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SARATOGA 2011: Opening Day

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Del Mar...now Saratoga.  Now summer is in full swing.

The 40-day Saratoga meeting begins today and will run from July 22nd to September 5th.  First post during the meet is 1pm Eastern with live racing from Wednesday through Monday (Dark on Tuesdays). The feature race of the meet, the Grade 1 Travers Stakes for three-year-olds, will run on Saturday, August 27th.

You can find the complete stakes schedule at the official web site. (Saratoga 2011 Stakes Schedule)

One of the more interesting parts of the summer boutique meets (for me, at least) are the high-level juvenile races that we see on a daily basis.  Keeneland's spring meet offers a bevy of juvenile races but those are generally 4 1/2 furlong dashes and a significant number of those runners never develop much past their first year.  At Saratoga (and Del Mar) we see a greater number of juveniles that will continue to develop after their juvenile campaign, and the stakes races at each track are generally the top such events in the country. 

-The fifth race is the first juvenile event of the season at Saratoga is a 5 1/2 furlong Maiden Special Weight for fillies on the main track. There is some expensive horse flesh in this race led by the $550,000 3-My Miss Aurelia, a two-year-old daughter of Smart Strike out of a Sea of Secrets mare (My Miss Storm Cat). My Miss Aurelia is co-owned by the late Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables.

2-Delightful Magic is a nice looking filly by Mineshaft out of a Storm Cat mare (Magic Kitty) that has put in some blazing works at Churchill Downs and Saratoga in anticipation of her debut effort.  Delightful Magic is ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan and trained by Mark Casse.

-The seventh race on opening day is a Maiden Special for two-year-old New York-bred fillies going 5 1/2 furlogns on the main track.  With the exception of 4-Cinnamon Stick, the entire field is making their first start.  A Lawyer Ron filly, 5-Sing Like a Bird (3/1), leads the way in terms of auction price; the filly was a $225,000 purchase this past February.

9-Wildcat's Smile (4/1) is a daughter of Forest Wildcat out of a Dixie Brass mare (Serenity's Smile).  Forest Wildcat's progeny tend to perform above average in their debut races and the dam has produced a two-year-old winner from her other two foals, so there is some precociousness within the pedigree

-The feature race on the day is the Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes, a six furlong affair on the main track for two-year-old fillies. 2-Five Star Momma, 3-Dorothy's Aurora and 8-Flashy Lassie have scratched out of the field leaving us with a field of just six. Of the remaining fillies, 9-Georgie's Angel is coming in after a picture perfect debut at Churchill where she crushed a field of ten Maiden Specials by 6 1/4 lengths.

Over the past five years, trainer Todd Pletcher is 25-for130 with two-year-olds in graded stakes races (19%, $1.77 $2 ROI).  If we look at that category but filter just for races at Saratoga, his numbers jump to 8-for-33 (24%, $3.11 $2 ROI) with his eight wins split evenly between races for colts and fillies.

Wesley Ward's 6-Gypsy Robin (3/1) returns from her trip to Royal Ascot where she finished 7th of 14 in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes last month.  In her debut at Keeneland, Gypsy Robin crushed a field of 11 Maiden Specials by 7 1/2 lengths. The runner-up in that race, Painted Woman, came back to win her next start at Woodbine going 4 1/2 furlongs on the Polytrack. Switching to dirt and stretching out to six furlongs will be a test for this young filly, especially after a tough race in England a little over a month ago. 

Julien Leparoux will be aboard 1-Force de La Nature, a daughter of Scat Daddy out of a Bertrando mare (Merryvale).  Force de La Nature won her debut at Churchill in an off-the-pace manner, as opposed to just running her rivals into the ground, like many juvenile fillies. The rest of that field hasn't come back to do a whole lot in the interim, with the exception of ninth place Falconess, who won a Maiden Special on the lawn and Indiana Downs on July 5th.

7-Vukovar (8/1) crushed an over-matched field of maidens at Parx in her debut but she'll likely face a sterner class test against this group.