With a lot of help and assistance from the press team at Saratoga, we were able to compile information on all seven Graded Stakes Races — six of which are Grade 1s — that are carded at beautiful Saratoga on Saturday.
The Stakes races combine for a total of $4.95 million in purses, and have attracted some of the best horses in the world. All of them promise to be exciting, thrilling, and, perhaps, history in the making.
Here’s a closer review:
Grade 1 Travers Stakes:
Attracting all three winners of the year’s Triple Crown races for the first time since 1982, and only the second time in the Mid-Summer Derby’s storied tradition, Kentucky Derby victor Always Dreaming, Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing, and Belmont Stakes hero Tapwrit will step into the starting gate in the 148th running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
Despite their lofty resumes, recent losses and an 11-week layoff for the Triple Crown winners have laid this year’s sophomore division wide open, leaving the Classic winners to overcome not only a full field of 12 but a less than favorable history of Travers matchups, as well.
The last time three individual winners of the Triple Crown races faced each other, Gato Del Sol, Aloma’s Ruler, and 2-5 favorite Conquistador Cielo, the respective winners of the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont, lined up in the 1982 Travers to contend for the title of top 3-year-old, only to have their dreams of supremacy dashed by a last-to-first surge by the Ontario-bred Runaway Groom.
The 1918 class didn’t fare much better against each other in that summer’s hotly contested Travers when Sun Briar, the reigning 2-year-old champion, handed defeat to Belmont winner Johren, Preakness winner War Cloud, and stable-mate Exterminator, the upset winner of that year’s Derby.
On Saturday, though, this year’s Triple Crown race winners will try to write a new, and hopefully more fruitful, chapter in Saratoga history, led by Tapwrit, installed as the tepid 7-2 favorite for his ownership group comprised of Robert LaPenta, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Bridlewood Farm, Whisper Hill Farm, and Gainesway Farm.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, the gray colt by Tapit will be making his first start since the Belmont, where he raced near the pace and dug in to post a two-length victory over the pacesetting Irish War Cry in the 12-furlong ‘Test of the Champion’ on June 10.
Prior to the Belmont, Tapwrit was second in his season opener to McCraken in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis in February before notching a 4 ¼-length score in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby one month later. He was firmly established on the Kentucky Derby trail as the 2-1 second choice in the Blue Grass in April when he finished fifth behind the 31-1 upset winner Irap.
“Everyone was in agreement that the Travers was the race for him,” said Pletcher, who won the Travers in 2005 with Flower Alley and in 2011 with Stay Thirsty.” We felt like if we ran in either the Jim Dandy or the Haskell, we’d leave a little something on the table that we wanted to save for the Travers. I think he’s been training exceptionally well and has put in some good breezes and I feel good that we have him fit enough and fresh enough to fire his ‘A’ race.
Pletcher will also saddle Always Dreaming, owned by MeB Racing, Brooklyn Boyz, Teresa Viola, St. Elias, Siena Farm, and West Point Thoroughbreds, and looking to rebound from a pair of losses since his 2 ¾-length Kentucky Derby victory.
Tapwrit will be ridden by his regular jockey, Jose Ortiz, from post 4. Always Dreaming, 6-1 on the morning line, will have the services of Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who has been aboard the dark bay colt for all six of his starts in 2017; the pair will break from post 7.
Like Always Dreaming, Cloud Computing is looking for redemption after a poor showing in the Jim Dandy, where he finished a dull fifth.
Breaking his maiden at 3, Cloud Computing won at first asking in his February 11 debut and proved competitive in a pair of Derby preps in New York, finishing second in the Grade 3 Gotham in March and third in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial on April 8. The graded stakes placings earned the lightly raced son of Maclean’s Music enough points to make the Derby cut, but the colt’s connections opted to bypass the First Saturday in May, preferring instead to target the middle leg of the Triple Crown.
In the Preakness, the Chad Brown trainee settled along the rail as Always Dreaming and Classic Empire vied for early control and launched his bid around the far turn to reel in Classic Empire and win by a head.
