- Opening Day at Saratoga features two graded stakes races
- The Schuylerville Stakes could produce one or more Kentucky Oaks contenders
- Where can we find betting value Thursday afternoon at The Spa?
Saratoga hosts the most boutique of horse racing meets. While the high-end competition took place in 2020, the tens of thousands of fans each day in a town that comes alive in July and August were absent. Now they’re are back. Nothing says summertime like the top equine and folks that flock to watch them in Upstate New York.
Thursday’s Spa feature is the Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes. Baby races are always a highlight of the Saratoga meet, and this one has multiple Kentucky Oaks hopefuls including trainer Wesley Ward’s two time winner Happy Soul.
The Grade 3 Quick Call Stakes is also carded for Opening Day. It marks the three-year-old debut for Ward’s Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint champion Golden Pal.
Let’s look at the competitors in each stakes, and consider some betting angles.
2021 Schuylerville Stakes Odds
|Saucy Lady T||+3000|
Odds as of July 13
Traditionally run on Opening Day at Saratoga, the Schuylerville was originated in 1918. It is a six furlong test for two year old fillies with a purse of $150,000. Trainer Todd Pletcher has won the event a record six times but does not have an entrant this year, while jockey John Velazquez owns the rider mark with five triumphs. Post time is slated for 5:39 pm EST. Thursday’s entire card will be televised on Fox Sports 2.
Happy Soul has run three times, winning twice and finishing second in his her debut. Velazquez is onboard for a fourth straight time, and each of the last two have been blowouts.
While Happy Soul has beaten only eight total horses in her two victories, those wins by a combined 23 lengths look pretty strong. This race should offer stiffer competition.
Pretty Birdie is the daughter of Bird Song and Bird Sense. She won her debut at Churchill Downs and races for the stable of Marylou Whitney.
Mainstay torched a maiden field at Monmouth Park in her debut.
Pipeline Girl was a $100,000 purchase and looked the part winning her first career race at Churchill Downs on June 25.
Like Pipeline Girl, Cartel Queen is trained by Tom Amoss. Reigning Eclipse Award Winner for Outstanding Jockey Irad Ortiz takes the call following a victory at Churchill Downs. She finished second at Keeneland in her debut.
Velvet Sister cost $500,000 and is trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen. She won her first race at Belmont Park by nine lengths.
Asmussen also sends out Eagle Express. A Texas-bred, she won a stakes race at Lone Star Park last time out after finishing second in her first try.
Schuylerville Stakes Best Bet: Velvet Sister
Speed figures indicate that Happy Soul is going to be tough to beat and Pretty Birdie is the next best. However, these are lightly raced two-year-old girls. That is normally an unpredictable and heavily variable category. Velvet Sister was very pricey and won easily the first time out. She offers betting value.
2021 Quick Call Stakes Odds
|Second of July||+1500|
The first graded stakes race of the Saratoga meet is set for Thursday at 5:05 pm. On paper, the five and a half furlong turf sprint for boys could be a two-horse race. Golden Pal hasn’t run since November but is going to be a big favorite while well-traveled Jaxon Traveler seems to run well wherever he goes. If the race gets taken off the turf because of weather two other entrants, Fire Sword and Mr. Sippi will become a part of the field and be well backed.
How do you know a horse is well-liked by his owner and trainer? He fails to win his debut, but still gets shipped across the pond to take part in Ascot’s elite summer meet for his second start. That’s the story of Golden Pal. He was second in a dirt race in Florida in April 2020, and two months later was the runner up in a Grade 2 turf sprint in England, where Ward likes to send his top horses. He returned to the US and broke his maiden with a sharp effort at Saratoga in August, and then won the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint in November.
Horses often take a big step from age two until three. It is odd that Golden Pal has been off for eight months, but he is working really well and should be near the lead.
Jaxon Traveler has run seven times and has four victories and three second-place efforts. This is his turf debut, but he did run a solid second on a synthetic course last time out in Canada. A Maryland bred trained by Asmussen, he won a stakes race in December at Laurel Park, and another in Arkansas in April. He was the runner-up in a graded event on Preakness Day at Pimlico.
Fauci was trained by Ward when he ran second to Golden Pal at Saratoga last year. In seven races he has two wins and four-second places finishes. Now in the barn of Philip Antonacci, he won a turf sprint at Monmouth in June.
If weather moves the race from turf to dirt, expect Ward to scratch Golden Pal and run Fire Sword. He has three wins in five starts
Quick Call Stakes Best Bet: Golden Pal
We may not see Golden Pal fully cranked here, but if he has improved at all since November it is going to be a tough task for this field to compete with. While Jaxon Traveler is an honest type, we have no clue what he’ll be like on turf and he is likely to be behind Golden Pal early on. Fauci will be coming late, but passing Golden Pal doesn’t seem overly likely unless he is in a tremendous pace duel from the start.