By Gene Kershner
The three graded stakes races preceding the $1 million Grade 1 Travers Stakes on Saturday afternoon will feature competitive racing at Saratoga Race Course. The Grade 1 Test Stakes, a sprint for three- year-old fillies, the Grade 2 Ketel One Ballston Spa Stakes for fillies and mares three-years-old and up and the Grade 1 Foxwoods Kings Bishop, a 7-furlong sprint for three-year-olds will highlight the undercard on the Spa's signature day.
There will be 14 races in all with the first race going to post at 11:35 a.m. The "Summer at Saratoga" series continues with a national telecast on NBC (Ch. 2, 4:30 - 6:00 p.m.), the Travers is scheduled to go off at 5:45 p.m. local time. The Travers preview will be in Saturday's News, be sure to check it out.
Let's take a look at the three undercard races and some thoughts when building a Pick-4 ticket that starts with the Test in Race 9.
Race 9: Grade 1 Test Stakes. This is a loaded field with some very talented 3-year-old fillies, including west coast shipper 5-Sweet Lulu (5-2) who has Julien Leparoux in the irons. She hasn't run on anything other than a synthetic surface, but she is showing a tremendous workout pattern and Jerry Hollendorfer thinks enough of her to ship her east for this spot. While she's not my top choice, it would be hard not to include her on a multi-race ticket. I'm looking for 9-Wildcat Lily (6-1) to have her breakout race, she sports a bullet workout at Gulfstream on Aug. 17 (best time out of 100 starters working 4-furlongs that day). She finished only a half length behind 6-Lighthouse Bay in the Grade 1 Prioress and has not finished outside of the exacta in seven straight races. 8-My Happy Face (3-1) will be cutting back off her second place finish in the CCA Oaks where she finished six lengths behind the likely 3-year-old filly champion Princess of Sylmar. With Rosario in the irons for a white-hot Chad Brown, she's on my ticket.
Race 10: Grade 2 Ballston Spa Stakes. Whenever I look at a turf race the three jockeys I focus on are Lezcano, Castellano and Johnny V. They happen to be on the three horses that should land on my P4 tickets Saturday afternoon. 1-Laughing (7-2) was the class of the Diana and she comes in third off the layoff for Alan Goldberg and has Lezcano in the irons, a 20 percent winner on the weeds. 5-Hungry Island (5-2) has never missed the board at 8 1/2-furlongs and Castellano is a hot jockey right now, also wins 22 percent of the time on the grass. Has been rested since Belmont Stakes day for Shug McGaughey and shows some sharp workouts in her past performances. Johnny V is aboard 4-Centre Court (3-1), who will look to rebound from her disappointing performance in the Diana. She too has never been out of the exacta in five starts at the distance. If you're looking for a long shot to put on your ticket and have room for her 8-Embarr could steal it on the front end. She also has finished in front of Laughing in the past so she has some class.
Race 11: Grade 1 King's Bishop. This race has a full field of 14 and should be the one to go deepest in. The full field sprints give me fits so I'll be going at least five deep in this one. The 7-furlong sprint features the Grade 2 Amsterdam winner 2-Forty Tales (5-2) for the Pletcher/Rosario combination that is winning 23 percent of the time and in the money 62 percent of the time together. He's put together two impressive graded stakes victories between the Grade 1 Woody Stephens and the Amsterdam and could make it three in a row. A Post Time favorite is 5-Majestic Hussar (10-1) who we saw win in person at Gulfstream at the same distance in the slop defeating a certain horse named Palace Malice that day. The son of Majestic Warrior is two for three at the Spa and comes in second off the layoff for Eddie Kenneally. 8-Declan's Warrior (5-1), Nick Zito's chance at getting back in the winner's circle finished a close second to Forty Tales in the Stephens and was closing fast in the 6 1/2-furlong Amsterdam. If he can stay closer to the pace, he may warrant a look and it doesn't hurt that Hall of Famer Johnny Velazquez is in the irons. Don't overlook the performance of 10-Let Em Shine (6-1) in the Woody Stephens after three straight victories. His fourth place finish was only a length back and he led most of the way. He gets a jockey upgrade with Hall of Famer Mike Smith and could win at a nice price. For our long shot toss in, we'll include 4-Slan Abhaile (20-1), a Hard Spun colt for trainer Dale Romans. The distance fits and he sports a nice 5-furlong workout, so he could be ultra-fit for this race.
Good luck and let's cash some tickets!