Cloud Computing, at 8-1 on the morning line, will be ridden from the rail by record five-time Travers winner Javier Castellano, newly inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Looking to lead the charge against the Triple Crown winners is Good Samaritan, the third choice on the morning line at 5-1, who made a successful switch to dirt to play spoiler to the Derby and Preakness winners with a 4 ¾-length win in the Jim Dandy, the traditional local prep for the Travers.
Only off the board once in six tries on the turf for owners WinStar Farm, Head of Plains Partners, China Horse Club, and SF Racing Group and Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, the Harlan’s Holiday colt changed to the main track following a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby and earned his first victory since the Grade 2 Summer last summer at Woodbine.
Joel Rosario has the return call aboard Good Samaritan, set to break from post 5.
At 10-1 for the Travers, Brad Grady’s Girvin will try to duplicate his winning effort in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on July 30, the Tale of Ekati colt’s first victory since posting back-to-back Derby prep wins this spring. Girvin was still recovering from a quarter crack when he finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby. He finished second to Irap in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby as the 4-5 favorite in his comeback race before running down McCraken in the final stages of the Haskell to win by a nose. Girvin will be ridden by Robby Albarado and break from post 6.
Prior to the Haskell, McCraken rebounded from an eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby with a 2 ¼-length victory in the Grade 3 Matt Winn in June at Churchill Downs for trainer Ian Wilkes.
A homebred son of Hall of Famer Ghostzapper, the Whitham Thoroughbred color bearer was undefeated in three starts as a 2-year-old, including a 1 ¼-length win in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club. He carried his win streak into his 3-year-old seasonal debut in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs in February before a minor injury pushed his next start back nearly two months, eventually marking his return with a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Blue Grass on April 8. McCraken, 12-1, will break from post 9 with Brian Hernandez, Jr. in the irons.
This year’s Travers field includes a talented pair of California invaders led by Gary and Mary West’s West Coast from the Hall of Fame barn of Bob Baffert, who sent the then-unknown Arrogate to a record-breaking victory in last year’s Travers en route to eventual 3-year-old champion honors. By Flatter, West Coast brings a three-race win streak into his first Grade 1 event and hasn’t been worse than second in six career starts, including an impressive 2 ¾-length victory in the Grade 3 Los Alamitos Derby on July 15.
Tabbed as the 4-1 second choice, West Coast will leave from post 3 with Hall of Famer Mike Smith in the irons.
Reddam Racing and Doug O’Neill will be represented by Irap, who will be their first Travers starter. Since his 31-1 upset of the Blue Grass, the son of Tiznow has developed into a bona fide graded stakes contender, putting together back-to-back Grade 3 victories since finishing a troubled 18th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 6. Irap, 8-1 in the ML, will be ridden by Mario Gutierrez from post 10.
Winner of the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth in February, Margoth’s Gunnevera will shoot to build on his five-length win in the Tangelo on August 6, the Antonio Sano trainee’s first race since finishing seventh in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Preakness this spring. At ML odds of 20-1, the Dialed In colt will be ridden by Edgard Zayas from post 11.
Mossarosa’s Jim Dandy runner-up Giuseppe the Great will try for his first stakes win after a pair of Grade 2 placings this year for Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito. Installed at 20-1, the Lookin At Lucky colt will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione from post 2.
Rounding out the field are L and N Racing’s Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee, third last time out for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen and Shadwell Stable’s regally bred Fayeq, taking a big step up in class to make his stakes debut for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. A half-brother to Hall of Fame mare Rachel Alexandra, the Malibu Moon colt was a game winner of a 1 1/8-mile allowance on July 26 at the Spa, having already faced stakes-like competition, finishing third in his debut behind graded stakes winner Timeline at Gulfstream and misssecond by a half-length to fellow Travers entrant Giuseppe the Great. Fayeq, at 30-1 odds, will be ridden by Luis Saez.
Grade 1 Forego:
The Grade 1, $600,000 Forego will be the midway point of seven graded stakes races on the Travers Day program as a field of 10 will run seven furlongs hoping to gain a berth to Del Mar in early November as part of the “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series for the Grade 1, $1 million Sprint November 4 at Del Mar.
