Saratoga: Recent trends in Week 8 Saturday stakes

August 28th, 2023

The eighth and final Saturday of the 2023 Saratoga season features three graded stakes, two of which are relatively new additions to the Spa calendar.

The historic Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) essentially switched places on the schedule with the Woodward (G2) in 2021, so the Gold Cup has been run at Saratoga for only the past two years. Thus, a comparison between the last two runnings and the previous eight at Belmont Park does not readily lend itself to providing noteworthy trends.

Flower Bowl (G2)

The Flower Bowl (G2), for fillies and mares on the turf, likewise moved upstate in 2021. And because of track configuration differences between Belmont and Saratoga, the race was elongated from 1 1/4 miles to 1 3/8 miles (and subsequently downgraded).

Unsurprisingly, Chad Brown has been the dominant trainer in recent Flower Bowl history, winning six of the past 10 renewals. Four of those winners were odds-on choices, the exceptions being Stephanie's Kitten, who toppled a European-based favorite when defending her title in 2015, and Virginia Joy, who upset 1-5 favorite War Like Goddess last year.

Trainer Shug McGaughey has provided two of the longer-priced Flower Bowl winners during the last decade, with War Flag (2017) returning $21.20 and Civil Union (2020) paying $8.10.

Regardless of whether the Flower Bowl has been held at Belmont or Saratoga, every winner of the race last ran at either Saratoga or Arlington, specifically the Beverly D. (G1) in the case of the latter. The Beverly D. was run at Colonial Downs earlier in August and is unlikely to have much, if any, impact on Saturday's Flower Bowl renewal.

Prioress (G2)

The third graded event on Saturday is the Prioress (G2) for three-year-old fillies over six furlongs, a race that's had a slightly longer presence at Saratoga. The race arrived at the Spa in 2012, and for its first couple editions served as an early-meet prep for the Test (G1). It's been an end-of-meet feature, however, since 2014.

Favorites have been generally vulnerable, with only two scoring in the past 10 runnings. Those were Cavorting ($4.30) in 2015 and Frank's Rockette ($5.10) in 2020. Among the losing favorites were three odds-on choices.

Don't discount the possibility of a big surprise. Lighthouse Bay ($45.20) in 2013, Lucy N Ethel ($47.40) in 2016, and Cilla ($23.40) in 2021 all triumphed during the last decade.

A Prioress winner can come from anywhere. Winners in the last 10 years made their most recent starts at Saratoga (three times), Monmouth (twice), Churchill, Belmont, Santa Anita, Parx, and Gulfstream.

The only fillies to lead at every pole were Stonetastic ($13) in 2014 and the aforementioned Lucy N Ethel. No winner has been more than three lengths behind the leader after a quarter-mile, nor more than two lengths after a half-mile.