The marquee event of the summer meeting at Saratoga is the $1.25 million Travers (G1), but there will be plenty of other stars in action on Saturday including the much anticipated return of the undefeated Lady Eli in the $200,000 Ballston Spa (G2).
The Ballston Spa is one of four Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” races on the 13-race Travers Day card.
The Chad Brown trainee was last seen winning the Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) last July at Belmont Park, her sixth win in as many starts. The 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) champ stepped on a nail shortly after the race, putting her on the sidelines.
In what at first seemed like a minor setback developed into laminitis, which can be career and sometimes life threatening.
“It’s a big deal,” Brown said via the NYRA. “She’s been a long way back and I think she’s training outstanding right now. I’m really excited to get her back out there racing again. She is, too. This filly is so competitive. I can just see that she wants to run and I’m letting her run.”
Her main foe on Saturday will be Sentiero Italia, who makes her second start off the layoff for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. She won the Lake Placid (G2) over the turf at the Spa last summer.
Miss Temple City was fourth at Royal Ascot in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes (G2) and returned to run fourth in the Diana (G1) at the Spa on July 23, beaten just a neck in a four-way photo.
The Travers has one defection, with Majesto a late scratch due to spiking a fever. Haskell invitational (G1) winner Exaggerator is the 3-1 morning line favorite.
NBC will televise the Travers during a 90-minute telecast that starts at 4:30 ET.
My Best Plays Report for Saturday includes my 12 strongest plays from Del Mar and Saratoga including all of the stakes action.
Let’s head out to the Spa for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
SAR Race 12 The Ballston Spa G2 (6:20 ET)
#5 Sentiero Italia 9-2
#8 Miss Temple City 2-1
#3 Lady Eli 1-1
#1 Sweet Acclaim 20-1
Analysis: Everyone will be rooting for Lady Eli in her first start in a year after a battle with laminitis, but she is going to be such a short price. I’ll go with Sentiero Italia, who is making her second start off the bench here for the McLaughlin barn. The filly won the Lake Placid (G2) over the turf here last summer and followed that up by winning the Sands Point (G2) at Belmont Park. She put in a sharp prep against optional claimers last out off a nine-month layoff and should move forward off that effort for a barn that is 24% winners with runners making their second start off a +180-day layoff. Decent value if we catch most of the 9-2 morning line.
Miss Temple City was beaten just a neck in a fourth place finish in the Diana (G1). The filly got a ground saving trip but had nowhere to run from the quarterpole to the 3/16’s and finished gamely when clear. She beat the boys three back at Keeneland in the Makers 46 Mile (G1) earning a career top speed fig. A clean trip makes her a player here.
Lady Eli is perfect in six starts, but stepping on a nail after her win in the Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) last July nearly cost her not only her racing career and her life. She has been working sharply in the mornings, keeping company with Sea Calisi, who won the Beverly D. (G1) at Arlington Park in her last outing. Brown hits at a 26% clip with runners coming back off a +180-day layoff and is having a strong meeting. He says this gal is ready to roll, but at 4-5 she is going to be tough to back for the top spot.
WIN: #5 to win at 7-2 or better.
EX: 5,8 / 1,3,5,8
TRI: 5,8 / 1,3,5,8 / 1,3,5,7,8