Saratoga: Recent trends in Week 5 Saturday stakes

August 8th, 2023

The fifth Saturday of the 2023 Saratoga meet has as its features the Fourstardave H. (G1), a one-mile grass test for older horses, and the time-honored Saratoga Special (G2) for two-year-olds. Here are trends worth noting about the two races over the past decade.

Fourstardave (G1)

Since its reduction in distance from 1 1/16 miles to one mile a little more than a decade ago, the Fourstardave has proven an excellent stepping stone to the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1). Hall of Famer Wise Dan (2012-13) won both races twice, while Tourist (2016) and World Approval (2017) also pulled off the double.

Speaking of Wise Dan, he remains the last post-time favorite to have won the Fourstardave. Indeed, favorites have often taken it on the chin in the race, finishing out of the money in five of the last 10 renewals. This despite an average field size of seven during the span.

Uni has the ignoble distinction of having lost as the Fourstardave favorite in successive years. Though she bounced back from her third-place effort in 2019 to win the Breeders' Cup Mile, she finished seventh of nine the following year.

Despite Uni's setbacks, and that of odds-on favorite Regal Glory last year, the Fourstardave was won twice by the mare Got Stormy (2019, 2021), so females have a history of being highly competitive, though that trend might not come into play this year. Got Stormy's ($27) victory in 2021 is the only one by a horse at double-digit odds during the span in question.

The only two winners since 2013 to have led wire-to-wire were Voodoo Song (2018) and Halladay (2020), both over courses rated good.

Saratoga Special (G2)

Although you have to go back more than a quarter-century to find a Saratoga Special winner who would be named champion juvenile, the race has yielded a couple prominent winners in the last decade. Exaggerator (2015) went on to win the Preakness (G1) at three, while Jackie's Warrior (2020) would be voted champion sprinter the following year.

Jackie's Warrior paid $8.20, a whopping figure in light of his subsequent career. He was not the favorite, though, and crowd choices have been a mixed bag in this race. Three favorites have won in the last 10 editions, but five finished out of the money. 

Jackie's Warrior was one of three wire-to-wire winners, another being Call Paul (2018), who only had three rivals to beat. Corfu last raced at Delaware Park and joined Gunnevera (Gulfstream, 2016) and Exaggerator (Del Mar) as the only Saratoga Special winners since 2013 that did not make their previous start in either Kentucky or New York.

Corfu (2013) is the only Special winner during the span to have gotten a race over the Saratoga strip in advance.