the show is on Travers Day at Saratoga on Saturday, but there will be plenty of other star power on the racetrack, with four Breeders’ Cup Challenge ‘Win and You’re In” races on tap.
The card features six Grade 1 races along with a Grade 2, and all will likely having Breeders’ Cup ramifications, the two-day championship event now just two months away. This year’s Breeders’ Cup will be held for the first time at Keeneland on Oct. 30-31.
Let’s take a quick look at the Breeders’ Cup Challenge races:
$750,000 Personal Ensign (Distaff)
The race drew just six led by last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) winner Untapable (5-2. The filly has won just one of her four starts this year, taking the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at Oaklawn Park in April. Her last two Beyers of 93 in runner up finishes in the Ogden Phipps (G1) and Shuvee Handicap (G3) are her lowest since December of ’13.
Stopchargingmaria is the 2-1 morning line favorite. She beat Untapable in the Shuvee and has won four of her five starts over the Spa main track. She won the CCA Oaks (G1) and Alabama (G1) here last summer.
$500,000 Ballerina (Filly & Mare Sprint)
The Linda Rice trained La Verdad is the 5-2 morning line favorite in a field of eight. The mare has won 14 of her 20 career starts and has reeled off four in a row. Her last win came in the Honorable Miss Handicap (G2) over the Spa main track, her first win here in three starts. She is a need to lead type who is 0 for 2 at seven furlongs.
Dame Dorothy (3-1) is a win machine herself, taking seven of her nine career starts for the Todd Pletcher barn. The filly is coming off a win in the Bed O’ Roses Handicap (G3) in her last start at Belmont Park on June 20. This will be her first trip over the Spa main track.
Merry Meadow (7-2) won the Princess Rooney (G2) last out at Gulfstream Park and Unbridled Forever (5-1) won the Shine Again in her last outing. Seven of the eight runners in field are coming in off victories.
$700,000 Forego (Sprint)
In one of the best wagering races on the 13-race card, a field of 12 will go to the post in the seven-furlong Forego. The Tony Dutrow trained The Big Beast is the 5-2 morning line favorite.
The colt was beaten a nose last out in a tough beat in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) at the Spa, with jockey John Velazquez losing his whip. He won the King’s Bishop (G1) over the Spa main track last summer and looked as if he would be a major player in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) but he was sidelined with an injury.
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Private Zone (3-1) was third in last years Sprint and comes into this race off a sharp win in the Belmont Sprint (G3). He won the Churchill Downs (G2) earlier this spring, also at today’s seven-furlong distance.
Godolphin Mile (G2) winner Tamarkuz (5-1) exits a fourth in the Met Mile (G1) which was won by Honor Code. A winner of seven of his 14 career starts, he cuts back to seven furlongs and is an intriguing option in the race.
$1 million Sword Dancer (Turf)
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) runner up Flintshire returns to the U.S. and is the 8-5 morning line favorite over a field of eight. The Andre Fabre trainee came out of the Turf last year and won the Hong Kong Vase (G1) at Sha Tin but has lost four in a row.
The best of the home team are Bowling Green Handicap (G2) winner Red Rifle (4-1) and United Nations (G1) third place finisher Twilight Eclipse (7-2).
Imagining (8-1) was beaten just a head in this race last year by champion Main Sequence. The Shug McGaughey trainee was third in the Bowling Green in his last outing.
The Sword Dancer and Travers will be televised live on NBC at 4:00 ET.
Get Michael’s full card reports for Saratoga includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations. Get reports for the entire meeting between July 24 and Sept. 1. 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. Saratoga runs six days a week, Wednesday through Monday.