Stakes Saturday: Saratoga takes spotlight with G1s Travers, Test

Stakes Saturday: Saratoga takes spotlight with G1s Travers, Test
Photo: NYRA Photo

Throughout the year, the NTRA will provide a guide to the best stakes races in North America and beyond. Races are listed in chronological order (all times Eastern). Full entries can be found through the link for each race.

Though it occupies an earlier spot than usual on the calendar, the Grade 1, $1 million Travers Stakes succeeded in luring the top sophomore in training as the race will be headlined by Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law, the current No. 1 ranked horse on the NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll. The 151st running of the Travers will be one of five graded stakes on the day at historic Saratoga Race Course.

For the second consecutive year, the Travers Stakes will be televised live on the FOX broadcast network as part of a 1 ½ hour telecast from 5-6:30 PM ET on Saturday.

Saturday

3:42 p.m.—$300,000 Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on FS2

Blue Devil Racing Stable's homebred Come Dancing emerged as one of the country's leading older female sprinters last summer at Saratoga Race Course, and trainer Carlos Martin is hopeful the 6-year-old mare will flash that same form when she goes after a second straight victory in Grade 1, $300,000 Ballerina Stakes. Come Dancing is attempting to become only the second horse to win multiple editions of the Ballerina following Shine Again in 2001 and 2002 for late Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens. A multiple graded-stakes winner of more than $1 million in career purses, Come Dancing has raced just twice this year. She was 12th in her season debut, the Grade 1 Apple Blossom on April 18 at Oaklawn Park and second as the favorite behind fellow Ballerina aspirant Victim of Love in the Grade 3, 6 ½-furlong Vagrancy June 27 at Belmont Park

4:22 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 3 Troy Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on FS2

Christophe Clement will look to add to his impressive numbers when he sends out Pure Sensation and Shekky Shebaz in Saturday's Troy Stakes over the Spa's Mellon turf course. Patricia Generazio's homebred Pure Sensation, a 9-year-old Zensational gelding, boasts a record of 37-14-5-7 with purse earnings of $2,001,050. The popular grey won 4-of-6 starts last season, including a pair of graded-stakes at Parx where he captured his third Grade 3 Parx Dash and his fourth Grade 3 Turf Monster at Parx. Pure Sensation wintered at Payson Park in Florida and made his seasonal debut with a seventh in the Grade 1 Jaipur on June 20 at Belmont Park.

5:02 p.m.—$150,000 Grade 3 Waya Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on FOX

Wise Racing's Fools Gold looks to defend her title in Saturday's Grade 3 Waya Stakes over the Mellon turf. Fools Gold, trained by Chad Brown, will attempt to be the first back-to-back winner of the Waya since Saratoga Source won the first two editions in 1993-94. The 5-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro has not won since taking last year's Waya, where she sat off the pace in the early stages, inched her way into contention and won by three-quarters of a length. Her lone start this season was a well-beaten fifth in her seasonal bow in the Grade 2 New York on June 27 at Belmont Park over the inner turf.

5:39 p.m.—$300,000 Grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on FOX

Michael Lund Petersen's Gamine headlines a field of six in Saturday's Test Stakes, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies. Gamine, an Into Mischief bay trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, has crossed the wire first in all three career starts, winning her March debut at Santa Anita by 6 ¼-lengths when sprinting 6 ½-furlongs. In May, she edged Speech, who two starts later captured the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland, in an optional-claiming sprint at Oaklawn where she was subsequently disqualified from purse money. Last out, the $1.8 million Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale purchase annexed a field of seven in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes by 18 ¾-lengths on June 20 at Belmont Park.

6:15 p.m.—$1 million Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on FOX

Sackatoga Stable's Tiz the Law, undefeated in his sophomore campaign with three consecutive graded stakes victories, will return to the site where his racing career began last summer as part of an eight-horse field of top 3-year-olds in Saturday's Grade 1 Travers Stakes. Tiz the Law made history in becoming the first New York bred in 138 years to win the Belmont Stakes on June 20. With five wins in six career starts, the Barclay Tagg trainee is the even-money morning-line favorite from post 6 and enters the 1 1/4-mile "Mid-Summer Derby" leading all horses with 272 qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby. He has a chance to add to that record-breaking total, as the Travers will offer 100-40-20-10 points to the top four finishers to the "Run for the Roses" on September 5.

7:30 p.m.—$150,000 Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar on TVG

Eight times already trainer Wesley Ward has rung the stakes bell at Del Mar and Saturday he’s aiming for another gong with a quick 2-year-old colt named Roderick, who ran away and hid from a straight maiden field at Belmont Park in New York on June 21 in his lone outing and looks like a solid favorite for the 50th edition of the Best Pal Stakes. The race, a six-panel spin for juveniles, has drawn a field of seven runners and Roderick has drawn post No. 4 and Del Mar’s leading rider, Flavien Prat.

9 p.m.—$150,000 Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon Stakes at Del Mar on TVG

Slam Dunk Racing or Medallion Racing’s Beau Recall (IRE), who was up by a whisker to win last year’s Yellow Ribbon Handicap, has come back to Del Mar to try to make it two-for-two in the Grade 2 headliner for fillies and mares that will be run this Saturday. The now 6-year-old mare brings a record of seven wins and eight seconds from 27 starts to the mile and one-sixteenth grass test, as well as a bankroll that reads $1,101,512. Trainer Brad Cox has shipped his well-traveled charge in from New York to defend her title and has assigned Umberto Rispoli to ride.

Sunday 

6:10 p.m.—$200,000 Ellis Park Derby at Ellis Park on TVG

The field was set for Sunday’s first-ever Kentucky Derby prep staged at Ellis Park, with Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes winner Art Collector heading the thirteen 3-year-old colts and geldings entered in the Ellis Park Derby.  The 1 1/8-mile Ellis Park Derby carries 50 points to the winner toward qualifying for the Kentucky Derby on September 5.  Art Collector seeks to go to 4 for 4 since being turned over to trainer Tommy Drury this year. Thanks to the Blue Grass’ 100 points, owner-breeder Bruce Lunsford’s colt already has enough points to ensure a spot in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field, with Drury using the Ellis Park Derby as a conditioning tool rather than training the eight weeks up to America’s most important race.

9:30 p.m.—$125,000 Grade 3 La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar on TVG

Storm the Court, the reigning champion juvenile male, switches to the turf to face seven other challengers in the La Jolla as he seeks his first victory since capturing the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park last November. Trained by Peter Eurton, Storm the Court is winless in four starts this season and most recently finished third in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby on June 27.

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