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Jul 26, 2013

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-SARATOGA OPENING WEEKEND

By: JOE GIRARDI


               Saratoga opened its 2013 meeting on Friday July 19th. This was the 150th season in Saratoga history and it felt like the hottest as well. With temperatures in the mid 90’s and with the humidity it felt like 100 the season got underway with a turf race that went to Hardest Core who closed from last to get up at the wire by a half-length and paying $11.40 to win.

               There were three stakes races on opening day, the first came in race 4, the On The Bus, a restricted stakes to New York bred fillies and mares with a six horse field. The odds-on favorite in the race was Hessonite, a hard knocking five year old mare. After getting away in fifth early on behind slow early fractions she started to move on the far turn and put in a huge kick late to score by more than a length in a solid final time despite the slow early fractions.

               The Grade III James Marvin stakes came in race 8 with a field of six going postward as well. The favorite in the race was Souper Speedy who was sent off at 9-5. After the gates broke, there was a three way duel between Souper Speedy, Laurie’s Rocket, and Strapping Groom who battled through fractions of 22:1, 44:2, 1:09:1 and they finished up in 1:22:2 when Sage Valley crossed the wire first under Cornelio Velasquez.            

               The final stakes of the day was the Grade III Schuylerville Stakes for two year old fillies. The favorite in the race was Bahnah who was 1 for 1 after a big win at Churchill Downs. Brazen Persuasion was sent off as the second choice and battled throughout some solid fractions and was still there in deep stretch. She battled right down to the wire but the photo finish camera couldn’t separate the two as Bahnah and Brazen Persuasion finished in a dead heat, in a slow final time of 1:12 flat.

               On day two of the meeting, again Saratoga hosted three stakes races. The first one came in the 3rd race, the My Princess Jess Stakes, run over the inner turf and carried a purse of $100,000. Silsita and jockey John Velezquez stalked the lead of Broken Spell and ground that one down on the wire to get up to score by a nose at 6-1.

               In the ninth race, the Grade III Shuvee handicap a field of six went postward. The favorite in the race was the Todd Pletcher trainee, Authenticity who was sent off at 1-2. The highly touted second choice Eblouissante, a half sister to Zenyatta was making her first start since January. She was unruly at the gate but still ran but never lifted a hoof checking in sixth. Authenticity came out running in second, stalked the slow pace of Sea Island into the lane, took over and held well to score by a length over Flashy American.

               The Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks was next with a field of 5. Unlimited Budget coming off a sixth place finish in the Belmont was back in against three year olds fillies and was sent off as the 6-5 favorite. However, it was the other Todd Pletcher trainee, Princess of Sylmar, who was coming off a big win in the Kentucky Oaks, she stalked the leaders from fifth early on, made a big move on the final turn and drew away smartly to score by six lengths. My Happy Face, the pacesetter settled for second while Unlimited Budget checked in last.

               The weekend came to a close when on Sunday, day 3 there were two stakes races. The $100,000 Fiddlers Patriot Stakes for three years old and upward run over the turf going 5 and ½ furlongs. A field of nine went postward with Longhunter going off as the slight favorite. Tightend Touchdown came out running, set a very sharp pace into the lane but couldn’t hold off Strong Impact who closed well to score by ¾’s of a length. Tightend Touchdown held on for second while a tough trip for Varisty who checked in third.

               The final stakes of the weekend was the Grade II Sanford Stakes for two year olds. A field of six went postward with undefeated Debt Ceiling going off as the 9-5 favorite. Wired Bryan, a debut winner and a New York bred in against open company, came out battling for the lead, lead into the lane and drew away smartly to score by more than five lengths. Southern Blessing, the longest shot in the race closed well for second while Hollywood Talent held on for third.

               It was a very exciting weekend all around and there are many racing days left with plenty of top quality racing ahead. Good luck!



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