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Drefong shipped in from the west coast as part of a three horse contingent set on returning to California with winning results for trainer Bob Baffert. The son of Gio Ponti needs to redeem himself after ducking in and dropping Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith shortly after the start in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar on July 29, which was his 2017 debut. Unlike his start from the rail that day, he’ll now break from post 4, and try, again, to stamp his ticket to this year’s Breeders Cup.
“Well it’s better than post one!” Baffert said. “He’s doing well, he shipped well. That last one was such a disaster, but if it wasn’t for that maybe he wouldn’t up there.”
Following his sluggish debut when he finished fifth, the speedy Drefong rattled off three straight victories before last year’s win in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop at Saratoga en route to his Breeders’ Cup victory. Baffert believes his front-running colt will behave this time around, and hopes for a repeat of last year’s performance.
“He ran well there last year, but he just needs to show up. I just worry about that. They always need to show up. If they don’t show up it doesn’t matter where they draw. Hopefully he’ll run like he did last year, and we’ll be fine.”
Drefong will break from post 4, and reunites with jockey Mike Smith.
One foe set to try and catch Drefong in the late stages is multiple Grade 1 winner Mind Your Biscuits, who returns to make his fourth start of the year after his 3½ length victory in the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint on the Stars and Stripes Day program. His recent morning works were not like his usual style. The usual competitive nature that became commonplace with “Biscuits” regularly seen by trainer Chad Summers and his staff was suddenly absent. A change in surroundings brought the earner of $2,207,166 back to his regular form, and now he is back on his game.
Mind Your Biscuits will break from post 8, and will be ridden by Joel Rosario.
Live Oak Plantation’s Awesome Slew will look to build off his second place finish to Mind Your Biscuits in the Belmont Sprint. The colt by Awesome Again rallied five wide to settle 3 ½ lengths back, and returns to Saratoga two years after his fourth place finish in the Grade 3 Sanford, his second career start. With victories in the Grade 3 Smarty Jones, and the Grade 3 Commonwealth, he is still in search of his first Grade 1 victory after finishing sixth in the 2016 Haskell, and fourth in this year’s Metropolitan Handicap.
Awesome Slew will break from post 5, and will be joined by Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez, who returns to ride after jumping aboard for the first time in the Belmont Sprint.
Others entered for the Forego are Irish-bred Ross from post 1 for trainer Peter Schiergen and jockey Andrasch Starke, Tom’s Ready from post 2 for trainer Dallas Stewart, and jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr., Divining Rod from post 3 for trainer Arnaud Delacour and jockey Javier Castellano, Tale of S’avall from post 6 for trainer Barclay Tagg and jockey Manuel Franco, Tommy Macho from post 7 for trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Luis Saez, and Very Very Stella from post 9 for trainer Jose Noda-Fernandez and jockey Carlos Hernandez.
G1 Allen Jerkens (Formerly the Kings Bishop):
Featuring nine of the best 3-year-old sprinters in the nation, the Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens, formerly known as the King’s Bishop, is one of six Grade 1 races from seven stakes overall on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course, highlighted by the 148th running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers.
Entering from the barn of current meet leader Todd Pletcher and owners Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners is Coal Front. Purchased for $575,000 as a 2-year-old, the Stay Thirsty colt impressively won his debut by 6 ½ lengths going six furlongs on April 17 at Keeneland and followed up to take an allowance race on June 8 at Belmont Park.
Last time out, he bested a field of six to win the Grade 2 Amsterdam on July 29, earning a personal best 105 Beyer Speed Figure. In a field in which three fellow entrants have also posted triple-digit Beyer figures, Pletcher knows the importance of drawing a good spot.
“I think with this race, post position is very important,” said Pletcher. “He’s not one who is going to be way off the pace, but if he draws outside that will provide him some options. There’s a lot of speed in the race with him and Takaful and American Anthem, so, at seven-eighths races with a lot of pace, position is key.”
With Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the irons, the pair will leave from post 7.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will saddle Shadwell Stables’ Takaful. A homebred son of Bernardini, Takaful made an eye-catching debut as a 2-year-old last October at Belmont to win by 8 lengths. Following that race he then stretched out to two turns in the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct Racetrack where he finished third and kicked off his 2017 season on the Triple Crown trail with pair of subpar efforts in the Grade 3 Jerome at the Big A and Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream in which he finished seventh and eighth respectively.
