Saratoga Weekend Feature Preview – Travers Weekend [EXCEPT THE TRAVERS]
If it wasn’t post and party time before, it sure as hell is now, as we usher in the 143rd running of the Travers with a weekend full of big money races and class-packed features. Below, we’ve got all you need to know regarding said features…except the Travers – we’ve got an entire article for that. Look for it Friday.
Friday – Grade 1 Ballerina: This seven furlong dirt sprint for fillies and mares will lead off the weekend’s veritable cornucopia of competitive, big-time feature races. With the dynamic, It’s Tricky, likely headed for Sunday’s Personal Ensign, Turbulent Descent will lead a six horse field to the starting gate on Friday. Already 9-5 on the morning line, she’ll be a prohibitive favorite for John Velazquez and Todd Pletcher – for whom she will be making her first start. When the gates swing open expect long-shot All Due Respect to claim the top spot, with Turbulent Descent preferring to stalk. Velazquez will have to keep her close however, as I don’t expect there to be too much speed at the front. With All Due Respect on a comfortable lead, look for Nicole H, Derwin’s Star, and the aforementioned favorite to sit close and eventually overpower the outclassed frontrunner. Island Bound and Belle of the Hall will have settled in behind – a poor decision given what I expect to be quick, yet not blistering fractions. With so much quality just off the moderate pace, I can’t see them getting around for the win. To me, the winner comes from one of the three I mentioned earlier: Nicole H, Derwin’s Star, or Turbulent Descent. The Pletcher trainee is a just favorite, look for a great run from her, but don’t be surprised if Nicole H is there.
Saturday – Grade 2 Ballston Spa: Kicking off an all graded stakes Pick 4 will be this mile and a sixteenth race over the inner turf – one of the more wide open races we’ll see this weekend. Three of these fillies vied for top billing in their division in last month’s Grade 1, $750,000 Diana – all enjoying heavy attention from the betting public, and all, ultimately, beaten by the now retired Winter Memories. The quality doesn’t end with Zagora, Hungry Island, and Tapitsfly, however, as five others will join in to round out the eight horse field. The honest yet decidedly moderate pace that doomed closers Hungry Island and Zagora last time out isn’t likely to develop here as Tapitsfly’s lead will be challenged by Summer Soiree and pressed by Thundering Emilia. On an inner turf that has seen some cavalry-charge-esq runs, watch out for the two closers. Tapitsfly and Summer Soiree could hold on and hit the wire first, but Hungry Island and Zagora will be heard from in deep stretch.
Saturday – Grade 1 Test: The first of three Grade 1 Travers day stakes, this is a tough race to figure. Some of the field is stepping up in class off of impressive, romping wins; others are stepping down after middling, mediocre performances. How to weigh one against the other is hard to know. What we do know is that the seven furlong dirt sprint will feature some legitimate speed. Aubby K, Gypsy Robin, Contested, and Ullapool will likely all be aggressive seekers of that early lead. The rest of the ten horse field won’t be far behind, either. I’ll peg Ullapool and Contested as the two to claim that early lead and from there, who knows that happens? Perhaps Gypsy Robin rallies off of a poor effort last time out. Perhaps Book Review steps up in class to claim it. Maybe Amie’s Dini dials back the distance and returns to sprinting form that saw her three times a winner in races a mile or less. Then again, perhaps something else entirely happens. I like Contested, but I can’t be sure. What I can be sure of is this: It’ll be fast, and it’ll be fun.
Saturday – Grade 1 King’s Bishop: This year’s installment of the King’s Bishop has a lot to live up to. For me, its 2011 running was the race of the summer, with Caleb’s Posse conquering Uncle Mo in the deep, deep stretch. Such a run could be possible here, with impressive speed at the front in the form of Trinniberg, Currency Swap, and Doctor Chit, and the possible closing speed of Willy Beamin – who looks to put together a hell of a week with a good showing in Saturday’s Grade 1 following an easy win in Wednesday’s Albany Stakes. The quick turnaround will be difficult, but he’ll benefit from the early speed. Trinniberg will certainly bolt to the front and I expect Currency Swap to go as well – determined to not let the winner of three of his last five out of reach. Alone, I think either could wire the field. Together, though, their stubbornness at the front could lock the two in a speed duel that allows Willy Beamin or another closer-type, like Fort Loudon, to run down the lead. I’d peg Trinniberg or Currency Swap as most likely – the turnaround proving extreme for Willy Beamin – but watch out for an over-zealous pace, here.
Sunday – Grade 1 Personal Ensign: Rounding out the weekend’s features is a class-packed filly and mare, two turn affair, headlined by the runaway winner of last year’s Alabama Stakes – Royal Delta. The Bill Mott trainee enters the race the 4-5 favorite, and winner of two straight. She’ll have to, once again, turn back Kiaran McGlaughlin’s It’s Tricky – who in her last ten races has six wins and three shows – but I think the pace will set up perfectly for the favorite. It’s Tricky, Brushed by a Star, and Love and Pride will all go to the lead, which should provide a fairly quick pace at which relative closers R Gypsy Gold, Tiz Miz Sue, and the mighty Royal Delta can run. I expect Royal Delta to lead those two in the race’s second pack as the field heads down the backstretch and into the final turn. And then, look out. In a sweeping move, Mike Smith will take the filly around the field and strike the lead at the top of the stretch. She’ll have to separate herself from a similar run from Tiz Miz Sue, but the real challenge will be chasing down the front-running ways of It’s Tricky. In the end, while It’s Tricky could certainly be there, I’d look for Royal Delta to be on the wire first.
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