Photo by NYRA/Coglianese Photos/Susie Raisher
My, how time flies! It seems like yesterday that the Saratoga meet was just getting started, but now, we’ve reached the final Saturday of the meet, and only three days of racing remain. Fortunately, there are plenty of highlights still to come, including four graded stakes races later this afternoon. Leading the way is the $600,000 Woodward Stakes (gr. I), in which Whitney Stakes (gr. I) runner-up Liam’s Map will face a talented field that also includes Suburban Handicap (gr. II) winner Effinex. You can read my analysis of the Woodward on the Bloodhorse.com blog Unlocking Winners (here’s the link), but to briefly recap, I believe Effinex has a strong chance to upset Liam’s Map today, with Coach Inge another strong contender and Mylute a live longshot to hit the board.
Two races have already been run at Saratoga today, with Wynhurst winning a seven-furlong claiming race in gate-to-wire fashion and Highland Sky rallying from mid-pack to win an 8.5-furlong maiden special weight for 2yos on the turf. The latter result was particularly notable since Highland Sky was trainer Barclay Tagg’s fourth debut winner of the meet, a hugely impressive accomplishment that suggests Barclay Tagg could have some very good horses in his barn for later this fall and next year.
The third race on the card is a 6.5-furlong allowance race for fillies and mares. Chad Brown, who narrowly leads the training standings on a 30-29 basis over defending winner Todd Pletcher, has the morning line favorite in the second-time starter Excuse My French, who won her debut earlier in the meet. With only three days of racing remaining, this race could prove very important in deciding the trainer title.
Stay tuned for additional updates as the day progresses!
3:01 pm EST: Three more races have been run, and we’ve had a couple more gate-to-wire winners. Julie D scored a 5-1 upset in the third race after leading all the way, while Goodtolook stole the fifth race (a one-mile turf allowance race) in the same manner. In between, the fourth race–a seven-furlong maiden special weight for 2yos on the main track–went to Greenpointcrusader, who got up in the final furlong to defeat Pirellone in game fashion.
Up next is an 8.5-furlong turf allowance race for 3yos, in which Todd Pletcher will start Designed for War as he seeks to close the gap on Chad Brown. European shipper Tale of Life is the 2-1 favorite at the moment for trainer Graham Motion, while Bill Mott’s Gustnado has received a lot of play and is currently 5-2, down from morning line odds of 8-1.
3:24 pm: Designed for War was just nosed out at the wire by Tale of Life, denying Todd Pletcher his 30th win of the meet, but there is an inquiry and rider’s objection against the winner–hold all tickets!
3:31 pm: After a long inquiry, Tale of Life was disqualified and place fourth for causing interference in the homestretch, giving Designed for War the victory and moving Todd Pletcher into a tie with Chad Brown for the lead in the trainer standings.
Up next is a seven-furlong maiden special weight for 2yos, in which neither Pletcher nor Brown have a starter, followed by the $300,000 Saranac Stakes (gr. III) for 3yos on the turf.
4:10 pm: One race after being disqualified from a victory with Tale of Life, Graham Motion found himself in the winner’s circle with 5-1 shot Rafting, who scored an impressive win in the seventh race. After tracking fast fractions from second place, Rafting moved up to take command at the top of the stretch and drew off in the final furlong to win by two lengths. Now, Motion may be generally known as a turf trainer, but he did win the 2011 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) with Animal Kingdom, and Rafting–being a son of Tapit out of a Kris S mare–looks poised to take Motion down the Derby trail once again.
4:20 pm: Coming up in 14 minutes is the Saranac Stakes, in which Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown train half of the eight starters. In terms of numbers and odds, Chad Brown has the edge, as he will send out a trio of runners that includes 5-2 favorite Takeover Target, winner of the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. II) earlier in the meet. But Pletcher also has a major contender in Nonna’s Boy, coming off an impressive gate-to-wire win in the Lamplighter Stakes at Monmouth last time out, and Nonna’s Boy looms as a possible lone leader today. It should be a great race, and one that could have an impact on the trainer standings.
9:57 pm: Sorry for my absence this afternoon! A couple of things came up that prevented me from updating this post as I had intended, but the racing action definitely lived up to expectations! Rachel’s Valentina scored another impressive victory in the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I), winning by a length over Tap to It, while Liam’s Map cruised to an impressive victory in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I). The other stakes winners were World Approval in the Saranac Stakes (gr. III) and White Rose in the Glen Falls Stakes (gr. III)
So that will do it for today! Good night!