Summer is here and along with it comes the opening of Saratoga Racetrack for another season. Adding to the heat is the barbecue which will be held during the Schuylerville Stakes (G3). No, not the kind where steaks sizzle over an open fire. This type of barbecue entails five juvenile fillies all gunning for the lead. Who can endure a broiling pace, who will be baked and which one of them can cool her heels and come from off of the pace?
All five youngsters enter this Grade 3 event off of a victory. The trainer with the most victories in the Schuylerville is Wayne Lukas. He owned the race from 1986 – 1988, won it again in 1995, 1999 and his latest triumph was in 2004 with Classic Elegance. This year, Lukas has entered the very well-bred TAKE CHARGE BRANDI who has been mentioned on The Kiddie List a few times. Her dam is a half to Florida Derby winner TAKE CHARGE INDY and multiple G-1 winner WILL TAKE CHARGE. By Giant’s Causeway out of a Seeking the Gold mare, Take Charge Brandi is bred to relish two turns, but she showed her class and her heels to a group of maidens at Churchill traveling 4 ½ furlongs in :52 1/5. Lukas has only a 8% win rate with his stakes horses, but never, ever count him out, as his horses will ruin your exotics when least expected. He’s sneaky that way.
Lukas’ former assistant Todd Pletcher is no stranger to the winner’s circle at Saratoga. He’s won the Schuylerville four times, the last was in 2011 with Georgie’s Angel. This year, he’s brought a nicely-bred daughter of Old Fashioned. FASHION ALERT, a half-sister to Santa Ynez Stakes (G-2) winner RENE’S TITAN, skipped the maiden races and went straight for the blacktype. The daughter of Old Fashioned made all of the pace in the Astoria Stakes. Although the Pletcher trained miss raced greenly, Fashion Alert made short work of her opponents in the 5 ½ furlong race, winning by 4 ¾ lengths. She’s posted three very strong post-race works and will be tough to beat.
The remaining three trainers, Gary Contessa, Richard Mettee and John Robb, are all looking for their first Schuylerville trophy.
EVRYBDYMSTGETSTONZ surprised a field of state-bred maidens at Belmont by rolling gate to wire, getting 5 ½ furlongs in 1:05 2/5 while six lengths in front. In her last breeze, she had a strong 3 furlong “lung opener” of :35 1/5 (2/13). She’s entering back after only 16 days.
TULIRA'S STAR is a daughter of Congrats and a half sister to multiple stakes winning veteran MOUNTAIN GENERAL and Challenger Stakes winner TULIRA CASTLE. She won her debut over the Arlington Poly and has since switched to the barn of Richard Mettee. She’s 5-2 morning line, but her trainer is 0-11 with two year olds this year.
Breaking from post one is MAST COVE. The daughter of Cowboy Cal is the most experienced filly in the field, with three starts under her girth. She’s posted improving speed figures in every start against maiden claimers. Mast Cove is the first of her dam’s foals to race. Her dam Crafty Melissa is a half to Oake Tree Derby (G-2) winner MUNY. Mast Cove has fired three post-race bullets and her race fractions are comparable to the other contestants. John Robb is 22% with shippers.
The last five winners of the Schuylerville either sat mid-pack or pressed the pace. MAST COVE and TULIRA'S STAR have shown the ability to sit off of an early pace. On paper, FASHION ALERT is the fastest filly in the race. She could wire the field, but given that there are only five fillies entered, it’s unlikely that she’ll establish a clear lead. Let’s tab TAKE CHARGE BRANDI for the upset. Lukas knows how to get them ready for a big race. She breaks outside of all of the speed and her pedigree should enable her to go wide without effort.
#5 TAKE CHARGE BRANDI (6-1)
#4 FASHION ALERT (3-5)
#2 TULIRA'S STAR (5-2)
First contested in 1913, the Sanford Stakes (G-3) has a list of winners that reads like a who’s who of racing legends. The 1914 winner was the filly Regret, who would become the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby the following year. Other major winners include champions Tom Fool, Hail To Reason, Secretariat, Affirmed, Forty Niner and Afleet Alex. Famous also-rans include the great Man O’War who suffered his only defeat in the Sanford Stakes in 1919, Triple Crown hero Omaha, and Champion Juvenile Boston Harbor.
This year, a field of nine colts will vie for the honor of adding their name to the illustrious roll call of the Sanford Stakes. Trainer Wayne Lukas and Todd Pletcher are tied for the most wins in modern history, with five each.
Surprisingly, although they enter charges almost yearly Steve Asmussen, and Wesley Ward haven’t had a victory in the Sanford. Also looking for their first wins are Tony Dutrow, Jason Servis, Bret Calhoun, Eddie Pleasa, and Kevin Rice. Asmussen and Ward finished second and third, respectively in last year’s Sanford Stakes.
