Augustin Stable's homebred Varenka headlines a talented field of eight sophomore fillies in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Lake Placid Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile inner turf test at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Graham Motion, the Ghostzapper bay is out of stakes winner Dynamic Cat, who has produced four stakes winners, including Grade 3-winner Dynamic Holiday.
Varenka demonstrated significant promise in her juvenile campaign finishing second in the P.G. Johnson at second asking at Saratoga, followed up by a closing second to Newspaperofrecord in the G2 Miss Grillo at Belmont Park. She closed her 2-year-old season as a maiden with a wide-rallying fifth in the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Motion said Varenka's juvenile campaign demonstrated her significant potential.
“She's from a talented family so it wasn't a surprise. As a 2-year-old, even though she went into those stakes as a maiden, she held her own very well,” said Motion. “She had an unorthodox year as a 2-year-old and the timing didn't work out to get her maiden broken as I didn't want to miss out on those other opportunities. I think even in the Breeders' Cup, she would have finished much closer with a better trip.”
After dominating a maiden field in her seasonal debut on May 11 at Belmont, Varenka landed third in the G3 Regret on June 15 at Churchill Downs.
“She won her maiden very impressively and it was a good way to start the year with her,” said Motion. “She's been very consistent.”
Varenka arrives at the Lake Placid from a neck-length score in an optional-claiming tilt on July 14 at the Spa where she left the gate from the outermost post in a 10-horse field. Motion said the talented bay has trained well since.
“I thought we'd take one step at a time and that's why we went to the allowance race. She drew very poorly, so she took the worst of it that day,” said Motion. “I think she's done well since then and it's probably the right time to get back into a graded stake. She's definitely graded caliber. She's proven that.”
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano has the call from the inside post.
G.W. Humphrey, Jr.'s Wildlife failed to handle the slop in her off-the-turf debut in June at Churchill Downs, but is undefeated in two turf starts since, including a 1 1/2-length score in an Ellis Park allowance last out on July 26.
Trained by Victoria Oliver, Wildlife has closed from well back in each of her victories.
“She's not very sharp out of the gate,” said Oliver. “As she gets older and the more she runs, she won't sit that far back. She just hasn't quite figured it all out.”
The well-related Wildlife is by Animal Kingdom and out of the Bernardini mare Fjord. Her second dam, Round Pond, is a multiple Grade 1-winner, who captured the 2006 Breeders' Cup Distaff.
Oliver said Wildlife is living up to her advance billing thus far.
“She's always shown a lot of ability. We bought her for $195,000 at the Fasig-Tipton fall sale and she's always trained quite forwardly,” said Oliver.
Oliver said the talented Wildlife will be cross-entered in the G1 Del Mar Oaks, also slated for Saturday.
“We'll try to figure out where the best spot is for her,” said Oliver. “She's been training great and that's why it's time for one of these two stakes.”
Wildlife will emerge from post seven under Jose Lezcano.
Three-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown will saddle Regal Glory and Blowout, the one-two finishers of G3 Lake George last out at Saratoga in which the veteran conditioner saddled all three horses in the race, with Dogtag completing the personal trifecta.
Paul Pompa, Jr.'s Regal Glory, a chestnut daughter of Animal Kingdom, had finished second in a pair of graded events – the G3 Sweetest Chant at Gulfstream Park and the G2 Appalachian at Keeneland – before winning the Penn Oaks ahead of her Lake George coup.
Luis Saez retains the mount from post five.
Peter Brant's Blowout graduated at first asking on Jan. 23 on the Tampa Bay Downs green and followed up with strong second behind Turf Triple darling Concrete Rose in the G3 Florida Oaks. Subsequently second to Lake Placid rival Feel Glorious in the Memories of Silver at Aqueduct in April, the Dansili bay captured the Wild Applause ahead of her runner-up effort in the Lake George.
Blowout, who is out of the multiple Group 1-winner Beauty Parlour, will be piloted by Jose Ortiz from post four.
Rounding out the field are Amandrea [post two, Tyler Gaffalione], Vow to Recover [post three, Manny Franco] and Feel Glorious [post six, Joel Rosario]. Team Win [post eight, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] is a main-track only entrant.
The Lake Placid is slated as Race 9 on Saturday's 11-race card, which also offers the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama presented by NYRA Bets in Race 10 and the $100,000 Smart N Fancy in Race 8. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.
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