This Week: Summer Heats Up at Saratoga Race Course
This Week: Summer Heats Up at Saratoga Race Course– As the 148th meet at Saratoga Race Course is set to get underway on Friday, July 22, fields for the six stakes races on tap for opening weekend, presented by NYRA Bets, are beginning to take shape, highlighted by the purse-enhanced Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks on Sunday, July 24, which will feature the undefeated champion Songbird as she makes her highly anticipated Spa debut.
Owned by Fox Hill Farms and trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, Songbird broke her maiden with ease last July at Del Mar and went on to post three more dominating victories last year, all against Grade 1 company and capped off with a 5 ¾-length score in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, en route to earning the Eclipse Award for Champion Juvenile Filly.
As a 3-year-old, the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro has matched the perfect 4-for-4 record of her juvenile year with a quartet of victories at Santa Anita, including the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks in April and, most recently, a 6 ½-length romp in the Grade 2 Summertime Oaks.
Confirmed to take on the formidable Songbird in the 100th running of the prestigious Coaching Club American Oaks are Grade 1 winners Carina Mia and Weep No More. A six-length victor of the Grade 2 Eight Belles on May 6 at Churchill Downs, Three Chimneys Farm’s Carina Mia returned on the Belmont Stakes undercard with a gutsy off-the-pace bid to win the Grade 1 Acorn for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
Ashbrook Farm’s Grade 1 Ashland winner Weep No More will be making her first start since finishing seventh in the Kentucky Oaks. The Rusty Arnold trainee’s sophomore campaign got off to a sharp start with a three-race win streak, culminating with her 30-1 upset in the Ashland this spring at Keeneland, prior to her off-the-board finish in the Kentucky Oaks.
Eyeing a potential start in the Coaching Club American Oaks are Flora Dora, Paola Queen, Off the Tracks, Unbridled Mo and Kinsley Kisses.
Kicking off the stakes action on opening day, Friday, July 22, are a pair of filly contests, the Grade 2, $200,000 Lake George for 3-year-olds on the turf and the Grade 3 Schuylerville for 2-year-olds.
On target for the Lake George are Ancient Secret and Elysea’s World, respective winner and sixth-place finishers of the Wild Applause on June 5, for trainer Chad Brown; as well as Baciami Piccola; Irish import Diamond Fields; Gone Away; Outsider Art; last-out allowance winner Sky My Sky; and Try Your Luck. La Piba and Tin Type Gal are possible.
The Schuylerville is expected to attract Astoria heroine Bode’s Dream from the barn of Todd Pletcher, along with recent maiden winners Fun, Harlands Thunder, Inspired Flight, Made Me Shiver, Olive Branch, Platinum Spark, Sweet Loretta, and You Know Too. Lightning Dove and Summer Sally are questionable.
The stakes action will heat up on Saturday, July 23, with the first of 17 Grade 1’s in the 40-day meet, the 78th running of the $500,000 Diana at 1 1/8 miles on the grass. Probable contenders for the Diana are Dacita, recent winner of the Grade 2 New York on June 10; Grade 3 Eatontown winner Isabella Sings; 2015 Grade 1 Belmont Oaks runner-up Itsonlyactingdad; Grade 1 Makers 46 Mile victor Miss Temple City, making her first start since finishing a valiant fourth at Royal Ascot last month; last year’s Lake George winner Mrs McDougal; Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile runner-up Rainha Da Bateria; recent Grade 1 Just a Game runner-up Recepta; Strike Charmer, who took the Grade 3 Beaugay at Belmont in May; and Grade 1 Gamely runner-up Wekeela. Celestine and Lexie Lou are questionable.
Also on Saturday is the Grade 3, $150,000 Sanford for 2-year-olds at six furlongs, which has attracted the attention of impressive debut winners Bitumen, Bronson, Random Walk, Star Empire and Zartera. Talk Logistics and Thurman Merman are possible.
Rounding out the stakes action on opening weekend is the $100,000 Lucky Coin on Monday, July 25. For 4-year-olds and up at 5 1/2 furlongs on the Mellon turf course, the Lucky Coin is expected to draw Undrafted, winner of the 2015 Group 1 Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot for trainer Wesley Ward, as well as Asset Inflation, Bold Thunder, Choctaw Chuck, Mosler, Sandy’z Slew, Spring to the Sky, and Successful Native. Pool Winner is possible.
Source: Heather Pettinger, NYRA