Saratoga Weekend Preview: James Marvin, Schuylerville, American Oaks, Sanford
Starting with Friday's James Marvin and Schuylerville Stakes, the Saratoga Race Course's 144th Season will be ushered in by a weekend of competitive feature races. Below, each is broken down for your pleasure.
A day at Saratoga brings with it a number of things: great thoroughbred horse racing, unimaginable history, a delightful juxtaposition of bourgeois and proletariate, and a feature race teaming with quality horses. This Friday through Sunday will be no different, as we begin a season long column handicapping the weekend's feature races.
Friday's 8th Race - James Marvin Stakes - Grade III: This seven furlong sprint will pitt two of the sports quality sprinters against each other in the Todd Pletcher trained Caixa Electronica, and Nick Zito's Jackson Bend. Those two are likely the class of the field, but others like Golddigger's Boy, Crossbow, and Pacific Ocean could spoil the party. Expect the latter two of those three to provide a wealth of speed at the front with Caixa Electronica and Jackson Bend sitting close and eventually taking over the lead. One of those two will likely hit the wire first, but don't be surprised if Golddigger's Boy comes from off the pace to figure in the finish - if his odds climb above 10/1 he's worth a long shot bet. Crossbow could also get there.
Friday's 9th Race - Schuylerville Stakes - Grade III: This will be a wild one. A six furlong sprint, the Schuylerville starting gate will be teaming with front running speed and quality. Expect suicidal fractions and a hair-on-fire race to the finish with any of the six horses - following the scratch of Mr. Hall's Opus - boasting an equal shot to hit the wire first. With the horses this close, betting options will depend entirely on odds. If all things were equal, I'd likely pick Sweet Shirley Mae and So Many Ways as two that may be centimeters better than the field - "may" being the operative word. Still, all things are never equal, so don't make a bet without evaluating the odds - heavily.
Saturday's 10th Race - Coach Club American Oaks - Grade I: The first Grade I of the summer will be the mile and an eighth American Oaks for three year old fillies. Zo Impressive and the Pletcher trained In Lingerie have been pegged as the early favorites, with Questing the third option after posting an impressive speed figure in her last race. She should break to the lead - likely alongside the three, Yara - with the two favorites sitting close. Zo Impressive and In Lingerie will likely reel in the leaders and, in the end, I'd expect one of those two to hit the wire first.
Sunday's 9th Race - Sanford - Grade II: Like the Schuylerville, expect a hot pace to be on display in the Sanford. Nine horses will take to the track for this six furlong sprint, and nearly all of them boast impressive speed. With a race this competitive, it's hard to know exactly who to like, but a few horses stick out. Bern Identity is one of them. He's an almost 14 length winner in his last race while posting the type of fractions we're likely to see on Sunday. Three length winner Rose Junction should also garner a look as the combination of Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano, and a two year old sprinter can be lethal. Wesley Ward's Handsome Jack and the Dale Romans trained John Gordon are other possibilities - though really, in a race like this, they're all contenders.