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Post Time: Friday racing notebook

By Gene Kershner

The "Summer at Saratoga" series continues Saturday afternoon (NBC Sports, Ch. 2, 5-6 p.m.) with a visit from 2012 Horse of the Year (HOY) Wise Dan (3-5). Last year's winner of three Eclipse Awards (older horse, turf division and HOY) will take to the turf in the $500,000 Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap going a mile on the turf. The race is named for Saratoga "horse for the course" Fourstardave, who amazingly won a race at Saratoga Race Course for eight consecutive years from 1987 to 1994.

The race has attracted six other horses looking to break Wise Dan's current seven-race winning streak.  Mort Fink, his owner, is taking some heat around racing circles for not placing him in tougher company or more difficult races, instead staying on the same path he took last year in claiming racing's biggest award. He and trainer Charlie LoPresti appear to be pointing towards the $2 million dollar Breeders' Cup Mile, rather than the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, which will be run on the dirt at Santa Anita on November 2. He skipped last weekend's Whitney Handicap at nine furlongs on the dirt for this spot in the Fourstardave, a race he won in 2012.

What else is making news around the racing circuit these days?

  • Race fans from Western New York who pass on the trip to the Spa tomorrow, most likely can see Wise Dan next at Woodbine in Toronto running in the Woodbine Mile on Sept. 15. Woodbine officials are cautiously optimistic that he will return to the Great White North to defend his win in last year's Woodbine Mile.
  • Wise Dan will carry 129 pounds in the Fourstardave as the high weight in the race, one more pound than he carried in his last race, the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 29. He will be spotting his rivals 11 to 14 pounds (see field below) in Saturday's feature race at the Spa.
  • The NBC Sports Network telecast will also show the Auntie Mame Stakes, a $100,000 race for
    3-year-old fillies, including Bona Venture Stables' Summer of Fun.  She will be facing some tough competition in Todd Pletcher's Silsita, who ran in this year's Kentucky Oaks.
  • The News caught up with Bona Venture Managing Owner Dan Collins at the Spa on Wednesday afternoon to discuss Summer of Fun's chances on Saturday. "We came out of the Hilltop, a heartbreak nose loss," said Collins. "She's doing well, she blew out 47 for four furlongs on the dirt the other day and she had a great turf workout the other night. She's ready to go we just need a race and this is a good one."  Collins decided a jockey switch was in order and has called on Joe Rocco, Jr. to ride Summer of Fun. "She drew the 8-hole, she's on the outside. We decided not to bring up Paco Lopez from Monmouth. We just want to get her to relax a little more. If you go back to the Breeders' Cup race, she came off the pace a little bit, where she was running about fourth or fifth running two three lengths off she made a really nice, strong move. Rocco is a little more patient and he'll keep her off the lead hopefully, there will be  some speed and she'll make a nice move in the stretch.  We think it's a good fit," he said.
  • Had the good fortune to attend Tuesday night's Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected Yearlings sale and came away very impressed with the entire operation. The sale is open to the public and is fascinating to see horseflesh worth hundreds of thousands of dollars walk right in front of you in the walking ring outside of the sale pavilion. The overall sale topper for the two-night sale was a Dynaformer filly who is also a half-sister to Optimizer that went for $1,225,000.  The two-night sale generated over $31 million of sales dollars for the 108 yearlings offered, a one percent decline from the 2012 sale. The average sale price was $299,065 and the median price was $250,000.
  • This morning at 10:30 a.m. at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion the National Museum of and Hall of Fame will induct its 2013 class in Saratoga. Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel and the racehorses Housebuster, Invasor, Lure, McDynamo and Tuscalee.
  • The Breeders' Cup announced on Thursday that they will be reinstating the Breeders' Cup Distaff, the last race of the Friday Breeders' Cup card from the Ladies' Classic, the name it has used since 2008. “We restored the Ladies’ Classic to its original name due to feedback from our loyal fans who have a strong affinity for the Distaff,” said Craig Fravel, Breeders’ Cup President and CEO. “In recognition of our 30th year, the Distaff has provided us with some of racing’s most remarkable moments, personified by such outstanding Thoroughbreds as Lady’s Secret, Personal Ensign, Azeri, Zenyatta, and our two-time defending champion, Royal Delta. It is a fitting tribute to bring back the name Distaff to honor the rich history of the Championships.”


The field for the Grade 2, $500,000 Fourstardave:











Wise Dan (KY)




J R. Velazquez


C LoPresti



Skyring (KY)




J Alvarado


D W Lukas 



Za Approval (KY)




J Lezcano


C Clement



Mr. Commons (KY)




E S. Prado


J A. Shirreffs



Willyconker (IRE)




J L. Ortiz


E J. Guillot



King Kreesa (NY)




I Ortiz, Jr.


J C. Englehart



Lea (KY)




J Rosario


A M. Stall, Jr.


Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace. 


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Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.