2013 is the first time I
will be at Saratoga for opening day
and this brings a special kind of excitement for me. This year huge purses, the
usual great racing, and a chance to hit the Grand Slam have got me psyched to head
The purses are gigantic,
at almost unbelievable levels. The condition book for opening day lists three
maiden special weight races: one for NY-bred older horses with a purse of
$75,000, open two year-old fillies for $80,000, and open older horses for
The smallest purse in the
first four days was $37,000 for maiden claimers in for a tag of $20,000. The
biggest none stake purse was $95,000 for an OC100/NW3 optional claiming allowance going a mile on the turf.
The first four days of the
meeting are jam packed with great racing, featuring five graded stakes races
and the New York, east coast, debut of Eblouissante.
Eblouissante turned in a
seven-furlong workout in 1:27.02 on Sunday in preparation for a start in either
the Shuvee on July 20 or in an allowance on July 22. Both races are slated to go nine
furlongs, which pleases trainer John Shirreffs. “The dynamics of the two-turn races are
entirely different from one-turn races,” said Shirreffs. “I love two-turn races
and prefer them to one-turn races, personally. I think they give horses a
chance to get into the gate, go into the turn, relax, find position. There’s a
chance to use a few different gears.”
Aside from sharing the dam,
Vertigineux, with her famous half-sister, Zenyatta,
Eblouissante also likes to start her races slowly and close from off the pace
to win, as she did in her only two career starts in California. She broke her
maiden on the synthetic track of Hollywood Park in November of 2012 and
followed that with an allowance score on the dirt at Santa Anita in January 2013.
Various minor setbacks since then have
kept her from running, so her many fans are eager to see if this four year-old
will continue to live up to her name which
translates from French to mean dazzling, stunning, amazing.
The first opening day
graded stakes race will be the James Marvin (G3) which is in only its sixth running and was won in 2011 by
Saratoga favorite Jackson Bend. Trainer Tom Albertrani holds a strong hand on
opening day with Soupy Speedy in
the James Marvin. This colt took the Jaipur last out when moved up to the top
spot after being herded out wide in the stretch run. Souper Speedy has only
missed the money once in an eight race career.
In contrast this will be
the 95th running of the Schuylerville (G3). Famous past two year-old fillies to win the race include: 2003 Ashado,
1997 Countess Diana, 1990 Meadow Star, 1986 Sacahuista, 1972 La Prevoyante,
1971 Numbered Account, and 1961 Cicada.
Albertrani brings his
surprising filly, True Blue Nation into the Schuylerville after a Belmont maiden win at 17.80-1. “She
was very impressive first time out,” said Albertrani. “Normally, I don’t really
crank on the 2-year-olds to come out running first time out, but if they do,
all the better. I would always expect a better performance second time around,
so we were very pleased with that effort first time out.”
Day two of the meeting
includes two graded stakes for fillies. The
Shuvee (G3), first run in 1976, is for fillies and mares three-years old
and up. This year it is being run
at Saratoga and at nine furlongs for the first time. If Eblouissante goes in
the Shuvee she is likely to be joined by graded stakes winners Authenticity and Summer Applause.
In 2010 the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) moved
to Saratoga from Belmont Park, where it was the last leg of the original Triple
Tiara for the three year-old fillies. The race was named for the Coaching Club
of America in which to be a member, one had to be able to drive a coach and
four horses with a single group of reins. Sounds like something that is not
easy to do.
Princess of Sylmar is expected to make her return to the races after
winning the Kentucky Oaks at the very generous price of 38.80-1. The Princess
could stamp herself as a leader in the wide-open three year-old filly division
with a win in the CCA.
Day three features the
juvenile boys in the historic Sanford(G2), which was won by Triple Crown winners Affirmed in 1977 and Secretariat in
1972. Man O’ War’s only career defeat came in the 1919 Sanford when Upset took
home the winner’s purse of $3,925. Unbeaten Debt Ceiling is the Sanford headliner. The son of Discreet Cat has
won all three of his starts including the Bashford Manor (G3) at Churchill
To be a little bit different
this summer I will be focusing on the Grand Slam wager at Saratoga. There is no
shortage of handicappers that will give you their pick 4, 5, and 6 plays. The
Grand Slam is a wager that at times produces some very good wagering value. In
the Grand Slam you have to “Pick a horse to finish in the top three in three
straight races, capped by the winner of the fourth race in the sequence.” So,
to cash you have to pick 3 show horses in a row and then one winner.
I like to play the Grand
Slam by singling a horse in each of the show legs and then spreading with up to
three horses in the win leg. The base bet is $2, but I like play for $10. It’s
a fun wager with a limited downside and when you hit a good pay out there is excellent profit. I will tweet my Grand Slam picks, so look for this graphic. I will
also post it on the Horse Racing Nation homepage in the Plays of the Day. A couple of summers ago I played the Place Pick 6
at Monmouth Park everyday and showed a profit. I hope to do the same with the