Maybe that’s because the Grade 2 Saratoga Special attracted 11 entrants. Given the state of two-year-old racing around here for the past decade, Sunday’s field is almost twice the norm.
The ladies will go first on Sunday’s national television broadcast on Fox in the Grade 2 Adirondack at 6-1/2 furlongs and we’re pleased that both stakes will be run at this hybrid distance.
Instead of a speedway to graded heaven, what this trip should provide is a more meaningful perspective on the future; the longer races of Fall leading up to a national championship. Not many races are stolen at this distance.
A cursory look a past performances indicates, to us at least, there are two fillies that just might be extraordinary, casting no aspersions on the other talented fillies in the group.
I don’t want to make comparisons with filly debuts past, but can I have to say this; that I’ve not been this impressed with a first-time starter since, well, Moccasin, or Ruffian. Please—not making comparisons with either one; that would be crazy.
But I don’t think I’ve seen a filly win as easily as Wonder Gal did in the modern era. The New York-bred, by juvenile buzz sire of the season, Tiz Wonderful, made her debut in the restricted Lynbook Stakes against four overmatched rivals.
I didn’t know those fillies were overmatched at the time, although the fact Wodner Gal was postward at 4-5 was a pretty good indication.
Debut types often win by big margins, and the 14 lengths thatseparated her from runnerup Accelebrate was huge by any measure. But this was no runoff wire job; this was a professional hit.
Allowed to trail by eight lengths, she advanced on the inside, running the sweeping turn very well, her momentum carrying her into the three-path at headstretch. It was all totally effortless; no encouragement from Taylor Rice whatsoever.
And she improved her position from there. She widened with every stride as Rice sat motionless. The splits were 22 and 46 en route to a 1:11 clocking for six furlongs. Measured in hundredth from the half-mile to the finish, she shaded 25 seconds coming home.
Find the third race replay from July 6 at Belmont Park. I’ll bet you’ll have your own Jack I-Don’t-Believe-What-I-Just-Saw-Buck moment.
In the language of the day, it was awesome.
The other filly on our radar wasn’t nearly as impressive. In fact, her win could be categorized as workmanlike, far from awesome. But if a race is worth three workouts, this one was worth 10.
Facing seven rivals, Angela Renee had to work a little to eventually get to even terms, the first quarter-mile of the five furlongs timed in 22 1/5 After breaking fifth, she was suddenly third by 2-1/2 lengths and streaking toward the leader, reaching almost even terms with a half-mile timed in 45 2/5.
From that point forward, Johnny Velazquez was content to take a narrow lead, allow is filly to fight her rival for about a sixteenth of a mile before drawing out late to win by 2-1/2 in 57 4/5 for five furlongs.
But here’s the thing: She’s a Bernardini filly from a Deputy Minister mare. It should take her a half-mile just to clear her throat. That was the third race on June 27 and is another replay worth watching. Sunday's additional three-sixteenths will work for, not against her.
Whatever Sunday’s result, these are fillies with a huge upside and are worth noting in the coming weeks and months.
As stated, 11 colts will line up in the Saratoga Special. Four of them--none of which I would choose in Sunday’s feature analysis--have proven so precocious that all four have already been purchased privately and/or have moved into new barns.
After Lord Tyrion finished third in his debut for Eddie Kenneally, he will make his second start for Ian Wilkes.
One start after zipping 4-1/2 furlongs in a 6-1/2 length romp for Michael Yates at Gulfstream, Peter Miller will tighten the girth on Tizcano tomorrow.
After taking a five furlong Canterbury maiden allowances by 8-3/4 lengths for Douglas Oliver, Majestic Affair make his second start in for Chad Brown.
And, finally, after winning two straight at Lone Star Park, including a restricted stakes for Texas-breds, W V Jetsetter will make his Spa debut for George Weaver, working a bullet five furlongs for the occasion.
But Saratoga is a place where a little practice over the surface comes in handy.
Thus, we think the Saratoga Special winner will come out of the Sanford on opening weekend here. Which one of the three to choose from is another matter entirely.
So, who will it be? Mr. Z, Cinco Charlie, Nonna’s Boy? The seventh race on July 19 is worth reviewing, over, and over, and over again.
Nonna’s Boy was a victim of circumstances, taken out of what likely is his best game. He never had a moment’s peace.
Cinco Charlie? It’s the same story. They ran relays at this guy and he still was very much there at the finish in one of the more courageous efforts of the meet.
But poor Mr. Z should have been unsaddled. Instead, he entered the stretch behind rivals, clipped heels, bulled his way out beneath a panicky partner, practically knocking the winner over.
Mr. Z eventually surged to a short lead, fought tenaciously between rivals, but the momentum of the winner, racing freely on the outside after getting sloughed by Mr. Z, carried the talented Big Trouble passed Mr. Z.
And where do all these runners belong in Saratoga’s juvenile pecking order? Tune in tomorrow. Check your local listings.