Saratoga Week 3 highlights
Blockbuster racing continues at Saratoga, where champions Essential Quality and Whitmore found different results in last weekend’s stakes races and an all-star field is expected to meet in the Whitney S. (G1). Here’s a look at what is happening at the Spa.
LEXITONIAN UPSETS THE ALFRED G. VANDERBILT H. (G1) AT 34-1 ODDS
Lexitonian shocked the talented Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1) field, beating six graded stakes winners including Mischevious Alex, Firenze Fire, and 2020 champion male sprinter Whitmore. At 34-1 odds, he earned his first grade 1 win and snapped a winless streak that began in May 2020. The five-year-old chestnut dueled with Special Reserve in the stretch, pulling away late to win by a half-length.
Trainer Jack Sisterson gave a leg up to Jose Lezcano on the Calumet Farms homebred. Lexitonian continues a trend of Calumet Farms longshots winning at New York Tracks. Earlier this year, Bourbonic won the Wood Memorial S. (G2) at 72-1 odds, and 13-1 Channel Cat took the Man o’War S. (G1).
ESSENTIAL QUALITY CONTINUES TO PROVE HIS WORTH IN THE JIM DANDY S. (G2)
There were no surprises in the Jim Dandy S. (G2), as Essential Quality extended his near-perfect record, winning by a half-length in his first start since dominating the Belmont S. (G1). Challenger Keepmeinmind held on for second.
The reigning champion two-year-old was the heavy favorite, with 2-5 odds at post time. His only loss from seven starts was a troubled fourth-place finish as the Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite.
Luis Saez, who currently leads the jockey standings at Saratoga, has been aboard for all seven of the gray colt’s stakes races for trainer Brad Cox.
The win makes Essential Quality the probable favorite for the Travers (G1) on Aug. 28, Saratoga’s signature race.
CROSS BORDER REPEATS IN THE BOWLING GREEN S. (G2)
In the race following the Jim Dandy, Saez scored another stakes victory in the Bowling Green (G2) aboard Cross Border, who notched a second consecutive win in the contest. The seven-year-old ran down pacesetter Channel Cat in the stretch and held off Rockemperor to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
Cross Border improved his Saratoga record to four wins and a second from five starts.
Trainer Mike Maker said the Aug. 28 Sword Dancer S. (G1) at Saratoga could be Cross Border’s next start. The race is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the Turf (G1).
JACKIE’S WARRIOR ROMPS TO 7 1/4-LENGTH VICTORY IN AMSTERDAM S. (G2)
Leading at every point of call, Jackie’s Warrior proved to be much the best on a sloppy track in the Amsterdam S. (G2) romping home by 7 1/4 lengths. After a half-hour delay due to heavy rainfall, the bay colt won for the sixth time in nine starts and improved to 3-for-3 at the Spa, adding to his scores as a juvenile in last year’s Saratoga Special S. (G2) and Hopeful S. (G1).
Woody Stephens (G1) winner Drain the Clock finished second under Irad Ortiz Jr.
The win inched trainer Steve Asmussen to four wins away from being North America’s all-time winningest trainer. Ricardo Santana Jr. was in the irons.
UPCOMING SARATOGA STAKES
One of the Spa’s biggest weeks is ahead, featuring nine graded stakes races highlighted by the Whitney S. (G1). Here’s what to look forward to at Saratoga.
WHITNEY S. (G1)
Top stars Maxfield, Swiss Skydiver, Knicks Go, and Silver State are among the talented field expected to meet in Saturday’s $1 million Whitney S. (G1) for older horses, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
Maxfield, trained by Brendan Walsh, has seven wins from eight career starts and is currently the top-ranked horse in the Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings.
Swiss Skydiver, who beat the boys in the 2020 Preakness S. (G1), has won six graded stakes wins at five different tracks, including last year’s Alabama S. (G1) at Saratoga. The 2020 champion three-year-old filly seeks to bounce back from her third-place finish in Oaklawn’s Apple Blossom H. (G1), a thrilling race where Letruska upset champion Monomoy Girl by a nose.
Knicks Go, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and the Pegasus World Cup Invitational S. (G1), and Met Mile (G1) victor Silver State are also expected to run.
LONGINES TEST S. (G1)
Trainer Bob Baffert is expected to start Illumination in Saturday’s Test S. (G1) for three-year-old fillies. She will be Baffert’s first starter at a NYRA track since the positive post-race test of Medina Spirit in this year’s Kentucky Derby (G1).
In her last start, she romped to an eighth-length victory in a maiden special weight at Santa Anita. John Velazquez has the mount.
Other horses pointing to the Test include Always Carina, Obilgatory, Search Results, and Zaajel.
OTHER STAKES RACES
Graded stakes action begins Friday with the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame S. (G2) and the Troy S. (G3). Saturday’s third Grade 1 is the Saratoga Invitational Derby (G1), a $1 million race for three-year-olds on turf. Sunday features a pair of Grade 3 contests—the De La Rose S. and the Saratoga Oaks Invitational—and the Adirondack S. (G2).