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Jul 09, 2010

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            The Saratoga 2010 meeting gets underway in less than two weeks when they open their doors on Friday July 23rd. This year’s meeting is different from those in years past in that they have added four extra days to a 36 day meeting making it now 40 days. They will run everyday starting Friday July 23rd through Monday September 6th, with the only dark day being on Tuesdays. The announcement was made the other day that NYRA will offer free grandstand admission on opening day and will reduce the price on clubhouse admission. On opening day when they always get a huge crowd this was actually a bold statement and maybe will lead to some more customer friendly decisions.

            This year’s meeting also holds a different feeling because what is going on at the Jersey Shore at Monmouth Racetrack. They are running just three days a week and offering purses of up to $1 million dollars a day. This format has definitely helped them fill races but it has made handicapping the track a problem. However, it has definitely hurt the overall quality of racing in New York with many short fields even in the very cheap races which has hurt the amount of money people are betting on these races. The hope is that when racing switches upstate to Saratoga and the purse money goes up that many horses will ship in here and help the field size and in turn the handle etc.

            The racing gets underway with the traditional opening day stakes race the Schuylerville, a Grade III for two year old fillies run over six furlongs. The second day of the meeting gets you your first Grade I race with the Betfair TVG Coaching Club American Oaks run at 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $250,000 and is restricted to three year old fillies. This race was moved from Belmont and the distance changed from 1 and ¼ miles. This race with much of its history can also be a prep race for the Grade I Betfair TVG Alabama which is run on August 21st. The third day of the meeting gets the two year old colts started with the Grade II Sanford with a purse of $150,000 run over six furlongs. The final day of the opening four day weekend was the Evan Shipman, a race restricted to New York breds for three year olds and upward with a purse of $70,000 run over 1 and 1/8th miles. This was another race that was normally run at the end of the Belmont meeting but was moved upstate.

            The second weekend of the meeting gets off to a roaring start with two Grade I races and of course the Grade II Fourstardave Handicap. The Grade I Diana will be run on July 31st for fillies and mares, three years old and upward run over the turf at 1 and 1/8th miles distance. This race generally attracts the top distaff turf runners in the country as evidenced by the fact that FOREVER TOGETHER won the race the last two years. The Grade I Ruffian, a race for fillies and mares, three years old and upward run over 1 and 1/8th miles distance with a purse of $250,000 was another race moved up from Belmont. However, this one was moved from the Fall Championship meeting. It again should bring some top distaffers and could serve as a prep for the Personal Ensign later in the meeting. The most popular race for that weekend might be the Fourstardave Handicap. This race for three year olds and upward is a Grade II with a purse of $150,000 run over the turf at 1 and 1/16th miles. This race was named for the great New York bred FOURSTARDAVE, who was owned by Richard Bomze, and was an icon here at Saratoga. He loved it up there and moved his game up every year from 1987 to 1994 in which he won at least one race each year.

            The Grade I Whitney Handicap and Test Stakes will be run on August 7th but the highlight of the meeting as always will be the Grade I Travers Stakes, also known as the “Midsummer Derby” which will be run on August 28th for three year olds run at 1 and ¼ miles with a purse of $1,000,000. Last year’s winner was the eventual three year old champion SUMMER BIRD who defeated QUALITY ROAD who is this year’s leading contender for Horse of the Year and who is supposed to show-up in the Whitney Handicap. There have been many top horses over the years that have run in this race and it looks like that will be the case again this year.

            If you are looking for stats and trends to look for when betting the Saratoga meeting, please pick up the August issue of American Turf which covers Saratoga and Del Mar and helps you win at the windows this Summer.

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