2017 Saratoga Race Meet Preview

Profile Picture: D.S. Williamson

D.S. Williamson

July 20th, 2017

The 2017 Saratoga Meet opens Friday, July 21. Some of the best horses, trainers, and jockeys are going to be at The Spa. Just like every year, summer racing at Saratoga produces some great, gigantic, payoffs.

Arrogate, who ended up becoming the best horse in the world, won the Travers at 11 to 1. Trainer Bob Baffert might have another 3-year-old star that he's going to unleash in the Travers. I take a look at the Travers as well as 4 other Grade 1 races that could set the tone for this fall's Breeders' Cup.

Grade 1 Travers Stakes, August 26

Last year, Arrogate won the Travers in 1:59.06. That's unbelievable. I mean, we're talking Secretariat Kentucky Derby type time. Don't expect any horse to sniff 1:59.06 in this year's Travers Stakes. Still, the Travers should be an excellent race.

Bob Baffert's got a star in the making in West Coast. If West Coast can pull an Arrogate by winning the Travers, expect a Baffert exacta in the Breeders' Cup Classic to be all the rage. In addition to West Coast, Classic Empire is finally on track. Also, both Tapwrit and the impressive Irap are scheduled to run in the Travers.

Grade 1 Alabama, August 19

Songbird's Alabama Stakes romp was a sign of what was to come. The great filly has only lost to legendary Beholder.

This year, it's difficult to see which three-year-old filly steps it up in this race. Abel Tasman, another Baffert trainee, looks difficult to handle. But, I'm not sold on Tasman being as good as Songbird. Her style, closing, suggests that she'll need pace.  I'm interested to see if Miss Sky Warrior shows up in this race. Also, no word from Richard Mandella on where Paradise Woods is running next.

Grade 1 Whitney, August 5

The Whitney should be a great race this year. No older horse wants to tackle Arrogate, who's scheduled to run in this weekend's San Diego and then the Pacific Classic both at Del Mar, until it must. That means is the Whitney could include Shaman Ghost, Cupid, Gun Runner, and possibly Mor Spirit if Bob decides he wants to stretch out the son of Eskendereya.

Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational, August 26

You either prep in the Sword Dancer Invitational or the Arlington Million on your way to the Breeders' Cup Turf. The Sword Dancer should produce another terrific racehorse, just like Flintshire last year. Ascend, the winner of the Grade 1 Manhattan, should definitely show up here. Beach Patrol might.

Expect a couple from Aidan O'Brien's barn. The real interesting thing will be if Disco Partner's connections decide to stretch him out even further by putting him in the Sword Dancer. Disco Partner looks like a miler to me, but you never know.

Grade 1 Personal Ensign, August 26

You must figure that Songbird ends up running in the Personal Ensign. She hasn't looked as dominant in her past couple of races as she did last year. She might have run up to the Rachel Alexandra wall. Hey, it happens.

If that's the case, Todd Pletcher might run a filly, or two, in this. I don't think John Sadler ships Stellar Wind. But, Bob Baffert might take a shot with Vale Dori. Also, Paulassilverlining has been fantastic in 2 races for new connections Chad Brown and Juddmonte Farms.

I wish everyone luck at The Spa!