This year’s undefeated Bashford Manor (G-3) winner CINCO CHARLIE looks strongest on paper. From the last crop of deceased sire Indian Charlie, Cinco Charlie is the first of his three siblings to earn blacktype. His juvenile stakes placed dam is a half sister to multiple graded stakes winners and sires BWANA CHARLIE, his full brother, MY PAL CHARLIE (by Indian Charlie) plus BWANA BULL (by Holy Bull). Cinco Charlie had a slow pre-race work over the Saratoga training track. He breaks from the outside for Asmussen.
Runner-up in the Bashford Manor was the courageous SILVERHILL. His sire Silver City, an unheralded son of Unbridled’s Song who is standing in Texas for a $2K stud fee, sired recent Debutant heroine Promise Me Silver, Silverhill’s stablemate. The pretty gray colt was only beaten 1 ¾ lengths after disputing the pace in the Bashford Manor and he has excellent numbers. I’m taking a stand against as his speed figure jumped 15 points from his first to second race and his last breeze was on the slow side.
Wesley Ward brings Tremont Stakes hero BESSIE'S BOY to contest the Sanford. The son of Champion Sprinter Smoke Glacken easily dominated the 5 ½ furlong race by six lengths in a very quick 1:03 4/5. He came back with a strong post-race 4 furlong work in :47 3/5 at Saratoga. Bessie’s Boy’s second dam EXPENSIVE ISSUE hit the board in all four starts at two, including a win in the Blue Hen Stakes.
CHOCOLATE WILDCAT was a distant second to Bessie’s Boy in the Tremont. The son of Wildcat Heir is bred to be precocious. His dam won two of three starts at two, including the Fashion Stakes. Unfortunately, she suffered a career-ending injury in the Astoria Stakes. She bore Chocolate Wildcat’s half brother CHRISTIESBORNTORUN who finished third in the Tremont in 2010. The John Servis trainee hasn’t recorded a breeze in the last month.
Three very promising maiden winners will take on more experienced horses. Two of the three have been featured on the Kiddie List.
MR. Z is only one of two colts in the field who has won at six furlongs. In his Churchill debut the son of Malibu Moon battled with the pace setter through quick early fractions then prevailed over his rival by ½ length at the wire in a final time of 1:11.76 for the six furlongs. Mr. Z is a half to the UAE stakes placed Ibn Al Nafis (by Distorted Humor). Their dam Stormy Bear is a half to Champion Turf horse CHIEF BEARHEART, Hollywood Derby (G-1) winner EXPLOSIVE RED, stakes winner RUBY RANSOM and the stakes placed runners Memorized and Sundown Serenade. Mr. Z has worked two swift bullets for Wayne Lukas at Saratoga.
A stakes race at Saratoga isn’t complete without a Pletcher runner. NONNA'S BOY is a son of Distorted Humor out of Frizette runner-up Nonna Mia. His dam is a half to Nashua & holy Bull Stakes winner CAIRO PRINCE (by Pioneerof the Nile) and stakes placed Holdin Bullets (by Ghostzapper). Nona’s Boy splashed his way to a 5 ½ length win over a sloppy Belmont track in his debut. The second place horse Bustin It came back to win the Rockville Centre Stakes in his next start. Nona’s Boy has worked sharply since his debut.
SOUPER COLOSSAL is a son of the hot sire WAR FRONT out of a daughter of Kingmambo. Although he won his debut sprinting at Monmouth and has come back with a couple of decent post-race works, I think this colt’s future will be on the lawn. His second dam is a stakes-placed runner on turf and his third dam CAERLINA is a French Group 1 winner. Most of his distaff line is filled with European quality. Souper Colossal’s final time and speed figures weren’t that impressive and he simply outclassed this particular group of maidens. Can he surprise in the Sanford? Sure, anything is possible.
BIG TROUBLE was just that for a field of maidens last month at Belmont. He flew five furlongs in :59 flat and 4 12 lengths in front of his competition. He’s a full brother to the stakes placed sprinter Silver Lining John. Their dam is a half to graded stakes winners SUNSHINE FOR LIFE and TUBOK. The Tony Dutrow trainee blazed a bullet pre-race work in :59 4/5.
Making his first start over dirt is LESS THAN PERFECT. Last seen finishing a distant fifth in the Victoria Stakes at Woodbine, the son of Pleasantly Perfect hasn’t breezed over the Saratoga dirt. His third dam is the graded stakes winner METER MAID but that’s it for blacktype in the immediate family. This colt should enjoy a stretch out in distance, but may be up against it here.
Three of the last five years the favorite hasn’t won the Sanford Stakes. In four of the editions, the winner settled off of the pace. Since all of these colts have raced on or near the lead, it’s hard to determine which ones might give up the lead for a strong stretch drive. I’ll take a stand against the likely favorite CINCO CHARLIE and side with BIG TROUBLE. He put in the best work over the Saratoga track and he sat a length off of the pace setter in the early stages of his debut. MR. Z is also enticing at 30-1. He’s one of the best bred colts in the field.
#4 BIG TROUBLE (10-1)
#8 NONA’S BOY (5-2)
#9 CINCO CHARLIE (2-1)
#5 MR. Z (30-1) – LONGSHOT PICK