Reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan has finished up his serious training and is set to lead the field in Saturday’s $500,000 Fourstardave H. (G2) at Saratoga Race Course. Trained by Charlie Lopresti, the sensational son of Wiseman’s Ferry was a five-length winner in this race a year ago and has now reeled off 9 of 10 wins in advance of this, with a trio of wins this campaign over some tough ground to run over.
The reigning Horse of the Year has been assigned 129 pounds for the one-mile, inner turf feature with jockey John Velazquez retaining the mount.
Wise Dan overcame 128 pounds, and some rough race riding through the hedge at Churchill Downs, to take the Firecracker Handicap last out by two lengths. That was 13 pounds more than when the Wiseman’s Ferry gelding captured the 2011 running by 2 3/4 lengths.
Of those lining up against Wise Dan, three have faced the star runner in the past couple of seasons. Lea actually just ran second in the Firecracker in only his seventh career start.
That four-year-old son of First Samurai entered the Firecracker following his 2013 bow in an off-the-turf optional claimer at Churchill Downs, which he captured by 3 1/4 lengths. Lea closed out his sophomore season with a nice win in the Commonwealth Turf and was third in the Hawthorne Derby prior to that. He scored in a pair of Saratoga contests last summer with Joel Rosario aboard, and that rider will be in Lea’s saddle for the first time since for trainer Al Stall Jr.
“It’s our third race after a freshening,” Stall said. “We sent him to South Carolina this winter just to turn him into a horse, and he’s had two good races coming back, so he’s sitting on a good race.
“He’s shown that he’s a really solid, nice horse. Wise Dan has brilliance. You see that acceleration and turn of foot. That’s something to aspire to. We’ll end up in a good spot one of these days, and, hopefully, it’s this weekend.”
Mr. Commons finished only three lengths behind Wise Dan in their past two matches. The first came in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, where the John Shirreffs pupil ran fifth, and then in the Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland in his second start of the year. Mr. Commons was third in that one and enters the Fourstardave off a fifth, beaten only 1 1/2 lengths, in an optional claimer over course and distance on July 24. Edgar Prado has the call on the Artie Schiller five-year-old.
“His last race, I thought, was a good comeback race,” Shirreffs said. “I thought it was probably better than his placing seemed to make it. I’m looking forward to running him. The whole point of the allowance race was to get to the Fourstardave. We knew he definitely would need a prep race, so the timing of the two races were just about perfect.
“Wise Dan’s pretty good,” Shirreffs added. “When I saw him at Santa Anita, I said, ‘Yeah, he looks like just a regular horse, a nice horse.’ But, boy, when you see that son of a gun move, everything changes. He’s an amazing athlete.”
Skyring earned just his second stakes win in the Dixie two back at Pimlico, but was unable to duplicate that performance in the United Nations most recently. Before those two, though, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained son of English Channel was fourth in the Maker’s 46 Mile. That was his best effort against Wise Dan, as he ran a well-beaten 10th behind that rival in the Shadwell Turf Mile last October. Junior Alvarado will get a leg up on Skyring Saturday at the Spa.
King Kreesa is riding a two-race win streak from Belmont Park, where he scored in the Poker and Kingston in his past pair of races. The King Cugat gelding tried Saratoga last summer, running a close fourth in the Saranac prior to just being caught late for runner-up honors in the Jamaica Handicap. Irad Ortiz Jr. has been in the saddle for seven of King Kreesa’s last 10 races and will be holding the reins in this spot yet again.
“He’s much more mature in his races this year,” trainer Jeremiah Englehart said of King Kreesa. “I have a lot of respect for what Wise Dan has accomplished. The nice thing about horse racing is there are a lot of variables, and we feel like this is our time to take a chance.”
Za Approval just made his stakes bow in February, finishing a close fourth in the Canadian Turf before taking both the Appleton and Red Bank. The Ghostzapper gelding was second-best most recently in the Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park, but that effort proved the Christophe Clement trainee belonged in this spot. It also saw him assigned the co-second highest impost at 118 pounds, most of which will be taken up by Jose Lezcano.
Willyconker gets in lightest of all on Saturday, having to tote just 115 pounds in only his second start for new trainer Eric Guillot. The Irish-bred son of Pyrus was claimed on May 25 at Hollywood Park, but never a factor when ninth against similar rivals last out at Saratoga in his first start for the new connections. Willyconker is no stranger to the winner’s circle, having taken the Frank E. Kilroe Mile in March 2012, and will have Jose Ortiz aboard.
The Saratoga Special Stakes and Adirondack Stakes
The juveniles will have top billing on Sunday, with a pair of graded races designated for them. The $200,000 Saratoga Special S. (G2) looks like a real fun race and conditioner Todd Pletcher will have a pair of live ones coming off of maiden wins, including the highly touted Corfu. The very expensive son of Malibu Moon had to work hard to graduate in his well-backed debut but did face some good ones and he may have gotten a lot out of that performance.
Also for Pletcher will be Danza, a son of Street Boss was chased the pace the entire way before edging clear over a nice one at Belmont at first asking. The chestnut has trained well up here and could be any kind for the top juvenile barn on the grounds. Candydandy was very sharp at first asking for Asmussen at Churchill Downs and he could be any kind for a fine outfit. The son of Candy Ride was dead on the board but ran like a monster in his debut, and this barn has been going well at The Spa since it opened. Gulfstream maiden winner Lunar Warfare, Delaware graduate Mr. Viber, the Al Stall-trained Twang and Sanford S. (G2) upsetter Wired Bryan, are also likely for this test.