Cutting back to one turn in his most recent start, Takaful blew away eight rivals in an allowance race on July 21 at Saratoga to win by 5 ¼ lengths and record a 105 Beyer Speed Figure. McLaughin reports his entrant is primed for another big effort heading into Saturday’s race.
Drawing post 2, Takaful will be ridden by current meet leading rider Jose Ortiz.
Shipping in from California for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and WinStar Farm, Head of Plains Partners, China Horse Club and SF Racing Group is American Anthem. A Bodemeister colt who was cut back in distance after a 12th place finish in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, he is undefeated at seven furlongs, taking the Grade 3 Lazaro Barrera on May 13 at Santa Anita and the Grade 2 Woody Stephens at Belmont Park on June 10.
With Hall of Famer Mike Smith aboard, American Anthem will leave from post 9.
Also looking to capitalize on a turn back in distance is Practical Joke who runs for trainer Chad Brown and owners Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence with Practical Joke. Since running fifth in the Kentucky Derby, the son of Into Mischief returned finishing strongly to win at a mile in the Grade 3 Dwyer on June 10 at Belmont Park. Stretching out to a mile and eighth for the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 30 in his most recent start in which he finished third, Brown is hoping the multiple graded stakes winner will handle the turn back in distance returning to the Spa, where he broke his maiden and won the Grade 1 Hopeful as a 2-year-old.
Drawing the rail, Practical Joke will have the services of Joel Rosario.
Rounding out the field is the Arnaud Delacour-trained No Dozing, who enters off a win in the Concern Stakes on July 22 and Laurel Park; Phi Beta Express for trainer Danny Gargan and trainer Martin Cherry, who last out won by eight lengths on July 23; Ann Arbor Eddie for trainer Doug O’Neill and Reddam Racing; Tale of Silence for trainer Barclay Tagg and owner Charles Fipke; and Wild Shot for trainer Rusty Arnold and Calumet Farm.
G1 Ballerina Stakes:
Paulassilverlining tops a septet of sprint fillies entered in Saturday’s Grade 1 $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina at Saratoga. The seven-furlong main track event annually attracts some of the nation’s top fillies and mares – including victorious year-end champions Davona Dale, Maryfield, Lady’s Secret and Queena – and this year’s Ballerina dances to the same beat.
Trained by Chad Brown and owned by the powerful Juddmonte Farms operation, Paulassilverlining has proven to be a force in the division in 2017. Purchased privately in March as a future mate for Juddmonte’s world champion Arrogate, the daughter of Ghostzapper and half-sister to Grade 1 winner Dads Caps has proven her mettle with a trio of neck victories from as many starts, including a pair of Grade 1s at this distance – the April 8 Madison at Keeneland and May 6 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs.
After a brief freshening, the bay 5-year-old mare returned to defeat top sprint filly Finley’sluckycharm last out in Saratoga’s Grade 2 Honorable Miss on July 26. Leading local rider Jose Ortiz, 8-for-12 when pairing with the seven-time graded stakes winner, returns to the saddle from post three.
“It’s exciting to be following her along because every one of her races has been a dog fight and she comes out on top,” said Garrett O’Rourke, manager of Juddmonte’s North American operations. “She hasn’t been the property of Juddmonte for long, but she’s quickly become near and dear to our hearts.
The most formidable threat to the favorite may come from her old barn. Trainer Michelle Nevin’s By the Moon enters the Ballerina on the strength of a solid third to Paulassilverlining in the Honorable Miss, losing by three-quarters of a length at the wire after a steady, gaining drive. The Jay Em Ess Stable-owned, Samantha Siegel homebred daughter of Indian Charlie has had a productive season, winning half her four starts – all in Graded Stakes – and receives five pounds from her rival under the Ballerina’s allowance conditions. A Grade 1 winner at two and four-time graded stakes winner overall, the 5-year-old dark bay mare reunites for the fourth consecutive race with Rajiv Maragh. The pair drew post four.
