US Racing - Preview of this Saturday's Graded Stakes Racing


With all due respect to all the other race tracks in the USA, there is only one place to be this Saturday; hallo Saratoga! What a fantastic card we have to savor. 6 grade 1s and we will go though each one in racecard order.

Race: Race 6 – The Personal Ensign Stakes

Purse: $750,000

Grade: Grade 1

Age: 3 years old and above fillies and mares

Distance: 1 mile and an eighth

The first grade 1 of the night sees a field of just five but there are no also-rans in this top class race. An example of the quality is that the outsider of the field finished 2nd in the grade 1 Delaware Handicap.

Morning Line favouritism is pretty much split between Curalina and Cavorting at around 2/1. Cavorting won the grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont while Curalina destroyed the field by over 9 lengths when winning the Shuvee at this track. My one piece of advice about this race is – make sure you watch it!

Race: Race 7 – The Ballerina Stakes

Purse: $500,000

Grade: Grade 1

Age: 3 years old and above fillies and mares

Distance: 7 furlongs

Carina Mia comes here after her superb second to Songbird in the Coaching Club American Oaks at this beautiful track. She would definitely be a shorter price than the Morning Line 7/2 if she was running over an Oaks type trip rather than today’s distance of 7 furlongs. Having said that, she is no mug at this trip having won the Eight Belles by a wide margin.

She will not have things her way as she is taking on Wavell Avenue, who won the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Fillies and Mares Sprint and showed she was coming back to that level of form when winning the Shine Again over this course and distance and has been the subject of some very good work reports in the last week.

Race: Race 8 – The Kings Bishop Stakes

Purse: $500,000

Grade: Grade 1

Age: 3 years old

Distance: 7 furlongs

13 runners face the starter in this wide open contest. A fascinating entry in this race is Mohaymen, who for much of the winter was the favourite for the Kentucky Derby. This drop back in trip to a one turn 7 furlongs could smack of desperation as connections have avoided the logical choice of the Travers Stakes.

I feel that connections of Mohaymen are at least visiting if not drinking at the last chance saloon as the horse has the look of one with its best career behind it. He was so impressive at two and early three but the best of this classic crop have improved past him.

Drefong looks a solid alternative. He is on the improve having won his last three races by wide margins and his Beyers have also been improving with a last time out figure of 103.

Race: Race 9 – The Forego Stakes

Purse: $700,000

Grade: Grade 1

Age: 3 years old and above

Distance: 7 furlongs

AP Indian and marking meet again following their close encounter in the valuable Belmont Park Sprint Championship. On that day AP Indian prevailed by a narrow margin but he did get a much cleaner and shorter trip.

AP Indian then went on to taste grade 1 success in the Afred G Vanderbilt Handicap over 6 furlongs at this track, earning a Beyer of 107, by some way the best last time out Beyer in the field. He is at the top of his game and unbeaten in four starts this year.

If this race was over 6 furlongs, I would be a big player for AP Indian but that extra furlong just adds a nagging doubt. There is no doubting his mental and physical toughness but this field includes just too many good players at 7 furlongs that he may just come up short.

Race: Race 10 – The Sword Dancer Stakes

Purse: $1,000,000

Grade: Grade 1

Age: 3 years old and above

Distance: 1 ½ miles on the inner turf track

A small field of 7 line up for this $1m race but this specialist trip and the presence of the mighty Flintshire have no doubt frightened off the opposition.

Flintshire’s predilection for fast turf has seen him move from France to the US and has been in fine form recently winning the Manhattan and the Bowling Green Handicap. He also won this race last year. Barring a disaster, Flintshire will win this race.

Race: Race 11 – The Travers Stakes

Purse: $1,250,000

Grade: Grade 1

Age: 3 years old and above

Distance: 1 ¼ miles

The Travers Stakes has attracted a fantastic field, one which would have graced any Kentucky Derby. Amongst a field of stars we have Exaggerator (Preakness winner) and Creator (Belmont winner). Only the absence of Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist lets the side down. The field size is equally generous, with the first 14 runner field since 1977.

The bad news for the classic winners is that the record is poor in this race. You have to go back to 2009 for the last time a classic winner prevailed. Exaggerator would seem to need a sloppy track to be seen at his best and he won’t get that today while Creator was last in the Jim Dandy, which incidentally is a very good indicator for today’s race.

Laoban won the 2016 renewal of the Jim Dandy and, I have to say, it would be a surprise if he repeated the dose today. This looks far too difficult to call and is one to watch rather than bet on. Just some of the contenders include Gun Runner (Kentucky Derby third and Matt Winn winner and gets his required fast track), Connect (three from three this year following ankle surgery) and Gift Box (coming back to form after returning to New York).


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