Saratoga Week 7 highlights

September 1st, 2021

Saratoga will send off the season with a plethora of stakes.

Travers S. (G1) weekend featured eight graded stakes, with six Grade 1 contests on the Saturday card, and the meet’s final week includes another eight graded events.

Here is a rundown of the Spa’s closing action.

Essential Quality adds to his impressive résumé

When he won the Travers S. (G1), Essential Quality added a fourth Grade 1 race to his record, improved his overall mark to eight wins from nine starts, and pushed his earnings to past $4 million. He outdueled Midnight Bourbon in the stretch to prevail by a neck under meet-leading rider Luis Saez and for trainer Brad Cox.

“He’s danced a lot of dances and shown up,” Cox said. “His lone defeat was the Kentucky Derby (G1), where we felt he was right there in the mix. He’s done nothing wrong. We’re proud of what he’s accomplished this year, and he’s a very good horse with a fantastic résumé.”

Trainer Brad Cox said the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) is the ultimate goal but has not yet decided whether Essential Quality will race one more time beforehand. 

Yaupon repels repeated attacks

In one of the most compelling stories of the day, Yaupon repelled actual, repeated attacks by Firenze Fire in the stretch to win the Forego S. (G1) by a head.

Yaupon, with Ricardo Santana Jr. up, and Firenze Fire, piloted by Jose Ortiz, ran first and second throughout the race, then Firenze Fire started to bite at Yaupon’s head.

“It’s very exciting to have a winner of the Grade 1 Forego for the Heiligbrodts,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “But the finish made it that much more dramatic. I will watch that replay many times in my future. For that to happen in a Grade 1 at Saratoga, with two horses on the lead, that will be memorable.”

Yaupon, who defeated five Grade 1 winners in the race, improved his record to six wins from eight starts. His only two misses were in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) and the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) at Meydan in March.

Saratoga sends more runners to the Breeders’ Cup

Three Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” challenge races preceded the Travers.

There were no surprises in the Ballerina H. (G1), as Gamine romped to a 1 3/4 victory and scored an entry in the Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), a race she won last year.

Gamine has a trajectory similar to Essential Quality’s. Her lone loss in 10 starts was handed to her in last year’s Kentucky Oaks (G1).

Letruska led the Personal Ensign S. (G1) from start to finish and again proved her place among the nation’s top older females. Her last three wins all came in Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) qualifiers.

Gufo won the Sword Dancer S. (G1) by a neck to notch an entry in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) and his first Grade 1.

Sending the Spa off in style

Four Grade 1 contests highlight the eight graded stakes in Saratoga’s final week, and two grant entry into Breeders’ Cup races. On Saturday, the Flower Bowl S. (G1) will grant a berth to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), and the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) will send a runner to the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1).

Two-year-olds will have the opportunity to prove themselves in two of racing’s biggest springboards: the Spinaway S. (G1) for fillies and the Hopeful S. (G1).

Saratoga’s closing day is Monday, Sept. 6.