Saratoga: Recent trends in Week 1 Saturday stakes

July 10th, 2023

There will be at least two graded stakes scheduled on each Saturday of the Saratoga meet, of which there will be eight beginning July 15. That card features a trio of them: the Diana (G1) for fillies and mares on the turf, the Kelso (G3) for older turf milers, and the Sanford (G3) for two-year-olds.

Here are some trends over the past decade regarding these three stakes:

Diana (G1)

This has basically been the Chad Brown show, with the conditioner training six of the past seven winners. He will be similarly loaded for bear this weekend, with the announced probables In Italian (the defending titlist), Fluffy Socks, Marketsegmentation, and Whitebeam all being Brown trainees.

If there's a silver lining to this potential intramural battle, it's that Brown has sometimes won with the less fancied of his entries. Dacita ($10.20) was the third choice in the wagering when she won in 2016, Sistercharlie ($4.30) was second choice, and In Italian ($18.60) was a surprise last year when she beat three stablemates.

Unsurprisingly, the Just a Game (G1) and New York (G1) have produced six of the past 10 winners. In Italian and Marketsegmentation, respectively, won those two races last month.

Kelso (G3)

This gets a little confusing, as the Kelso moniker has been slapped on a race formerly run as the Forbidden Apple, while the Grade 2 dirt event downstate that was called the Kelso has been renamed the Forty Niner. The Forbidden Apple was inaugurated at Belmont in 2014 and moved to Saratoga in 2019 (it was not run in 2020).

Of the three prior editions held at Saratoga, two were won by longshots. Mr Havercamp ($29.60) topped a $177 exacta when defeating Hembree over yielding ground in 2019, and last year the New York-bred City Man ($26.60) comfortably scored for trainer Christophe Clement. 

New York-breds have had a disproportionate amount of success in this race. In addition to City Man, we've also had Rinaldi (2021), Voodoo Song (2018), Disco Partner (2017), and King Kreesa (2015-16) score for local breeders.

Four of the eight winners of this race did so in wire-to-wire fashion, including Rinaldi over this course.

Sanford (G3)

This famous old race, which Man o' War lost and Secretariat won, rarely yields those kind of classic types anymore. The last Sanford winner to win the Kentucky Derby (G1) was Affirmed (1977), while the only future classic winner in the interim was Afleet Alex (2004).

Three of trainer Todd Pletcher's record eight wins in the race have come in the last decade. He and Eddie Kenneally are the only trainers with more than one win in the Sanford during that span.

With the disqualification of first-place finisher Magna Light in 2015, there have been no official wire-to-wire winners of the Sanford in the last 10 runnings (it was not run in 2020), though Wired Bryan (2013) and Mo Strike (2022) were both within a head of the leader at the first call.

The six-furlong dash has generally been won by either favorites or outsiders. Winning favorites include Bern Identity (2012), Bitumen (2016), Sombeyay (2018), By Your Side (2019), and Wit (2021), while longshot scorers include Wired Bryan ($16.40), Big Trouble (2014, $25.60), Firenze Fire (2017, $27), and Mo Strike ($18.40).

The only Sanford winner since 2012 to have made his last start other than at Belmont or Churchill was Firenze Fire, who had won his debut at Monmouth Park.