Saratoga Stakes Spot Plays for Saturday, August 3

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Noel Michaels

August 2nd, 2019

This Saturday, August 3, is the first of the traditional truly headline Saturdays of the Spa meet. This weekend’s Saratoga stakes action will headlined by the Grade 1 co-featured runnings of the $500,000 Test and $1 million Whitney. But that’s not all. The three supporting stakes races on the card, the Troy Stakes (G3), Lure Stakes and De La Rose Stakes are annually some of the most underrated stakes races of the entire Saratoga meet. RACE 5 – Troy Stakes (G3) The Troy is a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint that used to draw big, wide-open fields of 12 horses scrambling for a Spa win, but now serves as a primary Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) prep race and therefor draws some of the best horses in the division to battle it out for the Grade 3 prize worth $200,000. World of Trouble (#1) (3-5) is a true monster sprinting on turf or dirt and has reeled off five straight wins since his narrow defeat when second in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Veteran Pure Sensation (#3) (7-2) is as good as ever this year with a three-for-three record that includes wins in the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup and the Parx Dash (G3). He should battle it out for second with Disco Partner (#2) (4-1). Disco Partner appears to be the better of the two at six furlongs, while Pure Sensation is better at five furlongs. At this contest’s distance of 5 1/2 furlongs, second could go either way. RACE 7 – Lure Stakes The Lure, a $100,000 stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf restricted to horse who have not won a graded stakes in 2019, boils down to Chad Brown versus Todd Pletcher versus noted Saratoga turf horse for the course, Voodoo Song (#7) (5-1), who needs to prove he still has “it” as he tries to get back into best form again in his five-year-old season. Before Voodoo Song’s eighth-place loss last out here in the Forbidden Apple Stakes (G3), the Linda Rice trainee had been five-of-six in the win column in his career at Saratoga, including graded wins in the 2017 Saranac Stakes (G3) and 2018 Fourstardave Stakes (G1). Unfortunately for Voodoo Song, Pletcher enters a pair of speedballs – Noble Indy (#1) (12-1) and Gidu (#9) (8-1) – and it might be Gidu’s job to run with Voodoo Song early. If that happens, the race could fall right into Chad Browns’ lap with either Projected (#3) (8-1), Ticonderoga (#8) (4-1), or particularly his latest Euro import, Sacred Life (#5) (5-2), who was knocking on the door last fall in French Group 3 stakes at Deauville and Longchamp. Race 8 – Test Stakes (G1) Three-year-old fillies get the seven-furlong test of their careers in the Grade 1 Test, and the 2019 running lives up to this race’s reputation as one of the prime fixtures on the annual Saratoga stakes schedule. The race draws Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Serengeti Empress (#1) (7-2) versus three-time Grade 1 and three-time Grade 2 winner Bellafina (#2) (2-1), who invades from the West Coast for trainer Simon Callaghan. However, the horse who might spoil the party seems likely to be up-and-coming Brad Cox speedster, Covfefe (#3) (5-2). Covfefe blazed six furlongs in 1:07.70 at Pimlico two races ago to crush the field by 8 1/2 lengths in the Miss Preakness Stakes (G3) over a field that included returning rival Please Flatter Me (#6) (15-1). Covfefe went to the Roxelana Stakes at Churchill Downs last time hoping to get an easy ungraded prep race under her belt and probably never imagining probably that the likes of older multiple stakes winner Mia Mischief would show up in that spot. Oops! Now Covfefe returns to three-year-old only competition for trainer Brad Cox, and seems to have more than enough speed to get out to the lead versus these and go wire-to-wire. RACE 9 – Whitney Stakes (G1) The $1 million Whitney has drawn a true Grade 1-caliber field here with most of the big names in the older handicap division showing up for this 1 1/8-mile battle royale on the main track. Vino Rosso (#5) (6-1) joined the Grade 1-winning ranks last time in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes for trainer Todd Pletcher and cuts back in distance from 1 1/4 miles as other top contenders in this race – McKinzie (#6) (7-5) and Thunder Snow (#4) (3-1) – stretch back out from their respective second- and third-place finishes last time out in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1), which is considered by many to be the race of the year so far in the handicap division. While Vino Rosso (Gold Cup) and Thunder Snow (Dubai World Cup [G1]) earned their career-defining victories at 1 1/4 miles, it appears to be Bob Baffert’s McKinzie who benefits most from the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Whitney. McKinzie has been no worse than second in five straight races – all Grade 1 or 2 events – and should once again end up in the exacta this Saturday at The Spa. Who’s the other horse for the exactas? That brings us to the horse to beat in the Whitney, who should be boxed in exactas along with McKinzie, and that is Preservationist (#8) (3-1) for trainer Jimmy Jerkens. Preservationist burst onto the national scene as a six-year-old last out by crushing Catholic Boy and others in Belmont Park’s Suburban Stakes (G2) with a huge 116 BRIS Speed figure. He’s another one cutting back from 1 1/4 miles, but there’s not a legit speed horse or a great pace projected in this race, and that should allow Preservationist to once again enjoy a comfortable pacesetting, or pace-pressing, trip like the one he used so effectively en route to victory last out. RACE 10 – De La Rose Stakes Saturday’s stakes action concludes with the De La Rose – the filly and mare version of the Lure earlier on the card for horses who have not won a graded contest in 2019. The $100,000 one-mile turf race drew a big 14-horse field, including three main-track only entrants, and is perhaps the toughest handicapping challenge on the Saturday card. The horse to beat is Got Stormy (#8) (3-1), who exits respective third- and second-place finishes in the Jenny Wiley (G1) and Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) in her last two starts for trainer Mark Casse. She’s still eligible for this spot based on those losses, and this ungraded restricted stakes spot should be hers to win. The horses to use with her in the exactas and trifectas are Rock My Love (#5) (9-2), a German Group 3 winner at one mile on the turf picking up John Velazquez for trainer Jonathan Thomas, and Stella di Camelot (#9) (4-1) for trainer Chad Brown, who exits a close third-place finish, beaten less than a length in the Intercontinental Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park. Enjoy a tremendous Saturday card of racing and wagering at Saratoga! Best of luck, and enjoy the best that summer horse racing has to offer at The Spa. PHOTO: Preservationist and jockey Junior Alvarado romp in the Suburban Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park on July 6, 2019 (c) Adam Coglianese Photography/Susie Raisher