More than simply a Pas de Deux, this year’s Ballerina also features Carina Mia, who looks to improve upon a third-place finish last year as the even-money favorite. Previously trained by Bill Mott, the daughter of Malibu Moon has since been transferred to the Brown barn by owner Three Chimneys Farm and exits a successful seasonal debut in the restricted Shine Again over this course and distance on August 2. The three-time graded stakes winner and 2016 Grade 1 Acorn conqueror breaks from post five under freshly minted Hall of Fame inductee Javier Castellano.
Chester and Mary Broman’s Highway Star will try to extend her perfect 3-for-3 record at the seven-furlong distance when the Rodrigo Ubillo trainee breaks from post seven under Angel Arroyo. The New York-bred daughter of Girolamo cuts back in distance after a third last out in Belmont’s 1 1/16-mile Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on June 10 and returns to the distance over which she landed Aqueduct’s Grade 3 Distaff Handicap in April.
Owner and trainer Happy Alter’s swift Curlin’s Approval brings her Florida heat to Upstate New York on the heels of a stellar 4 1/2-length victory in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 2 Princess Rooney on July 1 over this distance. A presser with speed to burn, the dark bay 4-year-old daughter of Curlin has six victories from 11 starts, including three stakes wins at this distance. Luis Saez, aboard for all three of her graded stakes tallies, rides from post two.
The field is completed by Fred Allor’s Princess Rooney runner-up Distinta, who makes her first start for trainer Todd Pletcher and breaks from post six under John Velazquez, and Forum Racing’s Tom Proctor-trained Birdatthewire, who breaks from the rail under Manuel Franco and has not won since taking the Grade 1 La Brea at Santa Anita in 2015.
Grade 2 Ballston Stakes:
A small but stellar field featuring a quartet of Grade 1 winners are set to gather for the Grade 2, $400,000 Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
The 29th running of 1 1/16-mile Ballston Spa for fillies and mares 3 and up on the turf is one of seven stakes, six of them Grade 1s, worth $4.95 million on a blockbuster 13-race program highlighted by the 148th renewal of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers presented by NYRA Bets.
Saturday’s card will be televised nationally from 2 to 4:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 2 and from 4:30 to 6 p.m. ET on NBC. The final stakes race of the day, the post time for the Ballston Spa is 6:20 p.m. as Race 12, following the Travers.
Trainer Chad Brown is a two-time winner of the Ballston Spa, finishing first with Dacita in 2015 and Zagora in 2012. He will send out the trio of Sheep Pond Partners’ Lady Eli, Juddmonte Farms’ Antonoe and Sheep Pond Partners, Newport Stables and Bradley Thoroughbreds’ Roca Rojo.
Lady Eli was second by less than a length to 27-1 long shot Strike Charmer in last year’s Ballston Spa, her first race in nearly 14 months after recovering from a bout with laminitis. She has won three Grade 1 races since then, including the Diana July 22 at Saratoga, bringing her career total to five and boosting her career bankroll to more than $2.7 million from 12 starts.
Set to be offered as a broodmare prospect at the Keeneland November Sale, the 5-year-old mare by Divine Park was a late addition to the Ballston Spa field and has drawn the rail with Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard.
“The more I thought about it and the more I observed her works since the Diana, she’s looked super,” Brown said of his change of heart. “I’m staring at that lengthy layoff from the Diana going to the [Grade 1, $500,000 Flower Bowl on October 8 at Belmont Park] going a mile and a quarter and factoring in that it’s in the fall in New York. If it came up heavy ground or something, I’d really put myself in a box and it’s kind of a difficult position to be in with her final prep for the Breeders’ Cup. The more I thought about it and the clear forecast here on Saturday gives me the option to not run her again before the Breeders’ Cup if the conditions weren’t right.
Antonoe began her career in France before joining Brown in the spring, winning her first two North American starts, capped by the one-mile Just a Game on the undercard of the June 10 Belmont Stakes. She was steadied in traffic late and finished third, beaten a length, most recently in the Diana.
