Belmont Stars and Stripes Festival on July 8 Key Date for Saratoga

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D.S. Williamson

June 28th, 2017

The 2017 Saratoga Race Meet starts on July 21. The meet ends on September 4. We've got almost a whole month before some of the best horses, trainers, and jockeys in the world hit up The Spa for another great Saratoga Race Meet.

But, we have precious few weeks, only 2, actually, to think about horses running at Saratoga. After checking the race calendar, I've concluded that July 8 at Belmont is the day to watch racing. Horses that run well during Belmont's Stars and Stripes Racing Festival on July 8 figure to come back and run well at Saratoga.

Shaman Ghost, Grade 2 Suburban Handicap

Shaman Ghost is probable for the Suburban Handicap. He finished fifth in last year's Suburban Handicap.  This year he's a much better horse. He's gotten so good that he won the Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita in March. Then, he won the Pimlico Special.

The Whitney on August 5 at Saratoga might be where he shows up after the Suburban. He'll be one of the favorites for the Whitney should he win on July 8.

Cupid, Grade 2 Suburban Handicap

There's absolutely no reason for Bob Baffert to run Cupid against Arrogate. Arrogate is a possibility for the San Diego Handicap.  Then, Baffert's going to run the best horse in the world in the Pacific Classic. Wherever Arrogate goes, the best handicap horses don't  follow.

The Suburban Handicap should be Cupid's acid test. Has he turned into a strong route runner? Baffert does what's right by his owners. He'd run Cupid in the BC Classic against Arrogate if he thought the horse could get a possible Top 3 finish. Prepping Cupid at Saratoga makes more sense than prepping him at Del Mar.

Practical Joke, Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes

Remember this guy? Chad Brown owns Saratoga. Practical Joke could turn a win in the Grade 3 Dwyer into a stepping stone for a run in either the Haskell Invitational, or the Travers Stakes. There's a chance Brown preps Cloud Computing in this race as well although I haven't heard anything about it.

Oscar Performance, Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational

Aidan O'Brien should have two horses running in this. They'll get the most love since O'Brien often dominates America's biggest turf races. But, O'Brien's not entering his "A" horses. What it means is that Oscar Performance, who turned his form around in his last, could make it back-to-back wins in the prestigious Belmont Derby Invitational. If Oscar Performance wins the Belmont Derby Invitational, it's going to be hard for trainer Brian Lynch to keep him out of one of the strong turf races during the Saratoga Meet.

New Money Honey, Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational

The Wonder Again Stakes was New Money Honey's first race since April. She still won it fairly easily. The Wonder Again was a prep for this, the Belmont Oaks Invitational. How do I know? The purse for the Belmont Oaks Invitational is over $1 million. The purse for the Wonder Again Stakes is $200,00.

That's a huge difference in purse money. No doubt, Chad Brown's going to a find a lucrative prep for New Money Honey at Saratoga after the Belmont Oaks before possibly giving her more than a month off and training her up to the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.