A total of six Grade 1 races highlight Saturday's card at Saratoga, four of which are listed as Breeders' Cup Challenge “Win and You're In” Races for this fall at Santa Anita. Highlighting the card is the Travers Stakes with a full field of 14 scheduled to make the gate, and following that race will be the G2 Ballston Spa, featuring the long-awaited return of undefeated Lady Eli.
At Saratoga on Friday, the card features six listed stakes races for New York-breds, offering $1.25 million in purses over the course of the six races.
Friday evening at Del Mar (post time of 9:30 PM Eastern) is the listed Shared Belief Stakes, named for the ill-fated Eclipse Award winner. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer will be attempting to win the 3-year-old contest over a mile on the main track with either Who's Out or Taman Guard, the latter of which is owned in part by the Jim Rome's Jungle Racing, of Shared Belief fame. Their main competition appears to come from John Sadler trainee Accelerate.
Kicking off the action Saturday at Saratoga is the G1 Personal Ensign Stakes, for fillies and mares over nine furlongs on the main track. A “win and you're in” for the Longines Distaff, the five-horse field is a talented group of 4-year-olds. Curalina enters off a solid win over Carrumba in the Shuvee Handicap and will be the slight favorite on the morning line. Cavorting, second choice, just won the G1 Ogden Phipps in her last out over Forever Unbridled, also in this field. Rounding out the lineup are I'm A Chatterbox and Paid Up Subscriber.
Up next is the G1 Ballerina, for fillies and mares over seven furlongs on Saratoga's main track, a “win and you're in” for the Filly and Mare Sprint. Headlining the field will be defending Breeders' Cup Champion Wavell Avenue, though she will likely face tough competition from sophomore Carina Mia, turning back in distance after a second to Songbird in the Coaching Club American Oaks. Paulassilverlining has been very successful over the New York tracks, and Sheer Drama will be hoping to get back on track in this spot.
The G1 King's Bishop is restricted to just 3-year-olds over seven furlongs on Saratoga's main track. The deep 13-horse field is led by Bob Baffert shipper Drefong, but Kiaran McLaughlin trainee Mohaymen is turning back in distance and coming off a layoff since the Kentucky Derby. Economic Model and Fish Trappe Road figure to be major contenders, and Tom's Ready was a strong sprint winner back in the Woody Stephens in early June.
The G1 Forego is next, a seven-furlong contest that offers a berth to the Breeders' Cup Sprint. A. P. Indian enters the race off four wins in a row, including the G1 Vanderbilt, and should be tough to beat. Marking was most recently second in the Belmont Sprint Championship, and Catalina Red and Stallwalkin' Dude may also feature in the top contenders.
Flintshire is the star attraction of the G1 Sword Dancer, a “Win and You're In” for the Longines Turf. He's the defending winner in this 1 1/2 mile turf contest at the Spa, and is riding a two-race win streak for trainer Chad Brown. Grand Tito will enter the gate to challenge the division leader once again, and Money Multiplier will put up a challenge in the stretch.
Up at Woodbine, the G3 Seaway Stakes features fillies and mares over seven furlongs on the Tapeta. Josie Carroll's Elusive Collection will be searching for her first graded stakes win.
In Ohio at JACK Thistledown Racecourse, the listed $200,000 Lady Jacqueline Stakes attracted an eight-horse field led by Lady Penwith of the Kiaran McLaughlin stable. Todd Pletcher also sends graded winner Bound to contest the richest race in Ohio for fillies and mares.
Back to Saratoga, the Travers has its first 14-horse field since the 1970s. Exaggerator appears to be the top of the class, but he will likely be facing a dry track and will have to overcome traffic concerns in breaking from the center of the starting gate. Connect, trained by Chad Brown, holds second on the morning line, but Belmont top two Creator and Destin are also in the field and will be tough. Surprise Jim Dandy winner Laoban should be on or right off the lead, but American Freedom may well be right there with him. Gun Runner will be looking to rebound off a poor Haskell effort, and Governor Malibu should also be sharp.
Over at Del Mar, the G2 Pat O'Brien is a “Win and You're In” for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Leading the field over the seven-furlong charge is Masochistic, who won his first start back of 2016 in an allowance race at Santa Anita after contesting the Breeders' Cup Sprint last fall. Vyjack was most recently second in a G3 at Monmouth Park, but can never be counted out from the connections of Phil D'Amato and leading rider Flavien Prat.
Monmouth's Saturday feature is the G3 Philip H. Iselin Stakes over nine furlongs on the main track. Kiaran McLaughlin trainee Watershed will be seeking out his first graded stakes win after a sharp allowance score at Saratoga.
In what may well be the comeback of the year, Lady Eli features in Saratoga's G2 Ballston Spa, covering 1 1/16 miles over the turf course. She is making her comeback from over a year-long battle with laminitis, and is still undefeated in her six-race career. The major competition will come from Miss Temple City, most recently fourth in the G1 Diana at the Spa, but earlier this year she beat the boys in Keeneland's Maker's 46 Mile.
On Sunday, the G3 Torrey Pines Stakes is the highlight of the day at Del Mar. Enola Gray is undefeated in three starts against state-bred company, and makes her first foray into the deeper waters of open company, looking to build upon her impressive, albeit short career.
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