Irish-bred Roca Rojo hasn’t raced since finishing seventh in the Just a Game, her only other time worse than third in seven starts for Brown following her arrival from Europe. Fourth in the De La Rose last summer in her only previous try at Saratoga, she won the Grade 3 Athenia in October and was beaten a nose in her 2016 finale, the Grade 1 Matriarch, in December at Del Mar.
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano rides Antonoe from post 5 while Joel Rosario rides Roca Rojo from post 2.
Like Lady Eli, Phillips Racing Partnerships’ Time and Motion owns a win over the local course, having taken the Grade 2 Lake Placid at 1 1/8 miles last August for trainer Jimmy Toner, winner of the 1998 Ballston Spa with Memories of Silver.
A 4-year-old daughter of leading sire Tapit, Time and Motion enters the race off a third-place effort in the Grade 3 Modesty Handicap July 8, contested at 1 3/16 miles at Arlington Park. She is winless in three starts this year after going five-for-seven with one second in 2016, winning the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Cup, Memories of Silver and Wonder Again – the latter two named for former Toner trainees.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez, her regular rider all last year through her third-place finish in the Grade 3 Beaugay May 13 at Belmont Park, will be back in the irons for Toner, who said he will also return to more successful tactics in the Ballston Spa. Time and Motion is $48,281 shy of the $1 million mark in career purse earnings. She will leave from post 3.
Godolphin Racing’s Dickinson looks to rebound from back-to-back Grade 1 losses in the Just a Game and Diana, the latter July 22 at Saratoga, in the Ballston Spa. She returns to the 1 1/16-mile distance of her most recent victory, a head triumph in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley April 15 at Keeneland.
Dickinson, a daughter of Grade 1 winners Medaglia d’Oro and the McLaughlin-trained Little Belle, won five of her first six starts after being moved to the turf last fall, including the Grade 3 Suwannee River and Grade 2 Hillsborough over the winter in Florida.
Completing the field is Stuart S. Janney, III homebred On Leave with meet-leading rider Jose Ortiz up for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. The 4-year-old War Front daughter won last summer’s Riskaverse at Saratoga and the Grade 3 Sands Point last fall at Belmont, and is coming off a runner-up effort in the Fasig-Tipton De La Rose August 5.
Grade 1 Personal Ensign:
With the imposing presence of dual champion and nine-time Grade 1 winner Songbird entered in Saturday’s Grade 1, $700,000 Personal Ensign, a compact yet talented field of five fillies and mares is set to contest the race at 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga Race Course on Travers Day.
Named in honor of the Phipps Stable’s homebred champion, who never tasted defeat in 13 career efforts, the Personal Ensign is a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1, Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Del Mar in November.
Songbird has also been victorious in 13 starts, with only one blemish on her impressive 14-race resume, and although Hall of Famer trainer Jerry Hollendorfer maintains he does not like to compare horses, he said simply, “She’s right up there with the best of them.”
The only time Songbird, a 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro owned by Fox Hill Farms, lost was by a nose to multiple champion Beholder after the two engaged in an electrifying and dramatic duel in deep stretch during the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Idle until June, she came back from the long layoff with successive Grade 1 wins under regular rider and Hall of Famer Mike Smith in the Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park at 1 1/16 miles in June and the Delaware Handicap while stretching out to 1 ¼ miles one month later.
That assessment hasn’t scared away her competition.
Dual Grade 1 winner Forever Unbridled was third in last year’s Personal Ensign and was also third in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup after closing strongly to come up short to Beholder and Songbird by 1 ¼ lengths in total. But trainer Dallas Stewart said he isn’t ready to call Saturday’s race a rematch.
Flora Dora finished third and fifth, respectively, to Songbird when they last tangled in the 2016 editions of the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga.
Waterford Stables’ Going For Broke, who finished second to Songbird in the Alabama, was scratched by trainer Chad Brown from the $100,000 Summer Colony on August 19 in favor of this spot. She gets the services of Irad Ortiz, Jr., along with a six-pound break in the weights, and post Post 3.
Eskenformoney, a two-time Grade 3 winner in 25 previous efforts, completes the field for Star Light Ladies Racing and trainer Todd Pltecher and she will be partnered with Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano.
