Turf trainers to watch at the Spa

Profile Picture: John Mucciolo

July 22nd, 2016

The much-anticipated meeting at Saratoga Race Course gets underway today and a strong 10-race card awaits us, including a quartet on the lawn. Let’s focus on turf trainer trends from last season to try and get off to a nice start in 2016.

Chad Brown was easily best with grassy winners last year, saddling 22 first-place finishers on the green, nine more than his nearest training foe. With that said, it’s often hard to find value from the high-quality outfit at Saratoga. Brown was raised locally and has had a high success rate at the Spa over the years, so we will tab a trio of barns that may be worth backing with the potential for better mutuel returns.

George Weaver always has his runners aimed for Saratoga and could have an impact on the opening-day card this summer. The conditioner sent out seven turf winners in 2015 and has a pair to keep a close eye on Friday – THUNDERING SKY (#1) in Race 9 and ARCH CONTENDER (#2) in Race 10. While neither of the sophomores has yet to race locally, they enter in good form and may continue to show more in upstate New York.

Barclay Tagg did great work last season with limited stock on the green, compiling a 5-for-13 mark with turf runners at Saratoga. The crafty veteran is great at picking his spots and will be represented by a single runner on opening day, FIRST EMBRACE (#13) in Race 5. The four-year-old filly by First Defence is the first on the also-eligible list and likely needs a big step forward from this post to have success, but she will race with blinkers for the initial time and could be a live exotics player at a price making a second run off the short layoff. On Sunday, Tagg will send out KITZYS ROCKET (#9) in Race 9, a dark bay filly who is a perfect two-for-two on the Saratoga turf, as well as LOTAA GOLD (#2) in Race 11, a nice maiden graduate two prior making her debut on this turf.

It’s no secret that Christophe Clement is good at his craft, especially on the sod, but he gets primed for this meeting like no other and had a superb 2015 run with turf runners – 13-for-43 (30 percent) in 2015. The French-bred conditioner is among the best in his craft with all types but his turf runners seem to peak at Saratoga. His meet gets underway on Sunday with two entries, both on the turf. JOUST (#12) in Race 2 would need a few defections to get in the field but is bred to be a nice one and Joel Rosario being named to ride is always a positive. QUEST (#6) will go in Race 9 and comes in fresh as a winner in two of her first trio of races since importing from Europe. Rosario will guide this one, as well.