Jul 22, 2005
AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD
By: JOE GIRARDI
Well the wait is over the highlight of the New York racing season is
up on, the opening of the Saratoga meeting. The 36-day meeting runs from opening
day July 27th, 2005 through Labor Day, September 5th, 2005. Post time is
each day and there is no racing on Tuesdays. As always the quality of racing at
Saratoga is high, with 45 stakes races, 30 of which are graded and 13 of which are
Grade I races. The total stakes purses will exceed $10 million.
The opening day stakes race is the Adirondack stakes for filly two year
olds, with a purse of $150,000, replacing the traditional Schuylerville stakes. On day
two the Saratoga Special will replace the Sanford stakes. The first Grade I doesn’t
take long to get underway when the Grade I Diana for fillies and mares on the turf
is run on July 30th. On that same day the Grade II Jim Dandy stakes, a prep race for the Travers Stakes on August 27th, will also be run. The Grade I’s don’t stop as the very next
day, July 31st Saratoga will host the Grade I Go For Wand Handicap. A race for fillies
and mares, three years old and upward and will be run at a distance of 1 and 1/8th
miles. That race is expected to see ASHADO, last year’s three year old champion,
will be the one to beat if she makes the post. You can expect to see many champions
during the Saratoga meeting and the highlight of the meeting, the $1 million
Travers Stakes, the Grade I “Mid-Summer Derby” is for three year olds and will be
run at a distance of 1 and ¼ miles. The Preakness and Belmont hero AFLEET ALEX
is expected for the race and may help lead him to not only champion three year
old but put him in position to win Horse of the Year especially with all the injuries
to the Handicap division.
The Whitney and Alabama are two significant Grade I races that will also
be run during the meeting. The Whitney will be run on August 6th, for three year
old and up, will be run at 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $750,000 and will see
some of the top horses from the handicap division. SAINT LIAM is one horse
that might show up and he can try and cement his lead as the frontrunner for
Horse of the Year. The Grade I Alabama, which is the filly counterpart of the Travers
for three year olds fillies to be run at the same 1 and ¼ mile distance with a purse
of $750,000. The three year old filly division that doesn’t have a solid leader right
now may be found in the Alabama. This is the type of racing that you will see
almost daily at Saratoga.
Let’s take a look at the jockeys and trainers from last year’s meeting and
how it shapes up for 2005. Last year’s leading jockey, John Velazquez who scored
with 65 out of his 227 mounts for a winning percentage of 28.6% is one of the
favorites coming in to the meet but a less than stellar Belmont meeting with less
than half the amount wins as leading rider Edgar Prado he will have to step it up.
His main ally will be trainer Todd Pletcher who won the training title last year by
20 wins will be a big help in getting him the title if he can have a similar meeting.
Prado who finished second last year and is currently dominating the Belmont meeting
will be Velazquez’s main rival. Others who must be respected going into the meeting
are Jerry Bailey, Saratoga’s winningest rider with 661 is always a danger but he
doesn’t ride enough horses anymore and picks and chooses his spots. Javier Castellano
and up and coming rider finished tied for third with Bailey last year and has been
riding in good form at Belmont meeting. Whoever wins the meeting this year will
earn it as Eibar Coa, (currently second at the Belmont meeting), Ramon Dominguez
and Rafael Bejarano will be moving their tack to Saratoga which can make the
meeting only that more competitive.
On the trainers side, we spoke about Todd Pletcher earlier who has to be
odds-on to repeat as leading trainer. Some trainers to look for when looking for
value are H. Graham Motion, who scored with five out of his 17 starters for a
winning percentage of 29.4% and an in the money percentage of 47.1%.James Jerkens
is coming off a solid Belmont meeting and he also did well with limited starters
last year at Saratoga and must be respected. His father Allen Jerkens “the giant killer”
didn’t get that name for nothing and is another to look at when playing trainers.
Thomas Bush, who has been having a very good last few years won with four out
of his nine starters for a winning percentage of 44.4% and is another that must be
respected at the Spa, especially at a price. One trainer that might be one to follow
is Kiaran Mclaughlin, who had a great meeting two years back, a reasonable
meeting last year and is going through a very tough Belmont meeting, trains a lot
of his horses up here and can turn it around in a big way that can produce some
large mutuels. Good Luck!
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