Grade 1 Sword Dancer:
Niarchos Family’s Irish-bred Erupt will be looking for his second Grade 1 win in as many starts as he headlines a diverse field of seven in the Grade 1, $1 million Sword Dancer for 3-year-olds and up on Saturday, Travers Day, at Saratoga Race Course.
One of six Grade 1 races on Travers Day, the 43rd running of the Sword Dancer, contested at 1 1/2 miles, is a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf on November 4 at Del Mar. Carded as Race 10, it is part of an impressive list of stakes leading up the 148th running of the Grade 1 Travers presented by NYRA Bets.
Erupt has the distinction of winning both a Group 1 and Grade 1 race, forging his stellar reputation in France, where he won 2015 Grand Prix de Paris. The Francis-Henri Graffard trainee has amassed more than $1.2 million in earnings and made an impression in his North American debut when he bested a nine-horse field comprised of international runners to capture the Grade 1 Pattison Canadian International by one length on October 16 at Woodbine.
Erupt ended his 2016 campaign with a 14th-place finish in the Group 1 Japan Cup. After a freshening, the 5-year-old returned to France to run fourth in the Group 1 Prix Ganay and ninth in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud last out on July 2. Gaffard said his charge handled the travel well to Saratoga and is ready to make his U.S. debut.
Erupt will have the services of jockey Stephane Pasquier from post 6.
Fellow European shipper Idaho, a full-brother to last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf champion Highland Reel, will be making his first start since finishing third behind Ulysses and Enable in the Group I King George & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on July 29. That performance came a month after the Irish-bred 4-year-old posted an impressive win in the Group 2 Hardwicke at Royal Ascot.
Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Idaho, who has exceed $1 million in earnings and has won twice at 1 ½ miles, and will have jockey Ryan Moore in the irons from the outside post.
Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Money Multiplier leads a strong American-bred contingent. The 5-year-old son of Lookin At Lucky has registered triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in six of his last seven starts, including a 104 rating after fending off Irish Strait by 1 ½-lenths to win the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes on July 30.
Trained by Chad Brown, Money Multiplier will be returning to the Spa for the first time since finishing second to stablemate Flintshire in last year’s Sword Dancer. The Monmouth victory was the first graded stakes win in 10 starts for Money Multiplier, who was a runner-up in five of those starts, encompassing back-to-back second-place efforts in the Grade 1 Man o’ War and Grade 1 United Nations last summer.
Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano will leave from post 5.
Woodslane Farm’s Sadler’s Joy finished third behind fellow Sword Dancer entrants Bigger Picture and winner Hunter O’Riley in the Grade 2 Bowling Green on July 29, getting bested by just a half-length. The 4-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy has finished in the money in eight consecutive starts, including a win in the Grade 2 Pan American on April 1 at Gulfstream Park and third-place finishes in the Grade 1 Man o’ War and Grade 1 Manhattan this spring at Belmont Park.
Sadler’s Joy will be coming off a nearly four week rest between starts; an interval Albertrani said should help after the break between the Manhattan, in which he finished 1 ½ lengths behind winner Ascend, and the Bowling Green. The Sword Dancer also returns Sadler’s Joy to the track where he broke his maiden last summer.
Jockey Julien Leparoux will break from post 3.
Hunter O’Riley rallied from seventh to win the Bowling Green, outkicking Bigger Picture in the final jumps to win by a neck. The victory earned him a career-high 104 Beyer for trainer Jimmy Toner.
Florent Geroux, who piloted Hunter O’Riley to the Bowling Green win, will have the return call from post 4.
Bigger Picture has improved with age and has registered the two highest Beyers of his career, 104 and 103, in his last two races, featuring a come-from-behind win by a head in the Grade 1 United Nations on July 1 at Monmouth Park before being beaten by Hunter O’Riley at the wire last out. Jose Ortiz will ride from post 2.
Frank Conversation finished sixth Bowling Green after he lost his tongue tie mid-race. The 4-year-old Quality Road colt will get another chance at the Spa in drawing the rail for trainer Doug O’Neill. Mario Gutierrez will ride the 4-year-old Quality Road colt.