- Taking a look at the opening day card at Saratoga, it makes you grasp just how crappy the racing at Belmont was. It’s like watching the caliber of play in the Super Bowl or the Stanley Cup Finals, and coming to the realization that the non-playoff team you root for really, really sucks. Man, I’m excited, and as of now, I’m still scheduled to leave tomorrow morning for the first two days of the meet. Dick Powell of Brisnet has some useful Saratoga facts and tips today, and perhaps the most important one is this: plug zip code 12866 into any weather web sites you want to check. Indeed, tonight’s forecast calls for possible thunderstorms (the rest of the week and weekend look good...though that can change at a moment's notice, if that), and the typical Saratoga soaker can turn the track to slop and wipe out a day of turf racing in an instant.
I hope that’s not the case for tomorrow. There are three turf races scheduled, including the 7th, the kind of N2X allowance affair that you can only find at Saratoga. Rousing Victory is graded stakes placed and returns for Phil Serpe. Shakespeare is a 2-for-2-on-the-turf 4yo for Mott making his first start since March 2004; he’s by Theatrical out of multiple graded stakes winner Lady Shirl. A note on Pedigree Query says that he was retired with a leg injury last year, guess he changed his mind. Whale (Elusive Quality) comes off two ridiculously easy turf wins for Angel Penna, the last an allowance at Delaware. No Theatrics ships in off a good fig allowance win at Churchill for Neil Howard. And Pavo makes his return as well as his turf debut.
The 5th is your typical Saratoga 2 yo maiden affair with the debuts of a lot of expensive horseflesh. The Steve Klesaris/Jeff Puglisi team unveils another of their high-priced sales purchases with Cat Criminal, purchased for 400K earlier this year at Fasig-Tipton February. Klesaris popped four first-timers at the Belmont meet, but the Form reports that the trainer believes this son of Tale of the Cat wants farther than the 5 1/2 furlongs he gets in this spot. Lukas has Overland Trail (Gone West), a million dollar Bob and Beverly Lewis purchase from the same sale, and Pletcher has $300K yearling Velvet Cat (Cat Thief). Jim Mazur, author of The Saratoga Handicapper, the popular resource for trainer and jockey stats from meets past, tells Ron Indrisano of the Boston Globe: ''First-time starters were not really a good area for Pletcher when he first broke away from [mentor] D. Wayne Lukas…'They didn't pay anything, but now, when Pletcher has a first-timer, it's a big percentage play."
Last year, Pletcher started 22 horses (going 6-11-1) during the opening week of the meet, more than most trainers started in the full six weeks. At one point, he won with four straight first-time starters, Ready's Gal, English Channel (who has gone on to be a top turf horse), Funk, and Upscaled. Each of the four had been working out at Saratoga since May. [Boston Globe}So has Velvet Cat. Dick Powell says, however, not to expect Pletcher to achieve the kind of numbers he has the past two years, in which he’s had 35 winners each.
He has divisions at Monmouth and Delaware and with their purses being only 20 percent less than Saratoga, look for Pletcher to start fewer horses. He'll still be loaded as usual, but the gross numbers might not be there. The same goes for Bobby Frankel. [Brisnet]Oh yeah, there’s the opening day stakes too, the G2 Adirondack for 2 yo fillies. Two of Klesaris’ first-out winners, Little Miss Zip and Cajun Mistress, go as an entry that may be favored based on the former’s 7 length win with an 88 fig. Here's Dick Powell again, noting of Little Miss Zip's sire, City Zip:
City Zip is off to a fast start at stud and it should continue during Saratoga. Now standing in Kentucky at Lane's End, he began his stud career here in New York and will have many precocious youngsters racing here. Plus, he loved the Saratoga main track, winning all three juvenile stakes that NYRA used to schedule here -- Hopeful S. (G1), Sanford S. (G2) and Saratoga Special S. (G2) -- plus he came back at three to win the Amsterdam S. (G2). [Brisnet.com]Pletcher's undefeated Adieu (El Corredor) is sure to get bet, as should Fifth Avenue (Monarchos) the winner of the Fashion at Belmont.
- It was a flight with quite valuable cargo that landed in Sydney, Australia the other day, as a group of shuttle stallions arrived for the type of vacation that the rest of us can only fantasize about. Fusaichi Pegasus, Johannesburg, More Than Ready, and Street Cry are just a few of the lucky bachelors who will do it, and do it a lot Down Under.