The $200,000 Adirondack S. (G2) will also be on the Sunday card, and Pletcher will be well represented here once again. Ari the Adventurer was bet down 15-cents on the dollar in a fine debut score, and this daughter of Pioneerof the Nile was never headed in a most convincing win and could surely be a real nice one as arguably the most impressive filly seen at this meeting thus far.
Also from the Pletcher barn is the heralded Stopchargingmaria, who rolled from start to finish in her debut contest. The daughter of Tale of the Cat was hammered down to 1-2 odds at first asking and is another who could be almost any type. The Kenny McPeek-trained Charmed Hour was a nice winner at Ellis at first call and will be stepping up in class some in here. Unbeaten stakes vixen Designer Legs, Debutante S. romper Fiftyshadesofgold, the well-bred Untapable, a fine debut winner at Churchill for conditioner Steve Asmussen, and Michael Matz’s Who’s In Town, are all set to go in this dash.
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Saratoga Race Course 2013 Summer Meet
Dates: July 19 – September 2nd
Saratoga Race Course 2013 Summer Racing Schedule: 40 days. Friday, July 19 through Monday, September 2, Labor Day. No racing on Tuesdays.
Saratoga Race Course 2013 Summer Racing Post Times (Eastern) : 1pm Eastern. On Travers Day, Saturday, August 24, first race post is 11:35am. For Twilight Racing, Friday August 30, first race post time is 2:30pm On Labor Day, Monday, September 2, first post is 12:30pm.
Saratoga Race Course 2013 Summer Wagering
The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) will present a $500,000 Guaranteed Late Pick 4 every Saturday at Saratoga Race Course and a $1 Million All Graded Stakes Pick 4 on Travers Day, August 24.
Although NYRA offers daily Pick 4’s on races 2 – 5 and the final four races of the day, the $500,000 guarantee applies only to the Late Pick 4 on Saturdays at Saratoga Race Course. The Late Pick 4 is a 50 cent minimum wager in which the bettor must correctly pick the winners of the last four races on the card, usually beginning with race eight.
On Travers Day, August 24, the guarantee will rise to $1 million in conjunction with the 144th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Travers Stakes. The Travers is supported by three additional graded events: the $500,000 Grade 1 Test, the $500,000 Grade 1 Foxwoods King’s Bishop, and the $250,000 Grade 2 Ballston Spa. The Late Pick 4 is scheduled to begin with Race 9 on Travers Day.
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Those planning to play the majority of the Saratoga season should check out Brisnet.com/summer for savings plans on Ultimate PPs, Daily Selections, and ALL-Ways data files for the entire meeting. Buy any of the summer racing packages and receive Track Stats free!
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NBC and NYRA to Host “Summer at Saratoga” Series
The New York Racing Association (NYRA) and the NBC Sports Group have announced the schedule for this year’s “Summer at Saratoga” series, with five live broadcasts from Saratoga, starting on August 11 and running through September 1, and including such marquee races as the Alabama, Travers and Woodward.
Last year’s NBC Sports Group coverage of the Saratoga meet marked the most extensive live national broadcast presence ever of racing from the prestigious track, and following the meet, NYRA and the NBC Sports Group announced a two-year extension for “Summer at Saratoga,” which will bring live national coverage of the Saratoga meet through 2013.
The schedule for the NBC Sports Group’s live coverage of the 2012 Saratoga meet is as follows (all times Eastern):
- July 27: Grade 1, $600,000 Diana and Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy (5-6pm on NBC Sports Network)
- August 3: Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap (5-6pm on NBC)
- August 10: Grade 2, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap (5-6pm on NBC)
- August 11: Grade 2, $200,000 Adirondack and Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special (5-6pm on NBC Sports Network)
- August 17: Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama and Grade 1, $600,000 Sword Dancer Invitational (5-6pm on NBC Sports Network)
- August 24: Grade 1, $500,000 Foxwoods King’s Bishop and Grade 1, $1 million Travers (4:30-6pm on NBC)
- August 31: Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap, G1 $500,000 Forego and Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward (4-6pm on NBC Sports Network)
Saratoga Race Course Track Facts and Information
Main Track:1 1/8-mile oval with seven-furlong chute; 4 percent banking on the turns; distance from final turn to the finish line is 1,144 feet.
WTC Mellon Turf: The Mellon (Outer) Turf Course is a one-mile (plus 98 feet) oval; 4 percent banking on the turns; distance from final turn to the finish line is 1,144 feet.
ITC Turf Course: The Inner Turf Course is a seven-furlong (plus 304 feet) oval; 4 percent banking on the turns; distance from final turn to finish is 1,164 feet.
Oklahoma Training Track: One-mile oval with a quarter-mile chute; 2 percent banking on the turns; distance from final turn to the finish line is 990 feet.
Oklahoma Turf Course: Seven-furlong oval; 2 percent banking on the turns; distance from final turn to the finish line is 1,024 feet.
Oklahoma Steeplechase course: Six-furlong oval, five fences.
Clare Court Training Track: Half-mile oval; 1.5 percent banking on the turns.